HC Deb 03 May 1944 vol 399 cc1338-437
The Minister of Health (Mr. Willink)

beg to move, That this House welcomes the intentions of his Majesty's Government, declared in the White Paper presented to Parliament, to introduce measures for the conservation and better utilisation of the country's water resources, the improvement of the administration of water supply, the further extension of public water supplies and sewerage in rural localities and the better management of rivers. The White Paper which we are to discuss to-day deals with aspects of our water supply which are of first-class importance. The subject of water supply has a long and not altogether satisfactory history, so far as Parliament is concerned, but the Government intend, with the approval of Parliament, that it shall now be dealt with in a comprehensive manner. The Motion which I bring before the House indicates that it is intended to introduce Measures with four broad objectives; conservation and better utilisation of the country's water resources; the improvement of the administration of water supply; the further extension of public water supplies and sewerage in rural localities; and the better management of rivers. It is this intention that I am commending to the House, and I should like to say at once that the nature of the first, second and fourth of the Government's proposals is very largely derived from the reports of the Central Advisory Water Committee, that most valuable body, of which Field-Marshal Lord Milne is chairman and of which the hon. and gallant Member for Louth (Lieut.-Colonel Heneage) is a most useful member. Some hon. Members may recall suggestions, made in another field, that the work of advisory committees is generally rather disappointing, but I do not gather that that is the feeling of the members of Lord Milne's Committee in this field. As to the third objective,I know in advance that that intention commends itself, and that all I shall need to do is to commend the method.

This is not a matter in which the Ministry of Health is the only Department concerned. The Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries is very deeply concerned, not only because of the need for better water supply for agriculture—the need is clamant —but because of the Minister's responsibility for land drainage and fisheries. My right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture hopes to wind up the Debate and to deal more fully than I shall with the proposal for the better management of our rivers. In addition, there are certain differences and special features in the proposals relating to Scotland, and the Secretary of State for Scotland hopes to speak shortly on the subject in the course of the day. In those circumstances, believing that there are a great number of hon. and right hon. Members who also wish to speak, I shall be as brief as I possibly can, by way, possibly, of setting a good example.

Before saying what I want to say about Part I of the White Paper, with which the Ministry of Health is most concerned, I should like to say a few words about Part II, the proposal for River Boards in England and Wales. With this part, my right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture will, as I have said, deal more fully. This is a proposal to establish 29 River Boards in England and Wales to take over the land drainage functions of the existing Catchment Boards, which will cease to exist. They will take over river pollution prevention powers, for which something like 1,600 different authorities have at present responsibility. They will take over the functions of the existing Fishery Boards.

Mr. Levy (Elland)

Do I understand that the Catchment Boards have been responsible for the work of purification as well as of drainage?

Mr. Willink


Mr. Levy

And that function will be dealt with by the Ministry of Health?

Mr. Willink

I think it will be better at this stage not to deal with details, particularly in a matter with which, as I have said, my right hon. Friend is in some respects more closely concerned than I am. There is a great deal in this subject, and I shall not be able to fulfil my promise to be short if I am interrupted too many times. The essence of the proposals is that, for the first time, we shall have a small number of strong and effective authorities responsible for prevention of pollution for the whole length of our rivers. The present multiplicity of authorities has been one of the difficulties. We make our proposal with the full support of Lord Milne's Committee, which recommended this course unanimously in their third report, which we received in August of last year. I think we all know that the Industrial Revolution left us an appalling legacy in rivers that had become foul drains, receiving trade effluents of every kind and, in the early days, something like untreated sewage. We have done a good deal, but there is a great deal more to be done. We have to prevent our rivers from getting worse. There are old problems still unsolved and frequently new problems of a different character that have arisen during the war.

I should like at the outset to make one point quite clear, and that is the position of the River Boards in relation to water supply. I would remind the House that they are a matter concerning England and Wales alone, and that they are not concerned directly with water supply at all. Their powers will be those of the existing land drainage, pollution prevention and fishery authorities. They will not have power to carry on the business of a statutory water undertaking. They will not have an absolute veto on the abstraction of water from their rivers, but they will, of course, have the fullest possible title to be heard whenever there is a proposal to take water from the river. They will have a better title than anybody has ever had before, because they will speak as the body responsible in all those fields—drainage, purity and fishery. They will have a duty put upon them to conduct their land drainage operations with proper regard to the needs of water undertakings and other river users and those responsible for water supply will, we believe, profit from their operations.

The River Boards will have to maintain records of the flow of rivers, for the information of the Inland Water Survey, and, of course, that means benefit for all users of the river and all people interested in the river, including the River Boards themselves. We shall have all over the country organisations, of which the Thames Conservancy Board is really the prototype, and a very fine prototype. There are other examples where fine work has been done—one thinks of the West Riding River Board and of other River Boards, They will concern themselves with protecting and improving the purity of our rivers throughout their length. It has to be remembered that three-quarters of our public water supply is derived from rivers. With that, I will part with Part II of the White Paper and leave the details to be filled in by my right hon. Friend and hon. Members who are particularly interested in the subject.

I will turn now to Part I, which is the bulk of the White Paper, and, in the first place, to the first six chapters, which set out the defects in our present system and the overhaul which we intend to undertake—"overhaul" is the proper description to give to our proposals—both of the law and of our administrative arrangements. Appendix A of the Paper is, I hope the House has found, an interesting and candid review of the history of the matter and the way in which these defects have arisen. In a large measure they have arisen from their age. The system is archaic. All sorts of things can be done in the sphere of housing policy which cannot be done at present in connection with water, simply because our housing legislation is so much more modern. But these matters are set out, I hope with lucidity and in an interesting form, in the Paper, and I hardly feel that I need go into them at this time.

I would rather describe our objective and our proposed methods. Our object must be now to secure that all reasonable needs for water shall be met. Those needs are not met to-day, and they will increase. We want a system which will enable us to meet them without avoidable waste of water, labour, money or materials. There are considerable changes necessary, but there are three pinciples which I think must be accepted. In the first place, there must be a greater degree of central control over development than there has been in the past. It must be control which is sufficient for our purpose, not excessive but sufficient. The measure of its appropriateness must he improved technical efficiency and reduction of cost. At the same time, we should not feel, or allow it to be thought, that there are not very large parts of our present organisation which are working very well indeed, and we do not believe there is any reason to make a complete change in its nature.

The second principle which we think should be observed is that there should be an ultimate responsibility for the efficiency and vigour of our water supply administration and the conservation of our resources, with a Minister, or rather two Ministers—the Secretary of State for Scotland and myself, while I am here— directly responsible to Parliament, and with local authorities responsible to their electorates. Other suggestions have been made, and may be made to-day, but now is perhaps not the time to go into these. Where there are statutory company undertakings these too must accept further regulation of the conduct of their business, where that is necessary in the national interest. The third principle we must be sure is adhered to is this: in this sphere, where there are many sectional interests, those interests must be set aside if the national interest requires it, but there must be ample protection for those concerned. They must have full and fair opportunity of putting their case to the Minister who is to have this joint responsibility and who will have the power to direct a local inquiry; and where there is need there must be an opportunity of recourse to Parliament itself.

Mr. Levy

Will the Minister explain what he means by sectional interests?

Mr. Willink

I should have thought it was reasonably clear that, with regard to water, there are the interests of something like 1,000 undertakings, there are the interests of canals, of industry, of agriculture, and interests of every kind, all of which are sectional in relation to the nation as a whole. The trouble is not that there is a shortage of water in the country as a whole. We are well endowed, as a country, with water resources. There is ample water for all our needs, even allowing for greatly increased demands from industry and agriculture, as well as in our homes. What we have to do is to protect and control our resources and to see that they are equitably and wisely distributed. For that purpose, the first and main necessity is for a far better organisation of knowledge with regard to our resources, and the Paper sets that out. But I should like just to set it out in my own way as well.

It falls really, I think, under three headings. First we need to build up and to have a far larger body of information about the yield and the quality of our water resources. For that, as the Paper indicates, the main instrument will be the Inland Water Survey, whose operation has necessarily been restricted, but which we wish to press on with at the earliest possible date. This Survey will obtain data from the River Boards concerning their rivers and, so far as underground water is concerned they will obtain their information from the Geological Survey. The Survey will be available to all Government Departments, local authorities and other persons who are interested.

Mr. Bossom (Maidstone)

Could the Minister tell us if there is any date in view yet when a report of this Survey will be issued covering the country?

Mr. Willink

No, I have no date of that kind in mind; and, of course, it will be a permanent survey. It will not be a work which is finished once and for all. The work will go on, and we shall get on with it, as I have said, with vigour and as early as possible.

Mr. MaoLaren (Burslem)

Will the Geological Survey be under the direction of the Minister of Health? There is another such survey under the Ministry of Town and Country Planning. I hope there is not going to be duplication of these surveys.

Mrs. Tate (Frame)

Will the Inland Survey, which is to undertake this important work, have additional powers and finance, as they said in their last Report they were hopelessly hampered under present conditions?

Mr. Willink

They will certainly need additional finance. As regards the Geological Survey, that stands in relation to the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research and is independent of myself. That is one general type of information which we desire should be far more efficiently built up than is the case at present.

The second is one which I think will commend itself to all who think about these things. It is most desirable that we should have instruments in various parts of the country who will survey the needs, present and future, of regions, not only for the moment but taking the long view. Plant of the kind required is expensive, but it is most desirable that the needs of areas should be considered in that way, as a whole and with a long view. Something of that kind, of course, has been going on, but on a voluntary basis since, I think, 1924, in the shape of the Regional Advisory Committees. To these Committees we intend to give statutory powers and functions, and we intend probably to add to their number. They will survey the needs of regions, which will be decided upon not necessarily in relation to watersheds, but in relation to a common problem. The region may be an area with a large, possibly growing, aggregation of population. It may be an area like the Sherwood area, with a common geological problem. It may be an area like Sussex, with a general rural water supply problem. Cornwall may be an additional example of that kind. In all the planning which is to take the place of the limited approach to the subject which has obtained in the past—private Bill procedure and so forth —one will have a growing body of forward-looking planners, starting with the Regional Advisory Committees, and with further information coming from the Ministry of Town and Country Planning, the Ministry of Agriculture and the various people in the localities, among whom, one hopes, the county councils will play a prominent part.

In the third place it is highly to be desired that there should be a far more regular and systematic review by the inspectorate of the appropriate Departments of the standards of achievement, which are very different indeed from place to place. For all this there must be power to require statistical information from all substantial users of water, from all sinkers of wells, if we are to build up a picture which will enable sensible and speedy decisions to be given. I venture to think that this is all of the science of sound planning and that the outcome should be very different from what we see to-day.

So those are the three main sources of information, with their objectives. Then, at the centre, in England and Wales at any rate, it is felt that the Minister of Health will need the continuance of the advice which he has received during recent years from a body of the nature of the Central Advisory Water Committee, Lord Milne's Committee. That is not merely a body of water undertakers or representatives of water undertakers. Its predecessor was, but now it is representative not only of water undertakers but of local authorities, industry, landowners, agriculture, and drainage, and the Committee's three reports bear on the face of them indications of the value of the experience that has been obtained.

Mr. Marshall (Sheffield, Brightside)

Does not the Minister think the constitution of the Central Advisory Committee is still too much weighted with interests similar to those of water undertakers?

Mr. Willink

That will be a matter to be considered when the legislation is introduced. I will certainly bear that point in mind, but there will be a growth in the functions of this Committee in that they will be given statutory duties and functions, not only advising the Ministry of Health but advising the Government generally where water is concerned, and, as in other legislative proposals of recent date, not only advising when they are asked to advise but having the right of initiating.

Mr. Levy

Meaning that they will give advice and have administrative and executive power to control?

Mr. Willink

No; this is an Advisory Committee, but advisory with a statutory position, and with the right not only to be consulted but to initiate advice to all Government Departments concerned. The value of such work, even when there was no statutory basis for it, is indicated clearly in the reports already made.

Sir John Wardlaw-Milne (Kidderminster)

I think I have the position of the Advisory Committee clear, but I Should like to know whether, in cases where Ministerial Orders are required in connection with new proposals, those proposals go before the Committee before any Orders are made.

Mr. Willink

The order in which such matters will occur would not, I daresay, always be the same, nor has any decision been taken upon it; but, of course, the advice with regard to simplifying procedure generally has already been given in the first report of the Committee. That whole system will need and will receive most careful consideration. I was just coming to the way in which we shall avail ourselves of all this information and advice. We do not believe that the objects required in the sphere of water administration can be secured under the present system of legislation by private Bills and all the other complicated methods which have survived, sometimes, for 100 years. There will, no doubt, be need for an appropriate system, in appropriate categories, of Ministerial Orders. This immediately raises one of the many wide questions which, I suggest, can hardly be conveniently discussed in detail in a one-day Debate on water in general. If I may just indicate the scope of them, we propose that the legislation should include powers to enable the responsible Minister to approve, and, if necessary, require, the amalgamation of undertakings; to require one undertaker to supply another; and to alter limits of supply—all matters which can be effected at present only by most complicated means.

There are also very important proposals in the White Paper under which the Minister would be enabled to protect underground resources—a matter in which a number of my hon. Friends are most interested; proposals for the acquisition by water undertakers both of land and of water; proposals for the supply if water on reasonable terms to agriculture and industry, which is to-day normally a question of bargaining and not of obligation. All those are important and outstanding examples of the sort of power we believe should exist in the future.

Finally, as the House is aware, the Government have for a long time been satisfied that it was essential to introduce legislation on the lines of the recent Water. Undertakings Bill and so to modernise the very archaic water codes of 1847 and 1863, which still survive as the only general law.

Mr. R. C. Morrison (Tottenham, North)

Does that mean that the Government propose to proceed with the Water Undertakings Bill this Session?

Mr. Willink

No, Sir, there will not, I understand, be an opportunity this Session. I am by no means saying the Bill is in its final shape, but it is proposed that there should be legislation of that general form in the next Session.

In the time available I cannot say more about that very important Bill, but I want to say a few words about the immediate proposal to introduce at an early date a Bill to provide for substantial Exchequer assistance for the extension of rural water supplies and sewerage. The extent of the lack of water supplies in rural areas, apart from the difficulties of this year, is shown by the fact that about 30 per cent. of the rural population of England and Wales have not piped supplies, either in their houses or within easy reach, and that represents about five per cent. of the population of England and Wales, something like 2,000,000 people. I mention that because there have been references to a smaller figure of 1,000,000 or 865,000. I believe that that smaller figure must be based on a fallacious belief that wherever there is a piped supply in a parish every house in that parish has that piped supply, and I think the figure I have given of 2,000,000, is the more accurate. Before the last war the figure corresponding to that 30 per cent. of the rural population was 60 per cent. That is the measure of improvement in the inter-war years, and the most substantial progress was made under the Rural Water Supplies Act, 1934. The House will recollect that under that Act a grant of £1,000,000 was made available for England and Wales, and in rather less than five years schemes to a total value of between £6,000,000 and £7,000,000 were completed, schemes which brought piped water to 2,000 parishes. In June, 1939, out of the 11,000 odd parishes there were left 3,400, instead of 5,400, without any piped supply.

Sir Joseph Lamb (Stone)

Is it not the case that in most places it is only the houses in the centre of a parish, or in the most populous part of it, which get the piped supply, and that outlying districts are ignored?

Mrs. Tate

And in many instances there was a drought and the pipes did not produce any water.

Mr. Willink

That is the reason why I drew attention to the difference between the published figure of 865,000 and what we believe to be the more accurate figure of 2,000,000. There was no fixed rate of grant and we intend that that will be the case on this occasion. One requires flexibility if one is to do the work in the best possible way. If there are a lot of detailed regulations it may be that the very kind of case we want to help may be cut out. Costs and circumstances vary very much in different areas.

Mr. Levy

I am sorry to keep interrupting, but while the Minister is giving figures about water supply will he also add the figures about drainage?

Mr. Willink

There are far more parishes without sewerage than there are without water supply. A new feature of the proposed Bill is that sewerage is included, though it was not in the 1934 Act, and a particular point which will be of assistance is that we propose that no longer shall the cost be charged on the parish alone. We propose that the cost of sewerage schemes and water schemes, in so far as they are not paid by the actual users, shall no longer be a special charge on the parish but shall fall on the general rate of the district as a whole. This widening of the area of charge which we propose will bring all rural districts into line with those progressive districts which have availed themselves of the permissive powers in the Local Government Act, 1933, and have acted on the recommendation of the Rural District Councils Association.

Mr. McEntee (Walthamstow, West)

Can the Minister define more clearly what he means by "the district"?

Mr. Willink

I mean the area of the rural district council, but the cost—and this is very important when one is thinking of these areas—will not only be spread over the rural district but we shall see that part of the cost of any grant-aided scheme is borne by the county. The capital cost of grant-aided schemes under this proposed legislation will be borne in part by the general taxpayer, through the Exchequer grant, in part by the county ratepayer, and the balance, so far as it is not met by consumers, by the rural district council. The Exchequer contribution is to be fixed at a maximum of £15,000,000 for water supply and sewerage together. How long it will take to develop these schemes I cannot say: it will be a matter of years.

Mr. MeKinlay (Dumbartonshire)

Will that cover Scotland as well?

Mr. Willink

No; I am sure my hon. Friend will hear with pleasure that that figure does not cover Scotland, and that Scotland is to have a generous scheme of its own.

Sir Percy Hurd (Devizes)

Can my right hon. and learned Friend tell us how much the charge on the local ratepayers will be?

Mr. Willink

Clearly, it will differ from place to place. I am not sure whether my hon. Friend means the water rate or the rural district rate.

Sir P. Hurd

The rural district rate.

Mr. Willink

It will, obviously, differ from place to place. Some schemes are very costly, some fairly inexpensive. This is not a programme which can be brought into operation this year: it cannot affect our situation this year; but we regard it as an essential part of the general reconstruction programme. We want plans to be made, so far as they can be made, before the end of the war although I know that local authorities' staffs and consulting engineers are not at present available in such numbers as they normally are.

I hope that I shall not be out of Order if I say one or two words about the present situation. There is no water supply crisis at the moment, but we are suffering from the effects of three consecutive dry winters. The last winter, and particularly last March, was quite embarrassingly dry. We have adequate powers, and I shall not hesitate to use them, if necessary, for this very important purpose. We are in very close touch with the Service Departments, which have contributed their help, but, on the other hand, have embarrassed the water situation in some districts. The main town supplies are not in difficulty at present. The Metropolitan Water Board have not asked for any special steps to be taken. The real point is that we must all play our part.

Mr. R. C. Morrison

Is the Minister aware that a request will probably come from the Metropolitan Water Board after their meeting next Friday; and that they think it is time that the Ministry of Health took part in this campaign and called upon people not to waste water, instead of leaving it to the people who supply the water to do everything?

Mr. Willink

We have done something already. The powers are there, and can be used if necessary. The proportion of water used domestically is very large and the contribution which can be made by the individual citizen is very substantial. Everyone should be doing his bit. Not only the domestic consumers, but the Service establishments should use every reasonable economy. Such economy would have an additional advantage, since pumping involves fuel, and the reduction of pumping helps to solve our fuel diffi culties.

With regard to the Rural Water Supply Bill, we believe that, under it, in measurable time, we shall see piped water in all, or very nearly all, sizeable groups of houses. That was a matter upon which Lord Justice Scott's Committee laid particular stress. My right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture proposes to extend his scheme for financial assistance, so that it may also cover isolated farm houses and cottages which it would be very difficult to reach by piped supplies except at very considerable cost.

That is a general and abbreviated outline of the proposals in the White Paper. It is a subject full of technicalities, legislative, administrative and scientific; but we may, I think, find great satisfaction in discussing this subject and in the work that lies ahead. We shall be seeking to make better use of the natural equipment of our country, we shall be working for the purity of our rivers, we shall be working for the prosperity of our farms, and we shall be improving the health and the homes of hundreds of thousands of our fellow-citizens. That is really what we are putting our hands to. It is more than 700 years since St. Francis of Assisi praised his Maker for: our sister water, who is very serviceable unto us, and humble and precious and clean. His words are not only very beautiful; they are true.

Mr. Alexander Walkden (Bristol, South)

I have been asked to say a few words on behalf of my party, and also on behalf of the city, part of which I have the honour to represent, the great city of Bristol, which yesterday sent me a long letter on the White Paper. I accept this task with interest, because the question of water supply has concerned me from my childhood upwards. In the beautiful English village where I was reared, about 40 miles from London, water supply was the most acute social problem of the area. The problem came right on to my young shoulders in those early days. Where we were living there was no well and no pump. Next door there was a farmyard with a pump, but when you pumped up the water it came out the colour of very strong tea, and was quite unusable, so my father forbade us to touch that water. Consequently, we had to get water from somewhere else. When my father had to go out travelling, the question arose of who was to get the water. He said, "Young Alec is a good strong boy; he has strong arms and legs; I will get him a yoke and a couple of buckets, and he shall get the water." There was some water over the road for washing purposes, but to get water for drinking and culinary purposes, I had to go a long distance of 230 yards with a yoke and two buckets. The water situation resulted in a lot of trouble in the village. Every disease that came round, scarlet fever, typhoid, smallpox, and so on, came into our village. I would hear a woman say to my mother, "I have had nine children and have buried seven, and my neighbour has had eight and has buried five." The children died almost like flies. It was just as bad with the animals. The pigs had swine fever; the cows had foot-and-mouth disease. Everything was bad, all through lack of a proper water supply. I hope that that sort of thing is coming to an end. Fortunately, we could get some clean water, because of a good, pure spring which came from the hills around the village and which sprung up in the centre, giving the village its name of Ashwell—the spring was surrounded by ash trees.

In the Scott Report it is mentioned that a large part of the migration from our villages to the towns is due to the bad water supply and very bad sanitation. In my boyhood, my father used to read in the paper about the sad plight of the people in London in regard to water in 1893, 1894, and in Queen Victoria's Jubilee Year, 1897. My mother used to be very upset about the sufferings of the people in London. The result, eventually, was the establishment of the Metropolitan Water Board, in 1902; but even that is now getting out of date, as my hon. Friend the Member for North Tottenham (Mr. R. C. Morrison) will, no doubt, inform the House. Our party has always taken a very keen interest in this subject, because our people tell us of their troubles, and we try to put them right. We have always proclaimed that our natural resources and public services should be in the hands of Ministers of the Crown, and not left to private monopolies. We made a special study of the subject in 1934, and published a report on that basis. Had that report been adopted, the country would have benefited very greatly, far more than it has by the little measures, which the Minister has described. The only result of our agitation in 1934, was the measure to which the Minister referred, the setting up of an advisory committee and the institution of a water survey. They were helpful as preparatory measures, but the needs of the present day are so great and so urgent that the Minister must make up his mind that more power must be put into the whole job. The suffering in rural areas is very acute. The Minister said that there is no general crisis, but there is a most acute local crisis in many areas. There is a farming area which I visit, a little place called Tydd, in South Lincolnshire, where they have to cart all the water. The suffering there is very serious, and the people can get no redress from either of the two adjacent water companies.

The White Paper reveals the defects in the present system, or lack of system, and shows the need for definite reorganisation. That word does not occur in the White Paper, so far as I have observed, but a much milder word appears frequently, and that will be my complaint about the White Paper itself. But I should like to thank the Minister for producing it and bringing the whole subject up to date in a compact form which anyone can follow and understand, and for preparing the way for getting something done. I must, however, tell him that the White Paper is disappointing and his own speech equally disappointing to us. We expected so much after his great White Paper on the Health Service, and we thought that, water being such an indispensable auxiliary to the Health Service, this would justify using the term health instead of the limiting phrase medical service. We thought it would be a strong supplement to the health service, but this White Paper teems with expressions of doubt and fear, and talks too much about difficulties, complications and complexities; all sorts of queer words are used. There is no boldness in the preparation, and I really cannot think the Minister has done it himself. I am afraid that his tame Advisory Committee has done it, and they seem very tame indeed. They are so fearful of difficulties. It certainly is less good than the National Health Service White Paper; but it is less bad than last year's Bill. I am sorry to see the Minister indicate, and also to see indications in the White Paper, that that Bill, that un- satisfactory Measure, is to be revived in some form or other, next Session.

The White Paper is too tender to existing interests. They really stand condemned on their own failures, and they condemn themselves by their refusal to give the Minister information. The Minister is asking for powers to authorise them to give him information, or to require them to give him information. Imagine responsible bodies, on public health and other services withholding information? It is simply monstrous. Bodies who behave like that ought not to be allowed to have a continuing existence. True, there are many authorities not like that, and all honour to them, but this "hugger-mugger" of a thousand concerns messing about with the water supply of the country it altogether too bad, and I should have thought that the Minister would have grappled with it boldly. They should be superseded; nearly all of them are far too small. We want one competent national authority to deal with the problem, here, there and everywhere in a masterly fashion, and not in a local, tin-pot, parish-pump attitude of mind. Certainly, we want a great deal of difference in the attitude of the Minister in the preparation of his Bill. This is only the preliminary canter, and we shall look forward to the Bill. I hope it will be a lot better than this White Paper.

My friends in the Bristol Corporation point out to me that the Minister is very concerned about private companies. I know they are a minority, but they hold some very good undertakings. The great city of Bristol, with 500,000 people, is served by a private company, and I understand that Portsmouth and Newcastle, and one or two other cities, are in the same position. Bristol Corporation want to take their water supply into their own hands, because they think it is the right thing to do. They want to be able to help the people to get a better service and to have the facilities which many other cities possess. The company is a limited concern, based on its own franchise. Rather than give these companies support, financially or legally, as under the Bill dropped last year, we say "Do nothing of that sort; let the companies be taken over, properly compensated, and merged into a proper, unified national service with local administration." That is our general view about the whole problem, but the Minister does not use the word "reorganisation." He does not show any sign of man-handling the job. All he talks about is control, and very tenderly at that. He says "We are not going to disturb anybody if we can possibly avoid it; we ask them to do this and that, but we shall not take them in hand in any vigorous fashion."

The Minister suggests re-establishing the Central Advisory Water Commission—as a standing, statutory body. That body does not seem to me to be built up in the right way at all. It is natural for an advisory committee to have a variety of people on it, like a Royal Commission, but an operative body should be of a different character, and should consist only of persons disinterested personally, who can give full-time service in a perfectly disinterested way. I see that there is a wide range of interests represented on the Minister's Advisory Committee including the local authorities, water supply concerns, industry, landowners and land drainage bodies. With great respect, landowners are very nice fellows, as a rule, but in the history of water supplies in this country, they have too often stood in the way and gone in for a Shylock policy when the public wanted to develop water supplies. I am afraid it is a queer bunch of people we have on this Central Advisory Water Council, and to suggest that it should be made a permanent body, to work with the Minister and under him, and carry out that policy, I suggest, is quite mistaken.

Mr. Willink

Not to carry out the policy.

Mr. Walkden

I note the correction, but, still, advisory bodies nowadays become very self-important and very concerned about their powers, and if their advice is not taken they can become very awkward, and, instead of being helpful to the Minister, can be quite otherwise. We should have preferred a National Water Commission, to be responsible to the Minister—an effective, small body, with a chairman, acting as Lord Ashfield does for the London Passenger Transport Board, responsible for co-ordinating the whole job and making a good straight business of it. I ask the Minister to reconsider that aspect of his suggestions, and see if he cannot set up the proper body, clothed with real authority and with full compulsory powers, to effect the reorganisation by modernisation and standardisation.

If all the present water supply bodies are unified, and all the minor equipment standardised, with all the apparatus of supply, under a single administration, very large-scale economies will result. There must be an awful lot of waste from these thousand big and little bodies. If you standardised them into one concern, you would get them modernised and secure mass production of the things they all need in large quantities, so that replacements could be carried out without loss of time.

The water supply question is not a little local matter. It is a matter for the nation as a whole, and should not be tangled up with local authorities. There is a glimpse of what ought to be done in the proposals regarding the rivers. The whole scheme should be based on the physical geography of the country. The watersheds and rivers are the proper foundation, not the political areas of local authorities. I ask the Minister to think again, and to think nationally. I am glad he is a lawyer. I always admire lawyers, who are always very helpful and very understanding. May I commend to the right hon. and learned Gentleman one truly blessed word which figures in Acts of Parliament, a very present help in time of trouble? When you have a lot of complexities and all sorts of diversities, one word will solve them, if you put it in your Bill, the word "Notwithstanding." Notwithstanding anything in any other Act of Parliament, any concern which has any power to get in the way and hinder the progress of your plans must go. If you take that line and adopt that method, you can sweep away the present lack of system and institute something good for it in our time. I hope this will be done in the Minister's own time. The right hon. and learned Gentleman says "As long as I am here." That is the worst of it, Ministers come and go, but I want him while he is here to create a great authority to bear his name, and be of real benefit to the whole country, not merely to rural areas. Water poisoned a lot of people at Lincoln a few years ago, and we had another instance at Croydon some time back. We must make it impossible for that sort of thing to recur, and organize throughout the whole country a sound and perfect water system, because God has given us an abundance—a super-abundance, sometimes—of this very essential element of human life. I ask the Minister not to retain the mentality of the good people who go to church and say "One step enough for me"—the one step of control —but to go all the way and give us a first class, outright, national policy.

Sir Joseph Lamb (Stone)

We listened with very great interest to the Minister, particularly when he spoke about other plans which this White Paper envisages in regard to the agricultural industry. I was pleased to hear the right hon. and learned Gentleman say that the Minister of Agriculture was taking an interest in this work and would probably reply to the Debate. May I say that it is not only we, in this House, who are taking an interest in this water question. There are others outside who are interested in what we are doing here to-day, and in what is to be the legislative outcome and result of this White Paper. The representatives of the agricultural industry have given consideration to it, and I am entitled to say that they receive with pleasure the proposals—so far as they go—put forward in this White Paper. They have their criticisms. They do not wish that their interests in this matter should be restricted entirely to the White Paper, but they would like an opportunity of collaborating with the Government to the utmost, to see that results accrue from the White Paper proposals.

There are three points I wish to mention. The first is on the question of consultation. On page I of the White Paper, the last paragraph states: The Government's proposals are presented with a view to discussion in Parliament and with the various interests concerned before the precise form of the measures to be submitted to Parliament is determined. We are having that discussion to-day, but I would like an assurance from the Minister that representatives of agriculture, of the National Farmers' Union and the workers' union, shall have an opportunity of discussion with the various Ministries concerned, and particularly with the Ministry of Agriculture and the Ministry of Health, before it is too late and before the Ministers have made up their minds, so that the agricultural point of view shall have full consideration. Constant reference is made in the White Paper, and by the Minister himself, to the importance of agriculture, but nobody realises more than those actually engaged in the industry what water means to agriculture. Water plays a very great part in the efficiency of agriculture. What to-day, and indeed, at all times, is more important to the general public than the efficiency of the food production of the country? Water plays a tremendous part in the quality of a good deal of the food that is produced. In the dairy industry, milk and its products cannot be produced properly and satisfactorily unless there is an adequate supply of water. There is the cleansing of utensils. There is no food which is as good as milk, and no food which offers more suitable media for bacteria. The farmer is producing food for the people, and it is our duty to do all we possibly can to make it easy for him to get a clean and adequate water supply. One great complaint is that milk is not always in the condition it should be when supplied to the consumer. It is not the producer who is to blame; it is what happens to the milk in transit from producer to consumer. There should be an adequate supply of water for the proper cooling of milk, and the period of transit should be as short as possible, particularly in hot weather.

The great importance and advantages of a good water supply for the livestock of the country are generally known, but I question whether people generally know the disadvantages of a bad water supply. There are large numbers of farms with no water whatever or with an inadequate and bad water supply.

Mr. Marshall

Is the hon. Member sure that the landowners are prepared to pay for the impounding of water in these places?

Sir J. Lamb

That is a point to be dealt with later, and I intend to deal with landlords later on. I have a great respect for the services which landowners, together with cultivators, have rendered in the past, and are rendering to-day in the provision of food. There is a great risk of disease to livestock when they are compelled to drink water which is of an unsatisfactory nature. I could give many experiences in regard to farmers and an unsatisfactory water supply. I remember a man who once set out with the object of buying a farm. The tenant was not at home when he arrived and so the man was able to look round the farm and then come back again. He found very little water on the farm, which was otherwise satisfactory. Afterwards, the tenant arrived home and told him that he had had to go four miles in order to fetch water for the household for drinking purposes. Needless to say, the man did not stay long to consider the purchase of a farm in such a condition. That is not an isolated case. There are many farms just as badly off. Only last night I read in the newspaper of a case in Suffolk where inhabitants had to walk three miles to obtain drinking water. These are not extreme statements and the position must be considered.

The question of river pollution is mentioned in the White Paper, and I hope that we are to have more drastic provisions for the protection of water supplies from unnecessary pollution by industries. It is no doubt an expense to industry to deal with effluents from various processes, but it is their duty to do so, and nobody has the right, either for the benefit of themselves or their industry, to impose upon others great disadvantages in regard to water supply just because there is no control to prevent them doing it. There is a moral obligation on them to deal with the effluents, so that they are not turned into a river to pollute it to the detriment of livestock and food production. I support what was said by the hon. Member for South Bristol (Mr. A. G. Walkden). This is a question which is very important to the agricultural worker; it is important to the employers and to employees and their families. A large saving can be effected when water is in good supply. Reference was made by the hon. Member to the fact that he developed his constitution very largely by pumping, or carrying water with a yoke. It is a matter of very great drudgery in some places where all the water has to be pumped from underground.

In order to retain labour in the country districts, it is necessary to make it as satisfied as possible. A man cannot very well be satisfied in the doing of his job if his wife is compelled to live in a country area where there are not anything like the amenities in the town only a short bus ride away. There is very great difficulty in obtaining labour in rural areas because of the conditions under which the women folk have to live. I would like to ask my right hon. and learned Friend whether it is the intention, before he introduces, legislation, to have consulta- tion with the responsible bodies in agriculture. I refer to the National Farmers' Union and the Agricultural Labourers' Union. I hope the Minister will give a definite intimation that consultation will take place between those particular bodies as representing the industry.

Reference is made in the White Paper to the Central Advisory Water Committee which, it is said, already exists. I am rather sorry the Minister reminded us that it exists, because if we are to take, as a measure of its value, the result it has achieved in rural areas, I am afraid we shall be very dissatisfied with its work in the future. I hope that our fears will not be realised and that it will concentrate very much more upon the rural areas. It is said they are to cover a wide range of representation but I am afraid it is not as wide as it should be. They are to represent the local authorities—and I say nothing about that—the water suppliers, and industry—and in industry there is great necessity for water—and then there are the landowners. Here comes in my observation on the interruption of the hon. Member. I have a great respect for landowners, but in this case they are not adequate fully to represent the interests of agriculture. I would like to see the representation of all agricultural users included. These are the people who know the necessities and the conditions, and it would be a great advantage if we could have them represented. A successful agriculture is undoubtedly a great asset to the country as a whole.

We are told we are to have new regional councils, and here again I want to know whether agriculture is to have representation through its organised representatives. The Minister is to take powers to make orders to take over undertakers, depriving them of their areas and handing them over to others or to the local authority. It is absolutely essential that there should be powers in the hands of the Minister to see that the objects and desires of the public are carried out, but I have one doubt. If these powers are made too drastic, the Minister himself may be a little too reluctant to put them into operation. Would the Minister consider whether some necessary action could be taken before the very drastic powers which it is proposed to give him are put into force, so as to obtain the desired object, without going to the extreme?

Mr. A. Walkden

Why not compulsion when it is in the public interest?

Sir J. Lamb

I say that in the ultimate it would have to be compulsion, but, if compulsion is so very wide and drastic, there might be an immediate process which might give the desired result. One of the greatest grievances which agriculture has had to face in the past has been the absence of an adequate water supply. They have constantly seen those who are providing the large cities and towns with water taking that water from their areas, in many cases, as I know from my own experience, diminishing the supply of an area, without compensation and often accentuating the shortage of water in the particular area. Many times they make use of agricultural land for the transit of water from large areas to other populations and refuse to supply water to the people through whose land they are transporting the water. These grievances have existed for a long time and in so far as the White Paper and the proposed legislation will have the effect of mitigating that grievance, I certainly support the Motion. May I remind the Minister that legislation on this subject will be judged by its results. If it is found that it is not drastic enough, our present welcome to the White Paper will be somewhat diminished, and we shall demand greater and more efficacious treatment of the water supplies in the rural districts, which should be available for their own use.

Mr. Mander (Wolverhampton, East)

There are four preliminary observations I would like to make about water. The first is, that it is owing to 20 miles of water that we are the glorious nation that we are to-day; the second is that it is generally agreed that in dealing with water problems of this country, State action, or Socialism, if you like, is the right course to take as also with the Fighting Services. Thirdly, water in my opinion is the best drink in the world. Fourthly, water in this country can be used both for profit and pleasure, and should be used a great deal more in the future than it has been in the past. I do not think enough is made of our canals or our rivers. Personally I have rowed down 100 miles of the Severn with another hon. Member and, when the war is over, I hope to com- plete the navigable area of that river. I hope we shall make more use of the great national facilities we have in the future than has always been the case in the past. I support the White Paper so far as it goes. It contains a number of excellent proposals, but I do not think it goes nearly far enough. I do not think it will succeed in making the reforms that are necessary. I cannot believe that £15,000,000 is going to be enough to supply all the rural areas with all the water they desire. If, as my right hon. Friend, the Minister of Agriculture, so earnestly desires, we are to build up a great milk industry after the war, one of the essential things is a proper supply of water, and that will not be possible unless a great deal more money is spent on it than is here suggested.

I think the proposal to get more information and statistics, now wrongly withheld, is a valuable step in the right direction. The proposal that large sums of money should be spent on research as part of the Government's scheme is thoroughly sound. Then there are proposals with regard to inspection which are most important, because we know that in certain districts where the area is a small one, the official who looks after water, has a number of other jobs to do as well. He is not an expert and cannot be expected to bring the same high qualifications to his task as a man who is an expert water engineer. That is why I think inspection can be very valuable. Then, again, the proposal to give to industry and agriculture water as a right rather than as the result of bargaining, is excellent, and the question of preventing the pollution of rivers and streams is very important, and I hope that really effective steps will be taken in that connection.

No reference has been made, so far, to compensation water. That requires attention because there are cases where, by old bargains and arrangements, water is being pumped down rivers and channels to no purpose, merely because it was arranged at the time. That is one of the things which should be revised. There are a number of proposals before the country at the present time about water, some of which go very far. Some would like to see a Minister of Water. I notice that the British Waterworks Association favours that. I think that is going too far, because I believe we have far too many Ministers as it is, and we ought to take steps to decrease the number as soon as the war is over. However, there is no reason why we should not have a specific Water Department at the Ministry of Health. There is no such thing at the present time, and I think all interests dealing with that subject ought to be brought into one Department under the Minister of Health. There should also be an inter-departmental committee, enabling all the many different Ministries interested to come together and co-ordinate their views.

I am not very much impressed by the Central Advisory Committee and the other advisory committees. We all know that advisory committees are not very effective bodies. Those who sit on them can be made use of just as the Minister or the person responsible desires. They cannot have their way, they cannot publish their views, and if you really want to get things done you want a body with effective powers. Apart from anything else, I believe there should be a permanent statutory water authority on the analogy of the Electricity Commission, a body of experts, full-time and paid, who would give their attention to surveying and dealing with the problem of the water supply of the country in a similar way to the Electricity Commission, That recommendation has been made by the Institution of Water Engineers, and it seems to me eminently sensible. It is quite true you cannot deal with water like electricity. There can be no grid, it is both unnecessary and impracticable, but one of the great tasks that will have to be dealt with by the Minister, through whatever machinery is finally set up, is that of amalgamation. It is really absurd to have 1,000 different bodies dealing with water in different parts of the country. It is natural enough, and we know the historical reasons. We started with the parish pump; now we have got beyond that but still have 1,000 authorities. They should be cut down to a very much smaller number.

Perhaps I may be permitted to give an example from the Midlands of what I have in mind by way of amalgamations. It so happens that through an area of my constituency known as Heath Town, the watershed of the country runs and part of the water runs through the river Penk to the North Sea. A little further to the West it flows through the River Smestow to the Atlantic Ocean. In that part of the country there are certain great water undertakings at the present time. First of all, there is the City of Birmingham Water Company dealing with 1,000,000 people. Then there is the South Staffordshire Water Company, which covers most of the Black Country, and again supplies 1,000,000 people. Then there is the Wolverhampton Water authority, which supplies a quarter of a million people at present. I should have thought that amalgamation and extension was needed there. I do not know what may be the views of that authority, but I think that they might well take in such authorities as Bilston, supplying 60,000 people and others in whole or part such as Seisdon, Bridgnorth, Shifnal, Stafford, both borough and rural, Madeley, Ironbridge, Dawley and Oakengates. I give that as an illustration of what I imagine the Minister contemplates putting into operation either by agreement and persuasion—I agree with the last speaker that persuasion is by far the best way to do it; if not, the State must come in with compulsion.

Whatever we do, some bold national plan is needed. As I said, I do not think this White Paper shows the vigour and vision required to deal with this part of our national plan which will have to be set up after the war. I have expressed my views in general on the subject and, in closing, I would like to follow the example of the Minister of Health and give a quotation from something written about water by a well-known writer: Everywhere water is a thing of beauty, gleaming in the dewdrop; singing in the summer rain; shining in the ice gems till the leaves all seem to turn to living jewels; spreading a golden veil over the setting sun; or a white gauze around the midnight moon. That is a picture of the element with which we are dealing. Let us use it efficiently and worthily for the benefit of the nation.

Mrs. Beatrice Wright (Bodmin)

I must confess that I confronted the White Paper on water with mixed feelings. I myself feel sympathy for the Minister of Health, who has rather precipitately been forced into fatherhood of a large and unwieldy family of children, not the least unwieldy of which is this question of water. It is not as if he had had the disciplining of that family from infancy; he has inherited it at a period which might easily be described as a rather difficult adolescent period, for we had reached a semi-stage of post-war planning when the Minister came to his Department. I thing that this question of water has needed a brave and courageous policy and I feel, like those who have spoken previously, that somehow the White Paper does not offer that bold approach for which many of us had hoped.

First, we are told in the White Paper that £15,000,000 is to be made available in this country for water supplies. I would like to remind the Minister of Health that we could easily spend that money in Cornwall alone. In fact, anyone who represents a portion of a rural county in this country could probably say the same. Furthermore, although sewerage is mentioned now and then in the White Paper, we are not told what proportion it is estimated will be necessary to use for sewerage. It is well known to many of us that in some instances it costs more to drain water away than to provide pipe water supplies. It depends entirely upon the village and how it is located. Before I leave the question of finance, I am still wondering, even after hearing the Minister speak, exactly what the proportions of expenditure are to be. What proportion is to be borne by the rates, by the district council, by the county council, and by the Exchequer? As the Minister well knows, in rural areas, the rateable value is extremely low. Therefore, as I said before, we could easily spend £15,000,000 and ask for more as a direct grant from the Exchequer.

Secondly, on page 5 of the White Paper, we are told that agriculture must have water. Various reasons are given for this which are obvious to all of us. On page 3 we are told that water cannot be easily transported and, to quote, it says "local sources must therefore be used as fully as possible." On page 15 we are told that the Minister of Agriculture is proposing legislation, and that isolated farms which are not practically served by the mains will form "a residual problem" which has to be solved after the Ministry of Health Bill and the Ministry of Agriculture Bill have been brought in. I am glad to see the Minister of Agriculture with us at this moment, because he will surely agree with me that most farms are isolated. It is going to be uneconomic, according to the White Paper, to carry pipe supplies to most farms; therefore, from where, and when, will they get their water? The Minister said that every sizeable group of houses will be provided with a pipe supply. What does he mean by "sizeable group"? Is he including in that one of the many villages in my constituency? Because these are the places where water is needed. Surely he is not including farms in a sizeable group in any case?

Therefore, I come to my main criticism of the White Paper, which is that there is no mention from cover to cover of the proper use of electricity and the linking up with electricity supplies for the provision of water locally. To repeat, we are told that we must use local sources, and yet we are not told how it is proposed to do so. It is simple enough to see that unless there is co-operation between the Electricity Commissioners and those people who are preparing this Water Bill, the provision of piped water will lack a very big impetus which it could be given. It is very much cheaper to carry wires than it is to carry water mains.

We are also told in many reports which hon. Members have had that the war has driven up the price of pipes and that anyway nothing can be done at the moment. Yet in the constituency I represent the electric grid marches bravely throughout the county and I see no reason why we should not tap that so that a simplified electric pump can be provided for farms and small villages, by means of which they can pump their own supplies. These pumps could be purchased reasonably, or provided on the loan system, as in the case of electric cookers for which we pay rental and which are kept in order for us. I beg the Minister to give some consideration to this proposal in the consultations which he proposes to hold.

There is one problem which arises, and that is purification of water. I understand, however, that many models of simple purification apparatus could also be supplied. But this plan can only be efficient if there is available to the local authorities, who wish to provide water from local sources, an atlas. I want to draw attention to the Inland Water Survey, which devotes its time to underground water supplies. There is a great deal which we can learn from the United States in this connection, where a much larger proportion of the water supplies of that country are drawn from underground sources. In this country over half our water supplies are drawn from the surface. The Inland Water Survey is not concerned with making a survey of that. There was, before the war, only one engineer in the Ministry of Health whose job it was, without finance and without any powers, except persuasion, to make a survey of surface water supplies in this country. The Minister would do well to see that a proper atlas of surface water is made and is available for those people who are now planning water supplies.

There is another point which worries me. I have already said that I wished the Electricity Commissioners could have been brought into this White Paper. They would have been about the only Government Department which has not entered into our discussions to-day. We have the Ministry of Health, which is accountable for public water supplies and pollution prevention; we have the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries, which is responsible for land drainage, fisheries, agriculture, water supplies and pollution prevention; we have the Ministry of War Transport, which is responsible for inland navigation and pollution prevention; we have the Ministry of Fuel and Power, which is responsible for water power; we have the Ministry of Home Security, which is interested in fire fighting; we have the Board of Trade, which is further interested in water in so far as it affects industry and, particularly, the rights of riparian owners. At a time when we can step forward firmly in the right direction, instead of dabbling with this problem and again rebuilding the difficulties we are trying to wipe away, we should appoint a National Water Board, which would be able to co-ordinate the whole business of water supply.

I therefore beg the Minister, before he brings in his Bill, to think wisely about this matter. We have been allowed only a small sum of money to provide piped supplies and we do not want to waste any of it in co-ordinating Ministries. Let us spend the money wisely and well and have a National Water Board, representative, if you like, of all five Ministries, but concerned with water and water only. Let us give this Board power instead of vesting in the Ministry of Health powers which will be an encumbrance to that Department already over-burdened with a veritable galaxy of problems. If we do not take some such action as this the people whom I represent will be left, once again, without -water supply. I think the moment is ripe to provide for this National Water Board. I was delighted to hear the Minister say that he understood that Cornwall has a special problem when 100 of her 177 parishes are without water and suggest that special steps should be taken. I intended to ask him whether he could provide some sort of county committee in areas of that kind which are sparsely populated, which would have access to the atlas, and which would be able to push ahead witih the schemes that are so vitally necessary.

The Minister has told us that he wishes to consult with interested parties before he brings in his Bill. A plea has already been made to my right hon. and learned Friend on behalf of the agricultural industry and now I want to put in a plea for the D.S.I.R. as well. They should have direct power to get information. It is quite wrong that any geological survey, valuable as it is to the nation, should be held up because one person or company will not provide the necessary information. The D.S.I.R. ought to have prior 'notification of bore sinkings, such as they have in the mining industry. The geological survey should have the same sort of power as the mining industry has. I feel that the success of the Minister in housing, agricultural prosperity and health of the nation will be jeopardised unless he tackles this problem bravely and courageously and is not afraid to admit that the feeling of the House to-day is strongly against the half-hearted measures proposed in the White Paper, and is strongly in favour of more drastic action. If he does that he will earn not only the gratitude of the agricultural industry and of many millions of people in this country but, not least, the gratitude of 42,000 south-east Cornish constituents of mine.

Mr. R. C. Morrison (Tottenham, North)

This Debate has already progressed sufficiently to indicate that the Government must be a long way from being satisfied with the reception given to the White Paper. At any rate, if they are not, before it is finished they will be convinced that the White Paper does not come up to the expectations which Mem- bers of the House hoped for it. I want to make one or two suggestions, and I would like the Minister to understand that the suggestions I am making are minimum and not maximum. Frankly, I was disappointed with the Minister of Health's opening speech; it seemed to me to be depressing. He did not seem to have much hope and I want to tell him that there are many signs that the public are getting rather tired of Government attempts to solve problems by setting up advisory committees, which have no power to carry out anything and whose advice is either accepted or rejected. This policy is being overdone.

I propose to touch upon one or two specific points. Unlike the hon. Lady the Member for Bodmin (Mrs. Wright), whom I have just heard make her second most interesting speech on water in this House, I am unable to speak on rural water supplies. I would rather like to draw the attention of the House to the present position, and to the importance of water undertakings. It seems ridiculous that in this small island of ours there should be nearly 2,000 separate undertakings to supply us with water. It would be comical if it were not so serious. The White Paper urges amalgamation, and gives as an example a body of which I have the honour to be a member—the Metropolitan Water Board. This body was formed in 1902 as a result of the amalgamation of eight separate undertakings. The White Paper pays tribute to the Board, which is now the largest water undertaking in the world, but then there is included this curious sentence: Amalgamation can be over-done in the sense that there comes a point at which a further increase in size, so far from improving efficiency, may increase the costs of administration. I want to ask the Minister what that sentence means. There is no evidence in the White Paper in support of that contention, and there is no suggestion underlying it that the Metropolitan Water Board is too large, and that if it was made larger it would be inefficient and that its costs of administration would rise. Why that sentence has been put in I do not know, unless it be that the Government wanted, first of all, to advocate the amalgamation of undertakings and then put in something to the contrary.

Let us look at the present position in the London Civil Defence Region, where there are 13 separate water undertakings, some of them owned by the Metropolitan Water Board, some by local authorities and some by private interests. The Richmond water undertaking is owned by the Richmond Corporation and is completely surrounded by the Metropolitan Water Board area. Most of these 13 undertakings have inadequate reserves, and have to receive bulk supplies from the Metropolitan Water Board to keep them going. Some are small and they have no laboratories, no research organisation, no facilities and are unable to provide themselves with any of these things. Therefore, I want to know whether there is any reason why the 13 undertakings in this region should not be combined?

Let me remind the House of the disaster that took place in the London area, in Croydon, just before the war. There was an epidemic of typhoid which was directly traced to the pollution of water supplies in the borough of Croydon. A considerable number of people lost their lives, great alarm was caused and in the end damages were claimed and given by the courts because of the number of people who had died. The borough of Croydon realised that this had happened because, being merely a small part in the great metropolitan area, their reserves were inadequate. So they asked the Metropolitan Water Board to take them over. A Bill was promoted by the Board, in the House of Commons, to take over Croydon's water undertaking, but it was thrown out by the authorities on the ground that it was ultra vires because the Water Board had no right to take over any undertaking which was outside its own area. Therefore, the Bill which had been drafted, at great expense, had to be dropped. But the Board's relations with Croydon were perfectly friendly and a solution was found. Instead of the Metropolitan Water Board promoting a Bill to take over Croydon a Bill was promoted by Croydon, who asked to go to the Metropolitan Water Board, and that was in order. The Bill, therefore, was redrafted by Croydon and was about to be presented to the House when the war broke out. That is the position and Croydon is still carrying on with its own undertaking.

Some of these 13 water undertakings are quite small and are unable to supply any proper facilities for research or to handle the problem in the way it should be handled. Some are completely encircled by the Metropolitan Water Board, they are all in difficulties and are appealing to the Board to help them out. Is there any reason why the greatest city in the world should have to put up with 13 undertakings in its area? Could not the Minister do something about that? He may reply that the White Paper proposes a Regional Water Advisory Committee for Greater London, but that is really begging the question. The public are getting tired of advisory committees. There had been, for a long time, a Greater London Committee for all these authorities, or we should not have got through the war period as we have done. The Ministry of Health appears to think that the public are much more stupid than they really are. The public know what they want. They want a drought-proof water system. They do not want to live in an area where a fortnight's sunshine puts them into difficulties. They do not want to live in an area where the water authority is so small that it has no facilities for storage, and is not likely to have any. When there is a heavy rain-fall they cannot collect the water, and a drought puts them in difficulties. In view of the necessity for replanning London, which is an urgent matter, I suggest that this matter of London's water supply needs urgent attention, and when the public know the full facts, as I hope they will, I am sure they will not tolerate 13 separate water undertakings inside the London Civil Defence area. I think an overwhelming majority of people would be found to vote, if a test were taken, that water should not be sold for private profit. It might be accepted by the House generally as its policy that the time has come when water should be regarded as one of the things not for exploitation.

I should like to say a word or two on another subject of interest to Greater London, the question of underground water supplies. The amazing position is that anyone can sink a well anywhere, at any time, and take any amount of water out of it that he likes, as long as he likes, without keeping any records or statistics or without permission from anyone, always provided he does not sell it to the public but uses it himself. The result is that laundries, breweries, ginger-beer manufacturers, dairies, and people who use water on a large scale sink their own wells. When it is no longer profit- able or if they remove their business, they can leave the well derelict. Lest the House should think that this is confined to dairies and ginger-beer manufacturers, let me give an example which I think will amuse Members. It happened some years ago that Lloyds Bank decided, as a little pastime from banking operations, to sink their own wells when they were rebuilding their premises. The Bank of England, just across the road, heard about it. They were not to be outdone by Lloyds Bank, and they decided to sink their own well too. A few days after it began to yield water, Lloyds well dried up and it was necessary to deepen it in order to recover the water that the Bank of England was taking away. Then it became necessary for the Bank of England to deepen their well in order to get the water back. I really do not know why there should be this urgency for banks to get their own water. I do not know what they would think if the Metropolitan Water Board decided to start its own bank. They are as much entitled to do so as a bank is to start its own water supply. Dr. Stevenson Buchan in notes on the underground water supply of the county of London says: A progressive fall in the water level has been recorded for a long time. As it did not affect to any great extent the supplies which could still be obtained by deepening the wells, it was ignored. Now that the level is locally nearing the bottom of the reservoir, and in certain areas causing polluted water to enter the chalk sand reservoir, a problem demanding an immediate solution is presented. How can the fall in water level be reversed? Unless a solution is speedily found it is inevitable that the value of the chalk-sand reservoir under a great part of London will be destroyed. As the result of the falling levels, many of the older wells have been rendered useless, as they are not deep enough for the changed conditions. Similarly shafts and adits which were once an asset in collecting and storing the supply from the sands over the chalk have had to be abandoned. In the South-East of the County the average yearly rate of fall has been very small. During the last 3o years the fall has not been more than one foot per annum. In the centre of the Basin, however, the annual falls have been considerable, frequently averaging over five feet per annum during the 30 years in which observations have been recorded. Graphs of the water levels from individual wells show that the annual rate of fall has increased in recent years. In the inner zone of London there are twice as many wells as in 1911, and pumping and competition for water has become more intense. In that astonishing state of affairs, which will become more important with the re- planning of London, every new factory will want to sink its own well and draw its own supplies. If the Metropolitan Water Board wants to sink one well it must promote a Bill. These people can take any quantity of water and keep no records at all. The White Paper meets the position only in one respect, that it is proposed to take measures to see that, they keep records of the water that is taken out of the wells. The recommendation is: The Health Minister to have powers to require information and statistics from all users of water and all sinkers of wells and bore holes. In other words, anybody can go on sinking wells in the London area or anywhere else The White Paper is most inadequate in this respect. There are two steps that should be taken immediately. No more wells should be sunk without the permission either of the Minister of Health or of the water undertaking in the area. I think that is reasonable. If there is a case for sinking a well, consent need not be unreasonably withheld, but to go an sinking them as at present is a silly and absurd policy, particularly in London, where every organisation of any kind proposing to put up new premises after the war will make provision for sinking a well regardless of the effects. The second step is that all unused wells should be sealed off to prevent pollution. There is definite evidence in the possession of the Metropolitan Water Board, and probably of other undertakings, that this foolish policy of allowing people to leave wells derelict is causing pollution. There is urgent need—and the White Paper says nothing about it—for a national research organisation to cover all fields of water engineering.

The Minister of Agriculture (Mr. R. S. Hudson)

What the hon. Member is asking for is covered on page 13.

Mr. Morrison

In regard to research?

Mr. Hudson

No. The control of the abstraction of underground water.

Mr. Morrison

I admit that the White Paper is an advance, but the rate of progress indicated and the definite steps that are to be taken are too slow and too long. They remind me of the famous music-hall turn of slow-motion boxing. The Minister himself mentioned what a long time this would take, but these are things which will not wait. They are most urgent. One does not want to be too pessimistic, but if the drought continues much longer it will be a serious matter. It was all right for the Minister to say the Metropolitan Water Board has not made any complaint yet. There are certain reasons in relation to the war situation why they should not be too anxious to tell the public the position. I was sorry the right hon. Gentleman trotted that out, as if the position was perfectly satisfactory.

Mr. Hudson

I was referring to the request that we should take powers to control the abstraction of underground water. We propose to take those powers.

Mr. Levy

Is it not true that what the hon. Member says is right and that the Water Board is now being forced to over-chlorinate the water to avoid the difficulties to which he is calling attention?

Mr. Hudson

The whole object of the White Paper was to show what we propose to do and what powers we propose to take. The hon. Member for North Tottenham (Mr. R. C. Morrison) points out that a serious situation has arisen and he suggests that we should take powers to remedy it. I am pointing out that we intend to take those powers.

Mr. McEntee

Some of us cannot find the provision to which the right hon. Gentleman refers.

Mr. Hudson

It is on page 13.

Mr. Morrison

I am willing to concede the point. My complaint is not generally against the policy of the White Paper, but against its slowness. Apart from the Bill on rural water supplies for this Session and the Water Undertakings Bill which is down for next Session, all the other things have to await the setting up of a Greater London Water Advisory Committee. That means years before anything is done. What I am pointing out is the urgency of the matter. The two points I have mentioned do not need prolonged consideration by advisory committees, especially when we are about to embark upon the replanning of a great part of London.

My final point is the need, which is not mentioned in the White Paper, for a research organisation to cover all fields of water engineering. I had the privilege a few months ago of being in Bermuda, where there is always a shortage of water and every person has to collect his own supply. They do it by collecting it from the roofs of houses and all sorts of other ways. I would like to draw attention to two things that happened out there. When the United States Army and Air Force arrived in Bermuda they found themselves faced with a tremendous shortage of water. They did not appoint an advisory committee and spend a lot of time over considering it. There was a war on and they had to get water at once. They covered a mountain with concrete and put storage tanks at the bottom, so as to secure all the water that fell on the mountain. They found they were not getting enough, so they installed two generators which turned sea-water into fresh water at the rate of 9,000 gallons a day. The way they did that in a month or two is a useful lesson to us. In this country with all its water undertakings, there is no national water research organisation. I, therefore, suggest the setting-up of such an organisation for all fields of water engineering.

I admit that the White Paper is an advance on anything we have had before, but I am very much alarmed at the slowness of the proposals set out. Surely, the time has come when we ought to have a Minister in this House to deal with water supplies as, for instance, an Under-Secretary for Water. There is enough work on water problems and their connection with agriculture, housing and other things for an additional Under-Secretary to the Ministry of Health. While I am not authorised to speak on behalf of the Metropolitan Water Board, I have no doubt that the views I have expressed would be freely endorsed, probably unanimously, by the Board. We are concerned, first, about the fact that there are 13 separate water undertakings in the London Civil Defence area; second, at the effect on underground water supplies of the increased number of wells and the fact that anybody can sink a well where they like; and, third, that there should be a national water research organisation.

Mr. David Eccles (Chippenham)

I want to congratulate my right hon. and learned Friend on his White Paper. He is well on the way to doing the hat trick, and I hope that he will achieve it this season. The proposals in the Paper appear to me to be a workmanlike compromise between national planning and administration through the existing bodies or groups of existing bodies. I am glad that the Minister has resisted the advice of those who wanted a national board and wanted to bring everything under one hat. Making policy and carrying out policy are two different things. It is a good thing to make policy on a national scale, and it is a good thing to have supervisory powers on a national scale, but it is a good thing to leave the carrying out of the policy to the democratic bodies which are in touch with the local populations. The controls which the White Paper promises to give to the Minister are quite sufficient for him to clean up such matters as need to be dealt with by amalgamation and concentration into larger administrative units.

I entirely disagree with people who say that water is like air, and ought to be free for everybody. We need only the labour of our lungs to take in air and we all want about the same amount. It is different with the necessities of life like water, heat, light and clothing. We want them in different quantities and they all make demands on labour. They all cost something and we must keep some measure of the relative cost of the different services. Otherwise, we might have floods of water, and nothing to heat it with, or plenty of electricity, and no water to heat. I am glad, therefore, that we are to keep the supply of water on a more or less business basis. The chief doubt I have about the Paper is that it treats water in isolation from cottages, electricity and other rural amenities. How do we know that this is part of a combined plan, and how do we know that £20,000,000 is enough, or is not too much? As far as I know my own countryside, we in the villages want piped water supplies from which we can get water without drawing it from a well or a pond. That is our real need. We are not so concerned about sewerage facilities and a great many taps in every house. We do not want, in the countryside, everything that they have in the towns. We do not want to have our letters delivered three times a day; once a day is quite enough. The real urgent need is for a water tap available to every cottage and on every farm. Subsequent amenities like sewerage have to be considered with other ways of spending money. If you consulted an ordinary housewife you would find that once she had a tap she would much prefer to see money spent on cottages. I hope that my right hon. Friend will make his water expenditure fit in with the other rural amenities which we want to see as soon as possible.

Looking at the proposals in the White Paper with regard to finance and administration, I think the essential thing for the local authority is to know on what principles the Minister will make the many Orders which he will be empowered to issue and, in particular, on what sort of scale he will be prepared to make these grants. My right hon. and learned Friend has told us that the grant will be different in each case according to the rateable value of the district and the cost of the scheme. Here we are spreading another feast of delegated legislation, and it is important to know in advance what sort of helpings the Minister is to hand out. I am not sure what part the county councils will play in financing these schemes. As they are under an obligation to make a contribution to each grant-aided scheme, they ought to be able to say something about the size of that grant. I hope the Minister will say on what principles county councils will have to make contributions because they want to compare the productivity of rates in their rural and urban districts. For instance, in Wiltshire some of the smaller urban districts are less able to bear the burden of the water rate than their richer neighbours in the rural districts. When the water goes on to the district rate there will be some villages which will be paying the rate but will not have any piped supplies. My right hon. and learned Friend knows enough about country folk to know we shall consider that an addition of insult to injury. I am not sorry to contemplate the meetings of angry cottagers which are likely to take place, because a little stir will do no harm and may accelerate the coming of supplies.

Turning to the administration side of the proposals, I see, reading between the lines of the White Paper, that the Minister is about to set up a series of joint water boards, and, where necessary, compel local authorities and private undertakings to join these boards. Here is a conflict between efficiency, which no doubt requires large areas of administration of water supplies, and democratic responsibility, which we must preserve if we are not to become a bureaucratic State. This is a modern problem which confronts us at every turn of our reconstruction legislation. It needs careful study. Ministers are advised by experts, and these experts are naturally in favour of efficiency and somewhat intolerant of the ordinary man and woman who are elected to represent the ratepayers and whose chief qualification is commonsense. We shall have to be on our guard against these experts. They paint their picture from the angle which they choose. It is our business to see things in the round. If we let the experts have their way with local government we shall see a different area of administration for each service. That means the end of local government. I hope, therefore, that in the matter of water administration the Minister will not go too quickly into forming large joint boards. I hope he will find it possible to break down his central plan into pieces which can be administered by the existing local government bodies or by smallish groups of those bodies. When my right hon. and learned Friend replies I hope he will tell the House whether the joint board will deal only with major problems or whether they will also concern themselves with the detailed distribution of water, individual tappings and minor extensions. The detailed work would be much better left to the local authorities concerned who are in close touch with the needs of the population.

It is sometimes easier to see how the general proposals work if we take a particular instance. I would like to take an example from Wiltshire, which will interest my right hon. and learned Friend the Minister of Health, for he is a popular governor of a famous girls' school in my constituency, situated, as such institutions should be, on high ground, overlooking the town of Calne. The pressure of water was not sufficient for the young ladies entrusted to my right hon. and learned Friend's care to perform their ablutions to the satisfaction of their parents and preceptors. Accordingly, at considerable expense extra tanks were installed. Therefore, I hope my right hon. and learned Friend will have a sympathetic ear for the story of water in and around Calne which illustrates many of the rural difficulties The Calne town council are in the hands of the local water company, whose supplies are sometimes inadequate. The council have never been able to get information from the company as to why the supply is inadequate. Under the White Paper they will get this information, and that is all to the good. Suppose that the source of supply proves not to be sufficient for the use of the town; what happens? Round about the town, within a mile or so, is a group of villages which have no piped supply at all, Yates-bury, Cherhill and Compton Bassett. Already this season, farmers whom I know in those villages have not had enough water to swill down their cowsheds, which must affect the quality of their milk.

I presume that a survey will he made for new sources in the district; but a new source has already been developed during the war and is now used only for military establishments, as is.known, I think. to the Minister. The problem is, what is to happen to that new source of water after the war as between the town council and the rural district council? Naturally enough, when people have been crying out for water for years and women have had to carry it in buckets over half a mile, and then a war comes and right under their noses, a splendid new supply is developed for somebody else, they use hard words. I hope that the Minister is under no illusion that a countryside which has seen water, and electricity for that matter, brought to its doorstep for military purposes will not be in a mood to wait very long for water when the war is over.

This is the situation: a small town with an inadequate supply and with villages round it with no supply at all, while a new supply has been developed by the military. Suppose that this new source is sufficient to supply both the town and the villages; will the Minister make a grant to the rural district council and the urban district council? I cannot see, in the White Paper, whether the urban district would be eligible or not, but I hope it would be. What sort of grant is the county council to make towards either the rural scheme or the urban district scheme? That is the sort of question which it is necessary to answer quickly if local authorities are to be enabled to make plans for getting over their troubles in village areas.

In conclusion, we may have been looking at the cost of water supplies in villages too much from the angle of supplying domestic consumers. If every farm and every field on every farm, had a piped supply, what increase in food production would there he in this country? That is a calculation which, in the rough, should be made, and the result might be that we should find that agriculture would carry the rural domestic supply and not the other way round, as we have been looking at it in the past. All these things want working out as a combined operation to improve, at one and the same time, standards of farming and rural amenities in our villages. That is my main conclusion about the White Paper. The proposals are satisfactory and welcome, but I want to see my right hon. Friend take another step, not necessarily to develop more water, or to cheapen the cost of the water that has been developed, but to join with his colleagues to give us a concerted plan of attack on all the inefficient and unworthy features of our countryside.

Sir Charles Edwards (Bedwellty)

I very seldom address the House, and I hope that hon. Members will have patience with me for a few minutes. The Government have adopted a new, and, I think, a very good principle, which is that before a Bill is introduced a day is given to a Debate on the subject. That is a very good plan, and I do not think it is a day lost. The Minister responsible knows better, after a day's Debate, what he has to provide for and what he has to provide against too, so that time is saved on the stages of the resulting Bill. I approve of that policy, which is a very good one.

In Wales, we have been very well supplied with water, but we are very generous-hearted people in Wales, and we have been better to other people than we have been to ourselves. We supply two of the largest cities in the country with water. Liverpool, I think, is supplied from Lake Vrynwy, and Birmingham is supplied from the Elan Valley in Radnorshire, which I know very well indeed. The great point is that the pipe lines, especially that to Birmingham, go for many miles—I do not know exactly what the distance is from the Elan Valley to Birmingham—through a lot of places which have no water supply at all, I do not think matters should be arranged in that way. There are most crude methods of water supply in some of the places through which these pipe-lines pass. My opinion of water supply is that there should be a great network of supply all the way from the source to the destination to which the water is taken. I think that is necessary. We have done it in our electrical grid system. There is a network of supplies of electricity, and the same thing should be true of water supply.

There are in Monmouthshire many small hillside farms, some without water, and many of the farmers have to drive their cattle and other animals miles to the nearest supply, or have to cart it over long distances. The shortage is more acute, of course, where there has been underground work, and the ground has been drained in working seams of coal. That is a very serious matter for a large number of farmers. We ought to aim at a system by which all those farms will be supplied with water. This country would be a different place if that were done, and I do not think we ought to rest until there is a sufficient supply of water in the country for all who need it. Then there are the houses on high altitudes. In some of those places there is a water supply already, but unless the pressure is good they cannot get water. We have had such a dry time in recent months, in Monmouthshire at any rate, that I am afraid we shall have a very difficult time this summer, in respect of water, especially in the case of high altitude supplies.

I once took part in establishing a water board. We started the Abertillery and district water board. We went into the Black Mountains or the Grwyne Fawr Mountains, as we call them, about II miles from Abergavenny. The nearest station was Llanfihangel, where we had to haul our material when put down and cart it II miles up the narrow, winding and difficult valley. It was a very extensive job. Eventually, we laid down a line of steel rails, a proper railway. We got a couple of locomotives together and finally had everything that was necessary. We started work on the reservoir. We went to a pretty big expense, but immediately after we started, the 1914 war commenced. The result was that the Government not only took the men and the materials away, but all those rails and our engines went, and every hit of machinery we had. When the war was over we had to start again, but we had to pay at least three times as much for the material as well as for the labour. It became a very expensive thing. In fact, it cost us more than three times in all what we thought it was going to cost us in the beginning. The Government ought to have come to our assistance, but they did not.

I am wondering now whether, if a scheme like that is to be taken over and amalgamated, as the Minister indicated to-day, there is to be some system or basis of compensation for those who have been concerned with it. The experience I have related was a big blow to our district. We have had to pay ever since very much more than we ought to have paid, and we shall continue to pay for years, because of the experience of the war. I do not suppose the Minister has yet gone into all these details but I wonder whether there will be a basis of compensation which will be the same for all water undertakers, or whether some consideration will be given to cases such as I have mentioned. However, I am strongly in favour of this Motion, which I think is excellent. I hope it will not be treated as a pious resolution and left there but that, next Session, we shall have a Bill brought before us to give effect to these proposals. I do not know anything more important for the country.

Mr. Levy (Elland)

The White Paper has already been described as a preliminary canter, so that the Minister can collect the opinions of the House in view of prospective legislation. I, for one, am very disappointed with the White Paper. It hardly touches the fringe of the subject. When we had a Debate a little while ago on Anglesey, I came away with the impression that the Minister's reference to the White Paper, which he was proposing to produce, meant that he would put forward a national plan for a national water supply. The widest stretch of imagination would not enable anyone to suggest that the plan before us is a national plan to deal with a national water supply.

Let me begin with something about which I think we can all agree. I think we must all agree that a good water supply and its complementary drainage, are vital to the health of the community. The next point is that it is desirable, if not essential, to the whole of the country to have a tap water supply sufficient for the animal as well as for the human popula- tion. Obviously, it would have to be accompanied by adequate drainage. If we agree on those fundamental principles, the question then arises of the method to be adopted to carry them into effect. It is of very little use to talk about redistribution and dispersal of the population, housing schemes, and location of industry, when none of those things can be efficient or effective without water supply and drainage. The Minister said during the last Debate that 95 per cent. of the population already had a water supply. What he did not say was that that supply covered only three-tenths of the area of England and Wales, and that the other seven-tenths of that area was practically without proper water supply and drainage. I am not proposing to deal with Scotland in my observations or criticisms, because its problems are different and I will leave them to be dealt with by Scottish Members themselves.

For the past 10 or 12 years, playing practically a lone hand, if I may say so—and that will be within the recollection of many older Members of this House—I have advocated a national water supply and drainage for the whole country. As far back as 1934, the plan that I advocated was that there should be at the top a National Water and Drainage Board, that the country should be divided into watershed areas, that each of these watershed areas should have Regional Commissioners and that their duty should be to see to it that water and drainage were efficiently provided within those areas. I am pleased to say that the British Waterworks Association, in the report they issued only as recently as February, support the scheme that I have now outlined, which I have outlined for the last 10 years. The function of the Regional Commissioners should be, among other things, to see that proper reservoirs are constructed within those areas that will be common to all, in order to get a proper distribution of water. Furthermore, their duty should also be to construct proper purification plants in order to see that the streams and rivers are not polluted. I disagree fundamentally with my right hon. and learned Friend that these purification plants should be the function of the River Boards. Obviously they should be the function of the drainage and sewage control on the land and the responsibility should be theirs to see that the streams and rivers are not polluted.

What does this White Paper propose? It proposes the perpetuation of all these small local authorities and private undertakings that have been in existence, in the majority of cases, for 60, 50, 40 years, all this haphazard patchwork waste that has been going on ineffectively and inefficiently. It proposes the perpetuation of that, with perhaps some amalgamations over wide areas, and that, I would say, this year, next year, sometime or never.

The Minister cannot give us any time when this is to be brought to fruition. I can imagine him going to the Treasury and saying, "We want a national scheme both for water and drainage." And when they got an approximation of the total amount they were horrified and said, "Impossible. What we can do is to give you £21,000,000 —£6,000,000 is for Scotland, so we will wipe that out. "—£15,000,000 for England and Wales. Cut that in half, giving £7,500,000 for drainage, and £7,500,000 for water. Now run away and be good boys. Do the best you can with it. We know we shall not be called upon to make any Treasury contribution for years to come, but you will satisfy the House, and we hope you will satisfy the country. "This will not satisfy the House or the country. Water is vital. Drainage is its complementary. My right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture laughs. He would not laugh if he lived in a house in a rural district and had to carry water for miles. I do not consider it a joke. This is no laughing matter. If there is anything more vital to the health and well-being of this country I would like to know what it is.

With regard to my right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture, I would point out that dairy farmers cannot cool their milk or wash their utensils. No wonder the Government want to pasteurise all the milk. Of course, the whole thing is iniquitous—to think that we in this country, after all these years, are in a state, in some cases, no better than a West African village. The Minister wants to perpetuate that. He wants to put the burden on the local authorities and private enterprise, or their combination. Is there any Member in this House who really believes that the local authorities are capable of administering the water and drainage out of the rates, however much they have got to do? Just think what the Minister of Health is asking. There is education. Local authorities come up with the rates. There is housing. Local authorities come up with the rates. All these new amenities are promised in this new world we are to create. Local authorities will have to come up with the rates, and now the local authorities, by means of county councils, are to pay for this system out of the rates, and they are to get a grant-in-aid. How much is there when it is divided over the whole country, over England and Wales? It just does not make sense; it just cannot do the trick, and it is no use pretending that it can.

It is only side-stepping this issue, as I said in 1934. We had a similar Debate then. The Government came up with £1,000,000 then, and I told them it was no use, and it is not any use. It is no use telling me the quantity of rainfall we receive. What I am concerned about is the amount of water conserved. As to all these surveys, the pigeon holes of the Ministry of Health are bursting with all these geological surveys and reports on conditions ad infinitum. I do not think there is an inch of this territory that has not been surveyed many times, and all these surveys and committees have only been used to side step the real issue. Perhaps it comes rather curiously from these benches and from a Conservative that I should be advocating the nationalisation of the water supply.

Mr. George Griffiths (Hemsworth)

The hon. Member is amazing us. He shall have our ticket to-morrow.

Mr. Levy

I am not a Socialist, because Socialism is not all common sense. This is common sense. I am suggesting it is impossible for the poorer areas to provide sufficient in rates to do the job. The other day we had the case of Anglesey, where a penny rate yields £600. Anglesey came to this House for power to have a partial water supply without drainage, and they were to borrow £500,000. Over the whole country the Government offer £7,500,000, and a similar sum for drainage. Then my right hon. and learned Friend says that grants-in-aid are to be given to approved schemes and plans that are to be created. He says he must distribute these grants equitably and must get all the plans in first, because unless he gets all the plans in how can he make an equitable distribution? Then when he gets all the plans in the mathematicians will get to work to let those concerned know how little the grant-in-aid will be. The Minister says "We shall amalgamate you all now. It is going to be the county councils which will levy these rates for these water and drainage supplies."

I told my right hon. and learned Friend when we had the last Debate that unless he brought in a national water plan with a national drainage plan I would be one of his most violent critics. I hope I shall be forgiven, but I shall always be a violent critic until I see that this country is adequately supplied with water and drainage. Every private Bill that has been introduced into this House in order to obtain some water supply has always contained a common form Clause relating to the right to prohibit water being supplied, and to make it an offence if anybody took a supply after that prohibition was once imposed, simply because it was impossible for any of these local authorities adequately to supply the whole of their area. Is anyone going to suppose that any of these local authorities or private undertakings can afford to, and will supply, what I will describe as the uneconomic areas, and if they supply such areas with water will they undertake this complementary drainage? Obviously, they will not do that and it is not common sense to think that they will. This should be done nationally. I do not see why a man, or a family, living a couple of hundred yards outside a boundary should not have any water or drainage when his neighbour a couple of hundred yards away inside the boundary has water and drainage. It is no wonder the congestion of the population is all in the urban areas, where these amenities are provided, and, that people will not go into the country.

The Minister of Health said the other day that within two years 200,000 to 300,000 houses were to be provided. What about water, what about drainage? What is the good of having a bathroom? The Government now have a prototype house that they are asking people to go to see. It contains a bath and all sorts of things. I have not seen it, so I cannot comment on it, but is it right that they should put these houses down where there is no water and drainage? Under this scheme I cannot see how you are going to do it. The Minister himself said "We cannot do anything of this while the war is on. This is a long-term policy, This will take years."

It puts one in mind of the fable, "While the grass grows the cow starves. When the grass has grown the cow is dead. "That is what this will be. It is simply a put-off. How can we avoid overlapping, a general scramble for water and endless waste, extravagance and expense? Instead of having a comprehensive plan there will be duplication of pipes and other works and a waste of large amounts of ratepayers' money, however careful the ratepayer may be. When I referred to what came out of the rates I omitted the highways, the schools and all the rest of the burdens we put upon these local authorities. The rates just cannot stand what is here proposed. Therefore, I say that the rates are quite incapable of providing the finance. When I listened to the Minister's speech I was amazed at all the overlapping the scheme entailed. I will conclude by saying, as I am entitled to say, that my right hon. and learned Friend has at least tried to tackle the water problem, whereas a number of Ministers in the past have not even endeavoured to try to tackle it. Let me give the Ministers credit for endeavouring to tackle this most difficult problem. But if they are going to tackle it, let them tackle it in a comprehensive and bold fashion. Let us have a proper national plan. It cannot come to fruition at once, but whatever is done can be done within the ambit of that plan. Then we shall have something tangible, which will satisfy this House and the country. I hope that the House will support me in my criticism, and not be satisfied with anything less than a national water supply.

Dr. Peters (Huntingdonshire)

It is so seldom that I address this House that, although I have a lot to say, I will leave a good deal of it to be said by other hon. Members, because time is limited. But I am one of those who are so bold as to ask the Minister to be bolder than his scheme. I would like a national board, with full powers, not only over water but over electricity and all matters of utility, responsible to Ministers in this House. In regard to water, I am interested in the rural position. I am so unfortunate as to have had to reside for over 20 years in rather a large house in a village where there is no main water supply, where the pails and the yokes are used; and often I have pumped up water for 20 minutes or half an hour after midnight. For the last two or three years we have had to cart water for a long distance, and for many months past that has been done. It is a case of: Water, water, everywhere, Nor any drop to drink, for two miles away there are enormous gravel pits filled with water, and there is no means of getting it away. That sort of thing must stop. But I cannot see that this White Paper is going to meet our case—at least for many years to come. In my own village there was a scheme—I think it was before my right hon. and learned Friend became the Minister—for connecting our village with a supply less than two miles away. I have the figures in respect of that scheme, but I will not weary the House with them, except to say that the cost was approximately £9,000—an appalling figure. Practically one-tenth of that sum represents engineers' fees, and so on. I have a friend in Huntingdonshire, a farmer connected with the sand and gravel business, who has some farms, which I think my right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture has seen on one of his visits to our county. The people on these farms set about taking water to the farmhouses and cottages from a point on the Great North Road, which is approximately the same distance away as my village is from where we get water. I have asked my friend the approximate cost. One cannot compare the two schemes perhaps because these people are taking the water across their own fields direct, and they have their own tackle; but that scheme is going to be completed inside two months, and it will cost not more than £1,000.

Let the Minister take powers to lay the pipes either along the grass verges or across fields and he will save millions of pounds. I would suggest that he should not venture too much until we can get some better pipes than are available at present, which are not too good. But unless he does adopt my suggestion many schemes will just remain on paper, or else will cost so much that the burden on the rates will make them impossible. Not only should he take the power which I suggest, but he should use all the equipment that there is in the hands of the sand and gravel people, and that which can be got from the aerodromes, and so on. If that material is lent to farmers, many of them can do the work themselves, under reasonable supervision, saving a great deal of cost. In that way we could get farms and cottages in far-distant places connected up, which I cannot see happening under this White Paper.

May I call attention to the case of the less populated areas, such as my own county of Huntingdonshire? In that county a penny rate in 1941-42 brought in about £950: in 1943-44 it has brought in £1,026. Linked up with the question of water supply is that of sewerage. One has only to go to my county to see how the small towns run their sewage into the rivers. I am all for the purification of these rivers, and I think the Minister is with me; but the heavy expense of sewerage in low-lying districts such as Huntingdonshire, which is only about 25 to 3o feet above sea level, will be more than any county in that position can undertake. There is no doubt that for many years the sewerage business has been the cesspool, if I may so put it, of local government. The heavy cost alone has kept us from dealing with it. We have heard about grants in aid from the county council and from the Exchequer, but I ask, as an hon. Lady asked, what is to be the proportion of these grants, and is any difference to be made between populous areas and those which are very sparsely populated? I am glad the Minister nods his head, because if that were not done I could see nothing resulting from this White Paper.

In so far as the White Paper offers us a scheme, and especially in regard to the last paragraph, I heartily welcome it, but I ask my right hon. and learned Friend, when he brings in the Bill, to take powers, which the Minister ought to have had years ago, to prevent these squabbles between one area and another. There have been cases in my own county, which of course have been washed out now by the powers given to Commissioners under the Defence Regulations. If the Minister had only had the power years ago, there would not have been these consumers in border-line places saying that they could not get water from one supply or from another. We in Huntingdonshire would never have had water in many villages without financial arrangements which have been made with aerodromes. What is to happen about those financial arrangements when the aerodromes no longer exist? I ask the Minister to take powers under the Bill to cover that point.

Mr. Marshall (Sheffield, Brightside)

I welcome this White Paper. It does not give us all we expected, but I think it is the first time that we have had a document of this kind taking a wide comprehensive view of our water supplies. I do not think sufficient tribute has been paid to-day to the present water undertakers. I think I can say, without fear of contradiction, that the work they have done in bringing to all but about 5 per cent. of the population a piped supply of water is an amazing achievement. They have done that in spite of immense opposition from vested interests, and in many cases without active help from this House. Many of them have executed works of vast importance. Take Birmingham's magnificent water undertaking, Manchester, Sheffield, and the local authorities of this country generally. While it is time for us to take a national view of water—and the British water works have been urging this House to do that for a very long time—that should not deter us from paying proper tribute to the amazing achievements of these undertakings in the past.

The White Paper is admirable inasmuch as it takes a comprehensive view of our water supply. The logic of the White Paper is that water supplies should be nationalised. Like many other White Papers which have laid the position down very admirably, this White Paper, when it comes to suggest remedies, falls far short of its own logic; but it shows a national outlook, and I welcome that. I also welcome the idea, expressed in the Paper, that catchment boards should be abolished, and river boards created. I have never liked catchment boards. There has been a regular row between county councils and borough councils, and when the hon. Member for Stone {Sir J. Lamb) was speaking I was thinking that under this scheme of catchment boards we have compelled great urban populations in industrial towns to support and finance drainage schemes, sometimes, 60 miles away.

This causes no end of trouble, and furthermore, the great county boroughs, which pay two-thirds of the finance of the Catchment Boards, have had one-third of the representation, and that is thoroughly undemocratic, and, so far as I am concerned, a one-third membership of the Catchment Boards is not enough. I sincerely hope the Minister, when he comes to appoint his River Boards, or when they are elected, because I supposed they will be democratically elected, will prevent the continuation of these anomalies that have accompanied the administration of the Catchment Boards. In this connection, the Minister said that we must have these Boards to prevent our rivers from getting worse. Well, if we could do nothing better than that, it would not be worth while setting up the Rivers Boards. I want these Rivers Boards to purify the rivers, many of which, to-day, are like open sewers meandering through the centre of a city, and that is why, if we are going to get bodies like Rivers Boards, it ought to be their task to make a better job of it than hitherto.

I am very pleased to note that the Minister is taking cognisance of the question of sewage, and I would like to bring to his attention the bio-aeration system of dealing with sewage, which I know something about. This system reduces the land needed for the ordinary filtration schemes to about one-third, and the effluent is so pure that you can purify rivers with it. I would like the Minister to go thoroughly into this matter before he authorises a vast expenditure on sewerage. I feel that if the right hon. and learned Gentleman will study this system, he will find that it is a proper thing, probably, for areas with a certain population. I do not think it would do for villages, but for small townships it would be the appropriate thing.

My grievance against the White Paper concerns the Central Advisory Water Board. I think that that committee needs a thorough overhauling and an alteration of the balance of the interests on it. We have heard in this House to-day a good deal of talk about agriculture and industry, but nearly every hon. Member seems to have forgotten that the main and fundamental purpose of our water supply is to provide the population of this country with a pure, wholesome and plentiful water supply. That is the central fundamental purpose, and all these others are subsidiary interests that should be second after that.

Look at the constitution of the Central Advisory Water Board, which is going to be given a statutory foundation and play a very important part in shaping all our future water policies. There.are 16 members, and seven of those members are, directly or indirectly, concerned with the impounding of supplies of water. All the others are sectional interests, and some of these interests are definitely hostile to water undertakers. Take, for instance, the Federation of British Industries. Why do they want to be on that Committee that is designed to shape the water policy of this country? I know that they want a plentiful supply of water, and, so far as I know, they have been getting it, and nearly at cost price. I imagine that the Federation of British Industries will be there to defend the interests of the riparian owners, and, soon as you mention them, the words "compensation water" jump right up to the front.

Here I could give the House some figures which would almost stagger them. This question of compensation is shouting to the skies for some revision, and the solution that is outlined in this White Paper is certainly not adequate. You have only to look at the terms of the last page of the White Paper, which deals with many other interests but does not mention the interests, so far as compensation water is concerned, of the great populations for which water supplies are devised. It talks about the protection of the interests of riparian owners. Take a great local authority like Sheffield and see how it affects them. The total cost of Sheffield's water undertaking is £2,800,000. That is what they have spent in impounding water. Out of that, £1,200,000 has been spent in the provision of compensation water. I say that that is absolutely indefensible. The water has to go down the stream, whether it is a dry season or a wet season. The river may be overflowing, but you have still got to send your 10,000,000 a day because some arrangement has been made. I say to the Minister that unless, in these modern times, he can get a better arrangement than that, he will not make very much progress. Riparian owners are, and always have been, definitely hostile to water undertakings, and they are well represented on the Central Advisory Committee through the Federation of British Industries.

Take the catchment boards. Why do they want to be on the Central Advisory Committee? What business is it of theirs to impound water? As a great barrister said in a legal case, their business is to "get shot" of water, not to impound it. Yet they have effectively poked their noses into this business, and I sincerely hope that, when the reconstitution of the Committee comes about, they will be found out of it. I want to see a majority of any Central Advisory Committee, either directly or indirectly, concerned with the primary function of supplying water to the great industrial and rural populations of this country. Take the Central Landowners' Association. Why should they be able to shape water policy for the great industrial towns of this country? I know they want water for cattle and they want to ensure that the rivers have got an even flow, but that has never been denied them. They should not be able to be represented on that Committee to the extent that they can dominate policy; that is one of the things that ought to be looked into and dealt with. I think that if the general water undertakings of this country can be assured that, on this Central. Advisory Committee, they are going to be able to make their opinions felt and will really have a majority on the Committee, the Minister will have done a considerable job.

One other word. There has been some talk here to-day about setting up a Water Commission or a great water board. Personally, I hope the Minister will not concede that request. I want the authority, on which will devolve the administration of water undertakings in this country, banged down on the democratic will of the localities, and, if we depart from that, we are going a long way towards an undemocratic State. It is quite true that the Minister is getting back a certain amount of control, and I do not think there will be any objection, but we have got to face this thing from the point of view of the democratic will of the localities. I am glad to see that the White Paper rather emphasises that. Personally, I would have liked to see a Water Minister. Water is one of the greatest blessings we have, and affects every man, woman and child in the country—every animal and every living thing—and it is important enough to warrant a Minister to look after it. Inasmuch as the Minister is going to set up a Department to look after this matter, I would give the White Paper my blessing and express a sincere hope that the legis- lation to come will express to a very large extent the wider outlook which we can see in the White Paper.

Major McCallum (Argyll)

I have listened to every speech and it is curious to note that the greater part of my English friends welcome this White Paper in a rather lukewarn fashion. I was glad to note that the hon. Member for Elland (Mr. Levy) suggested in his very expert speech that he would refrain from dealing with, Scotland and leave it to Scottish Members. I know that there are several Scottish Members who have a great deal to say on this subject of water supplies, and I do not propose to take more than a few minutes. It may seem strange to many hon. Members that, in the Western Highlands particularly, and in the Highlands generally, where water is abundant and where the visitors who come to stay with us from the South generally seem to think that it never stops raining, we should have a complaint of the lack of water supplies or of inadequate supplies. Yet, as the second half of the White Paper reveals, where it deals with Scotland, one-third of the rural population of Scotland is without a decent piped water supply. Recently, the Secretary of State brought in legislation for a hydro-electric scheme for Scotland, and the Board set up by that legislation is already getting to work. We are living in great hopes of seeing electricity brought to every glen and every croft. I doubt, however, if that electricity is going to be very much use to many of these inhabitants of the Highlands without an adequate water supply. How many of that one-third of our rural population are actually situated in my constituency I could not say, as I have not got sufficiently accurate statistics, but I do know that there are very large numbers of farmers, and a very large number of groups of crofts on the hills and in the glens, and on the coasts, too, which are unprovided even with the most elementary forms of water supply, while, in the hills nearby, there are millions of gallons of good, pure water running to waste.

I feel that this condition has come about for many reasons, and while, perhaps, Scottish hon. Members who may have the opportunity to follow me will develop that, I would suggest one reason, which I think is responsible for this deplorable condition of some of our rural water supplies. In days gone by, a long time ago, the greater part of the Highlands of Scotland was divided up into large estates, and each of those estates had quite an ample water supply, which was considered adequate and efficient for the standard of those days. Since then, and particularly within recent times, overpowering taxation and other burdens have caused the break-up of these estates by degrees, until the large estates were broken up into moderate estates and the moderate estates were broken up into small ones. To-day, the estates are very small and a large number are quite small holdings. There is one instance in my own constituency—about which I have already written to my right hon. Friend—of a village that used to be on a very large estate, which stretched from the West, Coast right across part of Scotland, and that estate, for the reasons I have given, has gradually been broken up, and to-day the water supply, which was considered ample in those days, remains on the ground of a very small proprietor. This means a reservoir and pipes for a system which has to serve a village of from 30 to 50 houses. The owner of the property is unable to maintain that supply, let alone develop it and bring it up to modern standards.

Serious conditions have been drawn attention to by hon. Members with regard to England, but I can give instances of conditions in some parts of the West Highlands. In one place of 40 or 50 houses, no one has a water supply. There are two stand pipes, one at each end of the village, and one of them does not work at all. There is not sufficient pressure on the pipes to bring water to the far one, A public lavatory was built on the site of the jetty on the shore which for a long time past received no water from that supply. The local authorities there have drawn the attention of the county council to the matter. I have not any grumbles with the county council. They have done their utmost with their powers to deal with the matter, but when it was suggested to the inhabitants of that village that the area might be turned into one of the special water districts mentioned in the White Paper they asked why should they have to pay a rate in order to receive water. They do not seem to understand that if they paid the rate a sufficient supply of water would be brought into every house. I am very glad to say that the county council, with the aid of my right hon. Friend, have decided to take over and control that supply and it is hoped that before very long a supply of decent water will be available for the whole of that village. That is the sort of thing which existed recently.

I will give another instance which still exists. Near to the village of which I have been talking is another village where there is a house occupied by one of our local doctors appointed under the Highlands and Islands Medical Scheme. The house is a county council house, or rather the rent is contributed by the county council. It is of two storeys and I believe that I am right in saying that, since the doctor went into the house 13 years ago, he has not yet been able to get piped water into the tank on the second floor sufficient to provide him with a bath. Apart from that, there is not sufficient pressure in the house for him to have running water in his clinic. Again, representation has been made. The water system belongs to a property on which there was an industry which has been brought to a close by war conditions. The owners of the property are unable to spend the necessary money to put that water supply into an efficient condition. Even 100 yards of new piping would bring the system up to a satisfactory position, but nothing has been done. I am very glad to see from the White Paper, as I understand it, that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State is to authorise local authorities to go into these particular things and, perhaps with the aid of grants sympathetically given, cure these very bad spots in our rural water supplies. The principal difficulty in the development of these rural water supplies is one of finance. Water is so abundant and so near that engineering or physical difficulties do not exist; it is a question of who is to pay for it. When there are, as in Argyllshire, several of these special water districts they have been successful in ameliorating the position to a certain extent.

I would like to bring to the notice of the House a case where even a special water district finds itself in a most acute difficulty. In another part of Argyllshire a sufficient water system was in operation, but since the war camps have been installed in the area and a Service population has come in. In the erection of camps and in carrying on Service operations the Services concerned have driven heavy lorries backwards and forwards over narrow Highland roads. I was interested in what an hon. Member said about laying the water pipes under the verges of the roads, but in driving along the verges these vehicles have broken the water pipes. The county council have had the necessary repairs carried out and the local authorities have submitted to the Service authorities concerned that they should be compensated in respect of the damage. But up to now the Service authorities refuse to pay anything towards compensation, and the alternative is the levying of a water rate on that very sparsely populated area of something between 10s. and 15s. I am not sure whether the right hon. Gentleman can give assistance to the area or to the county council, but I hope that he will go for the Service Departments concerned and insist that they bear a share of the expenses for the damage which they have caused.

If legislation is brought before this House on the lines of the White Paper as far as it affects Scotland, I hope the Department of Health for Scotland will be able to come more to the aid of local authorities than they have in the past. I hope that before any such legislation is introduced my right hon. Friend will consult with all the local authorities concerned. I also note with satisfaction that the idea in his minds that these special water areas should, in the long run, be absorbed into either county schemes or even wider schemes. As regards a long-term policy for the Highlands of Scotland perhaps something on the lines suggested by several hon. Members for English constituencies might be tried in the setting up of a national water board for the whole country. But so great is the tangle and complexity of water supplies in the Highlands to-day that it will be many years before a national water board will be able to "sort" the difficulties from which we are now suffering.

Mr. Malcolm MacMillan (Western Isles)

Having raised this subject year after year for quite a number of years, I was beginning to despair that the only water in which the Government and the Ministers concerned were interested, was the water of Lethe, the water of forgetfulness. However, I was very gratified on reading the White Paper to note how comprehensive and relatively thorough the document was. The Ministers concerned cannot complain, because they have a House which is almost unanimously well-disposed towards the proposals in general, a public that is anxious to be supplied, and local authorities whose pursuit of the grants-in-aid is only slightly less ardent than their readiness to go ahead once the money is available. The Ministers could hardly expect to escape a certain amount of criticism, they may be blessed and damned in turn throughout the Debate, but I think generally the House is disposed to welcome the proposals in the White Paper, and the Bill when it materialises. As regards Scotland, with whose problems I am going to deal. I think we can give her the promise given to the lady customer who asked a photographer to do her face justice. "Madam," he assured her, "not only will I do it justice, but I will show mercy." Coming to this subject as I do with that well-disposed frame of mind, perhaps the Minister will excuse certain criticisms I may have to make as I go along, but most of which I am prepared to leave until the Bill is debated.

It is a sobering thought that 2,000 years ago the Romans in this country had a water supply system, public baths, pools, and all the other luxuries which many parts of this country have never had at all. It is a still more sobering thought to our stream-lined 20th century that long before the Romans ever became a great Power at all, many of the things that we are hoping for from this and future Bills were taken for granted in the old Mediterranean civilisation, a long time before the Romans came to Britain. Against that background of ancient civilisation and, still more, against the progress which science has made generally in the last few hundred years, there stands out starkly the fact that the rural districts of Scotland are still as far behind, in the matter of water supplies, as they were thousands of years ago. What is the explanation of the primitive conditions that still prevail? It is, I think, neglect more than anything else on the part of Governments and, in a smaller measure, money difficulties among the local authorities. It certainly has not been the national lack of money when, in the middle of a war which is more costly than any other similar under- taking in history, we are now able to come forward and finance Measures of this kind. It is certainly not the lack of water, because the White Paper practically opens with the statement that there is in this country ample water for all needs. Moreover, as the White Paper says, the cost of the piped water supply to the householder of an average small house, for all the uses of the household for a week, is seldom more than the cost of a single glass of beer. It is difficult to believe that there could be any opposition from the public who have to pay on such a small scale for the water supply. As far as the glass of beer is concerned, there seems never to have been very great difficulty in providing it in a piped supply or on tap.

I would rather leave the White Paper as a whole to speak for itself and concentrate for a few minutes on the rural areas in the Highlands and Islands. I understand that under the miscellaneous provisions Bill a good deal of our requirements, as far as individual farms and outlying places are concerned, will be met. I prefer, therefore, to leave that open, and my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Argyll (Major McCallum) has already dealt with a number of points which the House can mercifully be spared from me. As far as we are concerned in the Islands and most parts of the Highlands, we could not wait for the very eloquently-advocated national scheme mentioned earlier. I think generally, however, and personally anyway, I would be disposed to support a national organisation on the lines of the electric grid, with the necessary differences, rather than to see this patchwork scheme of which the White Paper itself speaks as having been one of the delaying factors in the past. In 1943 the Secretary of State very wisely instituted a special Scottish survey which is not yet complete; we hope to have it this year. It is in the light of that survey, towards the end of the year, that we shall be able to estimate what is to be done in Scotland. What can be done in the meantime I should not think would be very much, so that it will be next year before we really get down to the fundamentals of the Scottish supply.

The terms of reference of that committee were to gather information on the sources, works, quality, quantity and distribution of existing supplies, and the need for improved, extended, or new supplies, with special reference to areas in Scotland not at present served by public systems. That, in itself, was part of the recognition of the need for a national water policy, but I am going to deal rather more particularly with the very special areas in the Islands, which could not conceivably be on any grid system for any part of the Scottish mainland. I hope that when larger schemes in the Highlands on the mainland and in the Islands are undertaken, full regard will be had to the need for co-ordinating water schemes with hydro-electric schemes. They may at times come into competition with each other, but there should be free consultation before either side is developed. Perhaps the Secretary of State will reply to that point:

A minor point, but quite important to the Islands, is the question of trees, which can serve a dual purpose. A good deal could be done by the Forestry Commission for water supplies by planting trees in drainage and water supply areas. I commend that, too, to the Secretary of State if he is prepared to reply to it on this particular discussion, though I do not want to go too far and it may be a little off the lines.

I have said this very often before in the House and elsewhere, but I hope that in all the future planning of housing, to which the White Paper refers in connection with water supply, the fullest regard will be had to planning new communities and settlements as a whole, in relation to the greatest economy and most suitable way of installing communal water supplies. That has been neglected in all housebuilding schemes in the past. Even the Department of Agriculture itself, while it has made provisions has not yet gone so far, in most cases, as to provide adequate water supplies as far as the Islands are concerned. I want to emphasise that we have noticed that the Government say in the White Paper that the first step proposed is to provide grants towards piped supplies in rural localities not at present served, and to improve supplies in localities where this is necessary. That is a very important assurance from the point of view of hon. Members representing the Highlands and Islands. We regard it not only as an assurance but a pledge, and we intend to see that the Government keep it when the Bill is brought in and When it becomes operative. I would specially like to ask the Secretary of State to note the importance of getting schools on to a proper piped water supply, not only from the drinking and washing point of view, but for sewerage and sanitation.

On the question of sewerage I need not emphasise that the development of a proper system is necessary in publicly financed housing. When the Secretary of State talks about the Highlands and Islands in the White Paper he mentions the undertaking of schemes and says: The much larger grant now proposed will enable the Government to ensure a correspondingly larger number of worth while schemes. What is meant by, "worth while schemes?" Then the White Paper goes on to say: With this in view it is the intention to arrange such assistance in such a way as to make it possible for local authorities in the rural areas, and in the Highlands and Islands, to provide for new and improved water supplies and to undertake schemes within their capacity. Does that mean their technical capacity, their capacity in respect of natural supply or capacity for meeting additional expense after grants have been made? I hope that in the Bill which is to be brought forward the right of the Secretary of State and the Treasury will be reserved to make grants if necessary, in small areas, up to zoo per cent., because so long as we are tied to the present arrangement by which everything has to be in terms of local rateable value, then we shall not get anywhere at all if local authorities are to make a grant from the rates. There are special geographical and population problems, in some of. the Islands which will make it necessary for additional grants to be made.

It is a rather serious statement that 30 per cent. of the rural communities in Scotland are without water supplies; but much worse that 100 per cent. of some local communities are without any piped supply of any kind. There are some areas and whole islands where there is no sort of water supply whatsoever. This applies to many parts of the mainland as well, and that means that they are, generally, also without sanitation. The main burden of the lack of water falls upon women who have to carry water as the Israelites did under the Pharaohs, in Egypt, as a special punishment, thousands of years ago. We hear a great deal about the 51st Highland Division and the sailors in the British Navy who come from the Highlands and Islands. Nobody asks questions about the rateable value of the people when they are called into the Forces. The curse of local rateable value has driven women in these parts of Scotland to the towns. They have had to live in homes without water supply, electric light or gas and have had to keep their menfolk comfortable and bring up their children in places in which few people from the cities would care to live permanently. Therefore, I want to appeal to the Secretary of State, that when he brings in his Bill the Government should re-emphasise firmly their pledge to provide water supplies in the worst-hit districts in Scotland, and that the scheme so badly needed will be undertaken without delay.

Sir Thomas Hunter (Perth)

I am very glad that Scottish Members are now having a chance to speak on the Scottish aspect of this question of water supplies. I want to draw special attention to that part of the White Paper in which the Scottish services have been reviewed and to say that whoever was responsible for drawing up that statement, whether it was the Minister himself, or those associated with him, is to be congratulated. I have had good experience of fighting battles for water supplies, and I have never seen a better picture of the situation than that which has been presented by the Government. It is rather strange that although water is one of the principal needs of our lives—we can do without many things, but we cannot do without water—no question has provoked greater controversy in Scotland, as well as in England, than this question of water supplies. Therefore, I welcome this White Paper and the possibility of future legislation on the ground that at last we are to have some kind of co-ordination of all the water resources of Scotland so that in due time everyone will receive a proper piped supply.

Nobody snows better than the Minister, and those associated with him in the Scottish Office, how difficult it has been to get groups of local authorities to agree to a particular scheme. Therefore, I hope that the Minister will take compulsory powers to compel minorities to join with others in providing an adequate supply of water, if those minorities threaten to break down any good schemes. That is essential. Speaking with some knowledge of the central part of Scotland, I know it is only a matter of time before the wonderful resources of water in the lochs and hills will be impounded. When that has been done, I see no great difficulty in the Secretary of State being able to plan the schemes which will enable every farming village in that part of Scotland to have an adequate supply. What has been wrong with our water system is the haphazard manner in which it has been carried out. We in Scotland have no catchment areas and water boards. All water supplies are virtually in the hands of local authorities, who are really the water undertakers in Scotland. There are not only lochs, from which water can be obtained in great quantities, but there are certain parts of the country where water supplies are drawn from rivers.

It states in the White Paper that an improvement of existing supplies will be needed. There are certain parts of the country where they draw their water from the rivers by pumping. There are no compulsory powers, so far as I know, whereby any of the local authorities or communities whose drainage and sewage enter the rivers should be compelled lo set up purification plant. These powers should be taken so that the effluent should have no damaging effect. I am not so much afraid at the moment because there are no finer salmon in Great Britain than in some of these rivers and, if they can live there, the water should be good enough for human beings. It is the future of which I am thinking. A great hydroelectric scheme is being promoted. You cannot have new industries, which may involve the setting up of a new village, without an adequate supply of water, but where is the drainage and sewage to go? At the moment there is only one place—into the burns or streams or tributaries, ultimately finding its way to the great rivers. When it comes to the setting-up of these new industries and new groups of houses, I hope the Ministry, or the Central Water Board, will be able to insist upon this effluent being properly treated before it passes into the rivers.

Scotland is an agricultural area and a great deal of artificial manure is put on the field and it percolates and runs again into the burns and tributaries, and ultimately into the large rivers. That is another reason why treatment of the sewage passing into the rivers is essential. Without drainage that is not possible. I am glad it is proposed to establish a Regional Advisory Board. We have a great many special water districts, which are doing good work, but they have rates ranging up to 2S., and that in a rural area is a serious matter. If that is to be done, instead of having regional areas, which would be too small, these areas will be freed from the heavy burden of rating and the larger the area over which they are spread, the less will be the cost to everyone. The treatment of sewage and drainage is as important as the actual water supply itself and, if that is done, I am confident that when the works come into operation it will be one of the greatest blessings brought to Scotland for many years.

Mr. Sloan (South Ayrshire)

We have roamed a good bit, from the Roman invasion to the Highland clearances, and out of that wide range we ought to be able to arrive at some decent conclusion. In examining a White Paper such as this one looks first for its virtues and secondly for its defects. I generally look at a paper of this kind for the good things in it. After giving it a little consideration, I think the proposals are a sound advance in coping with the water situation in Scotland. It is generally true that our water system has grown up piece-meal without effective co-ordination. Up to the present it has been every local authority for itself and "de'il tak' the hindmost." It is a wonder that our services are as good as they are, having evolved in such a haphazard way. But the time is long overdue for a complete overhaul, as is designed in this Paper.

If I have any severe criticism to offer, it is that the proposals do not go far enough, and that a system of larger areas would make the situation far better than this Paper does. The statement is made that, with her generous rainfall and fine catchment areas, Scotland abounds in water resources more than ample to meet all fair demands. Scotland is a land of river and flood. We have an excessive rainfall and some of the finest catchment areas in the world. The remarkable thing is that in such a situation we should have areas which have not, so far, secured an adequate water supply. If you have no adequate water supply you have no drainage. The first is the essential of the other. Whenever an area has a poor water supply it has defective sanitation.

These proposals should make it doubly certain that supplies find their way into the regions that most require them. I do not want to exaggerate the difficulties of a water scheme. I know the difficulties that will be encountered from local and sectional interest. We have experienced them during all the years in which I have served on public bodies. Many of these difficulties could have been met in some of the areas if the local authorities had been prepared to have a little give and take. In 1933, the Ayrshire council promoted a Provisional Order Bill, in an attempt to unify the water supplies in that county, but it was met by the sternest opposition from all the local authorities and water undertakings. They fought the Bill tooth and nail, and ultimately it was turned down. The reason for it was that the opponents thought the landward part of the county was after their water supplies. They thought that we wanted to make them pay more than they were paying, or that by sharing their water with the landward part of the county, it would cost them more, or that the control of the little pettifogging water schemes, many of which were only glorified duck ponds, would pass out of their hands. The result was that Ayrshire county council spent scores of thousands of pounds to put their water supply in order, and in the intervening ten years they have done that. In the whole of the county to-day there is only one small village which has not a piped water supply.

I hope that in the Bill that is brought forward to carry out the White Paper scheme attention will be paid to the rural areas outside the villages. I have never been able to understand the attitude of crowded populations, municipalities and boroughs to the unification of water services. Ayrshire, which is typical of many others, is a dairy farming county. Unless you have a good water supply you cannot have a clean milk supply. Without an adequate water supply you cannot have up-to-date dairy farms. Without up-to-date dairy farms you cannot have the milk. One is complementary to the other, so that it is as necessary for the towns as it is for the rural areas, that the rural areas should have a water supply. The Minister of Health was asked about the effect the proposals would have on the local rates. That has been to a large extent the bugbear, in connection with not only water supplies, bat many other amenities. The question of a few coppers on the rates has a terrifying effect on people. Local elections as far as I can remember have been fought, not on the amenities that should be provided, not on whether improvements should be made to schools, water supplies or roads, but on the question whether the rates could be kept where they were or reduced by one penny or twopence. It is one of the tragedies of local government that people have to keep one eye on the rates they are going to pay and the other on the amenities that should be provided in the public interest. Of course, improved water supplies will affect the rates.

I hope that when the Bill is introduced provision will be made for greater assistance to areas where there are low rateable valuations. I am in a better position to ask for that because I represent what is probably the one county in Scotland that will benefit the least under this scheme, as a great amount of work which might have shared in the grants has already been done. I do not say, of course, that we have not a great deal to do. We are looking for counties to develop and for improvements in housing. We do not know what the industrial situation will be or where populations will settle down or industries develop. Future development may mean that we shall require a great deal more water than we have at the present time. I hope that a wider vision will be taken and that provision will be made to carry the water to the outlying places. If we are to settle people on the land, if we are to ask them to live in what are termed outlandish places, we must provide them with amenities. We must give them the best type of houses and the best social amenities so that they will be able to live their lives as decently and happily as they could in the towns.

This White Paper will go a long way 10 secure that end. I have no very severe criticism to make of it, but when we see the Bill we may have a great deal more to say. As far as we can visualise it, the £6,000,000 will go a long way to help our local authorities. I am all in favour of the larger area. The question is postulated, what are we going to do with the special water areas? I would say without any compunction that they ought to be scrapped. In 1930 we had in the county of Ayr 46 different water schemes supplying 46 different localities, and they each thought that their water was the elixir of life. They each thought that their two-or three-inch pipes running into a village was the finest water scheme in the world. The reason was that they had no system of judging because they were not large enough to have an expert on the job. When they were finally examined, many of them were found to be unfit for use. When we had proper control, the bulk of them were scrapped and those that remained entered the larger scheme.

When we have begun to do this job on a bigger scale we shall not have any difficulty. We all recognise clearly that water is the one thing that cannot be handed out in drops. There is no necessity for many of the danger notices that one sees: "Watch that you do not use too much water." There is more water falling from the heavens in Scotland any hour of the day than any Scotsman is likely to use in his lifetime. There was the Minister who never had a bath for 13 years. He would have difficulty in preaching that cleanliness was next to godliness. There is not the slightest doubt that these proposals will put us on the right road. Six million pounds is a hefty sum, but this is a hefty job. Water is our first line of defence in our health services and our first line of offence in our attack against disease. This White Paper is a fair attempt to remedy many of the defects and to enable the local authorities to adjust their schemes in order to bring water where it never flowed before. People will realise that what is good for one is good for all, and that. those living in remoter parts of the country are entitled to the same amenities as those who live in the towns. When we reach that happy phase, we shall be able to get busy and to do the job. and the provisions of the White Paper will help us.

Mr. Snadden (Kinross and West Perth)

Scottish Members who have spoken in the Debate appreciate very much that so many of them have had an opportunity of taking part, and in order to show my gratitude I shall be as brief as possible. I should like to support what has been said by way of appreciation of the White Paper. I feel that we must welcome with a great deal of satisfaction the hope it holds out that a really determined effort is at last to be made by the Government to bring a wholesome supply of piped water to the homes of our rural workers. An hon. Member sitting on these benches made a curious reference which I did not follow. He said that we should have to buy our water. I see it rather differently. Water is an elementary service of present day civilisation and a complete, organised supply to the whole of the country is long overdue. There cannot be any development in our countryside, big or small, industrial or agricultural, without a proper organised supply of piped water in advance.

It is incredible that in a country like Scotland, so rich in water resources—far more so than England—a third of our rural population still lack the amenity of a piped water supply. With an abundance of water in our country, our problem is to put that water where it is required. That sums up the whole problem of supply in Scotland. I think I am right in saying—I speak as an agricultural Member—that we know, broadly speaking, that our industrial districts are comparatively well served throughout Scotland. Scotland's water problem is one of supply to the rural areas and to our farmers. Whatever we may think about encouraging manufacturing interests in Scotland atter the war—and I think our Minister has done more than many people appreciate for post-war industrial Scotland—agriculture clearly is, and always will be, the main and abiding industry of our country. The difficulties of rural areas in the past seem to have been inability to meet the expense of satisfactory water schemes because of sparse populations and because of de-rating. For people remote from sources of supply the cost has always been far more than they could bear, so that only by generous grants from public funds towards the cost of schemes, great and small, and by co-operation of local authorities, can the difficulties be met.

For that reason I welcome the financial proposals in the White Paper. I also welcome the passage relating to the powers proposed to be given to the Secretary of State for Scotland to compel local authorities to co-operate in order to combine their water supplies. I think that Measure is essential. I could give many examples of absurd water anomalies, from my own constituency. I will give only two. In the town of Crieff there is abundance of water, but the supply is restricted to borough ratepayers. One hundred yards down the street, beyond the borough boundary, farmers and cottagers are without water at all. There is the town of Muthill, only three miles away from Crieff, but its supply goes dry in the summer and the people are asked to conserve their supplies, although they are only three miles from an abundant supply. The Secretary of State knows the conditions of the River Forth. It passes through his constituency and mine, the Valley of the Carse of Stirling, and there is no more fertile land in the whole of Britain. Along the banks of the river are scores of farms whose only source of water supply is pumped water from the polluted River Forth. I would ask the Minister to make special reference in his reply to the problem of the pollution of our rivers. I take it that the policy envisaged in the White Paper will sweep away these absurdities. I can assure the Minister that nowhere will the Government's proposals be more welcome than in my constituency of West Perthshire and Kinross, which incidentally, supplies the great City of Glasgow from Loch Katrine, but cannot supply its own inhabitants.

There is a further point about the White Paper on which I wish to comment. I understand the scheme is to carry water to every sizeable village, but that will still leave unsolved the problem of water supply to the farm, the croft, and the smallholder off the beaten track away from the possibility of tapping the main pipeline. I imagine there must be hundreds of such cases where the private enterprise of the individual owner will be required, if water is to be made available to all. As I have said, an organised supply for the whole country is long overdue. I have a case which I will put to the Minister, the facts about which came to my notice only the other day. It gives a very good example of what the rural worker is up against to anyone who takes an interest in the land. The case is that of a ploughman who has seven children. His wife cannot leave the home, and both morning and night he has to walk a mile and a half each way to bring water back in pails. That imposes a severe physical burden at the end of a heavy day's work. I hope that the Government's plan will eliminate such cases, but with all respect it will only do so if the Government give generous and equal treatment to the private owner located in an area remote from a main pipeline. There are scores of such cases in every parish in Scotland.

I see from the Agricultural Bill that is before the House that provision is made to extend the scope of assistance from water supplies to agricultural land to the farms and cottages, and I welcome it. I think it is excellent, but I am rather perturbed at the smallness of the amount expected to be expended. In the Scottish part of that Bill the amount given is £10,000. There are 74,000 agricultural holdings in Scotland. Assuming one-third have no water, that means say 25,000, and if each one spent £50 on a water supply it would run into millions. I would like some explanation of the smallness of that amount. Perhaps that will come when the Bill is debated. I take it that the Bill that has been presented is intended to dovetail into the White Paper. I appeal to the Government to be fair to the private owner remote from the sources of supply, and to give him generous treatment, the same treatment as is given to the local authority.

On the question of the general rate referred to in the White Paper, there are two sets of circumstances- in my mind. There is the person who at considerable expense has put in a water supply to his farms and cottages. The second case is the man too remote from a main pipe line to receive a supply under the White Paper proposals. Both these people live in a rateable area. I would like to ask the Minister if he intends to levy an additional general rate upon someone who has spent money and done what the White Paper wishes, and upon the other who cannot get a supply of water under the White Paper proposals? I do not think that the levying of a general rate on either of those two would be a fair proposition.

I would conclude by saying that as far as I can see the policy 'envisaged in this White Paper is definitely a great step forward. It will be a godsend to the farm worker and especially to his wife. It will hearten the proprietor and his tenant. It is the biggest step forward socially and economically that we have made in Scotland for the last half century.

The Secretary of State for Scotland (Mr. T. Johnston)

I rise for only a few moments to intervene in this Debate to reply to some of the points made by Scottish Members. Thereafter the Debate, I understand, will proceed, and my right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries will reply generally to any points that have been raised by various English Members. May I repeat that what is being discussed to-day is not a Bill; it is only a White Paper. It is an historical description, it is a factual description, and it outlines the general view which the Government takes as to immediately possible remedies. First of all what we propose is that there shall be powers vested in the Health Ministers to promote provision for adequate water supplies in Scotland and in England. It is to be their duty. They will be responsible to Parliament. There is, therefore, democratic control, criticism and direction.

We proceed first by means of a survey to find out what the facts are. At the beginning of last year I was so impressed with the necessity for such a survey that we inaugurated it in Scotland. The survey is half completed now, and the results are really amazing. I do not want to take up time with some of the indications of what the survey has thrown up, but I give one or two illustrations. We have one area in Scotland where for 14 miles along the same public highway two adjacent local authorities run two piped supplies. We have another area where a similar state of affairs prevails for four miles. Then we have another area still where main piped supplies run through villages without giving water supplies in those villages. We have other areas where piped supplies of one water undertaker go through the area of another undertaker. AU this sort of thing has grown up, as some hon. Member said, haphazard and piecemeal. It is quite true. We started with the parish pump. We started with the well, and it has grown into a magnificent water supply system such as the Loch Katrine one, but all over there is need for co-ordination.

There are black spots. There are and spots. There are areas where there is no water supply, and there are areas where there is abundance. What we are seeking to do now is, first, to have authority given to Ministers. Secondly, those Ministers will have a survey made. When they get the survey, get their facts, we will have a Central Advisory Committee for Scotland, which will advise the Minister as to particular groups, particular areas, particular watersheds which may be coordinated for catchment and distribution areas. Then we will say to the local authorities in that area—I will say a word about the difference between Scotland and England in a moment—"Will you please combine to ensure that all the citizens in your area will get an adequate piped water supply?" Should there be one recalcitrant local authority which will not fall in with the others we will have a local inquiry, and if on local inquiry that case is proved, then that recalcitrant local authority will be compelled to come into the scheme. That is roughly what we are trying to do.

In Scotland we have not got the same difficulties and problems with which my right hon. and learned Friend is faced in England and Wales. It is not quite correct to say that we have no private water companies. We have two. They are very small. One of them, at Sanquhar, covers a population of 1,753 persons, and another in Fifeshire covers a poulation of about 800. In the case of the Sanquhar one, although it is a private company, the local authority holds 80 per cent. of the stock. To all intents and purposes we have already our publicly owned water supply service. Now the problem we have to face is how we can co-ordinate, by persuasion if possible, if not, by compulsion after local inquiry has proved the case, how we can ensure, the adequate use of our water supply services in Scotland. That is the problem we have to face.

A Bill, or Bills—I am not sure which—will be introduced very shortly, I hope, after consultations have taken place with the local authority organisations, and in the light of the discussions that have taken place to-day; and we hope to have everything ready, when peace conditions make it possible, for us to inaugurate the provision of great piped water supplies to practically every home in our land. I am going to say nothing about a point frequently raised to-day, about the odd man out, the odd cottager living far away from the pipe supply: my right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture will, I hope, say something about that when he winds up the Debate. My hon. Friend the Member for West Perth (Mr. Snadden) said that there were 74,000 agricultural holders in rural Scotland who had no water supply now.

Mr. Snadden

I said that there were 74,000 agricultural holders in Scotland and that probably a third of them were without a piped water supply.

Mr. Johnston

I do not know how many there are—I will accept my hon. Friend's figures. There is a large number of these agricultural holdings without any water supply now. These 70,000—if that is the figure—or some of them, will be supplied with water under this scheme, and a very considerable number of the others will be assisted under the Agricultural Provisions Act, about which my right hon. Friend is more competent to speak in detail than I am. We think that a very considerable step forward is being made. A great national asset will no longer be allowed to run to waste.

Some questions which were raised by Members from Scotland cannot be answered until the terms of the Bill are available. But my hon. Friend the Member for the Western Isles (Mr. M. Macmillan) asked whether it is possible to co-ordinate the activities of the Scottish Hydro-Electric Board and the local authorities in the use of water supplies in some areas. I answer, Yes, that has already been negotiated in one or two areas. My hon. Friend the Member for the Western Isles and my hon. Friend the Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Sloan) asked whether there would be grants in aid to necessitous local authorities, according to their capacity to raise local rates, and again I answer, Yes. Any other course would rule one county in Scotland completely out of court. In that county a penny rate raises £66. It would obviously be a farce to leave that county to organise its water supplies almost entirely by the exercise of local rates. My hon. Friend the Member for Perth (Sir T. Hunter) asked whether there was power of compulsion on recalcitrant local authorities. If he will look at the second paragraph on page 19 of the White Paper, he will see that we very clearly envisage such compulsory powers.

The question of river pollution, to which several hon. Members have referred, raises very wide issues, which are quite outside the provision of rural water supplies. This question affects industries, it affects local authorities—indeed, I regret to say that some local authorities are the greatest sinners in river pollution. We propose to consult local authorities on these and other subjects, and, in so far as we can tighten up the purification of our water supplies through this Bill, we will do it, but I am perfectly sure that complete alteration of the Rivers (Pollution) Act will require another Measure altogether.

I have taken up my allotted time, but I want to say that I am confident, from what I know, that this Measure will be welcomed by the overwhelming proportion of our local authorities in Scotland. They will see here a square, honest attempt to deal with what has hitherto proved an intractable problem. Some hon. Gentlemen say, "Let us nationalise all water supplies, and be done with it." There are tremendous difficulties in the way of that, such as the hon. Member for the Western Isles indicated. Apart from those difficulties, we in Scotland publicly own our water supplies now, and it is purely question of whether we do better to interest local communities in local administration, preserving, so far as we can, a democratic local system, or whether we go steadily in the direction of centralisation in the capital city, under bureaucracy. I hope that we shall preserve the amalgamation of local authorities, that we shall preserve local democracy; but these local democracies must, in the last analysis, be prepared to have compulsion, to ensure that the public interest is the first and the last consideration.

Sir Ralph Glyn (Abingdon)

The House has had from the right hon. Gentleman a most excellent summary of the proposals for Scotland, which I take it applies also to England. I should like to congratulate the Government very much on this White Paper. This system of bringing in a White Paper is very good, because it enables hon. Members and the Government to exchange views before a Bill is introduced. I want to talk quite shortly about catchment boards. I have been able to serve for 15 years on what is perhaps the biggest catchment board. The work is extremely interesting; it is all done free, and there is no big salary list. The whole work of the catchment board, so far, has been connected with conservation of water, purification, and, to a smaller ex- tent, supply. I am sure that the Minister of Health is well aware of the wealth of knowledge which is possessed by the chief engineers and the various officials of these catchment boards. They have done an extraordinarily good job of work. More and more has been put on to them. They have, I believe, the confidence of the Government Departments with which they deal, and a great deal of information might come to Whitehall from the provinces if steps were taken to consult these very able people. In regard to the conservation of water, the Thames authority is called the Thames Conservancy, conservancy meaning exactly what it says—the conservation of water—and I, personally, will be sorry to see that ancient word swept away when the new River Boards are set up.

There is one small point about conservation which is of great importance. In all the speeches to which I have listened, a good deal has been said about purification, and something has been said about rivers. Nothing has been said about tidal waters. The whole difficulty with the purification of a river supply is where you get a tidal estuary and a bore, or tidal waters coming a long way up the river, because whatever you may try to do by purification is entirely undone by the act of God through the tides coming up twice a day. I do not think hon. Members realise, as far as the Thames is concerned, that we have a most extraordinary asset—the equivalent of about 88,000 horse power—given to us daily in the shape of the tide, which enables barges to come up the river past this House without being towed at all. The skill shown by the bargees in handling their barges through the bridges and bringing them to a mooring, and of the tug-masters in handling these craft, is something which I commend to hon. Members as a highly skilled job.

At Teddington Weir the outfall takes place, and, on this, there is one matter which I should like to mention, because it received a certain amount of publicity and the Minister of Agriculture has also come in for a certain amount of unjustified attack. The question of land drainage has been put upon the catchment boards. The catchment area of the Thames is an enormous area concerning eight or nine counties, and this work is being pushed forward with great speed, so far as labour and machinery are available, and I think, on the whole, very satisfactorily done. A very large acreage has been brought back into cultivation, waterlogged land has been made available for crops, and yet we have people saying that the result of doing all this is to run the water off the land very much quicker than would otherwise be the case. This is a complete and utter fallacy.

What happens is that, when you lower the water in the streams that flow into the main river, down to what it ought to have been, you reach the point which enables the tidal drainage to operate. If you have streams all stagnant with mud, trees and the rest of it, it means that the water cannot get away and the land becomes sodden. What actually happens is—and we have had careful examination made by the experts—that by reducing the water by an average of 18 inches to two feet, you develop an aerated land which is like a sponge, and, far from the water which falls from heaven running off, much of it is held in this land as in a sponge and it gradually seeps its way down to the river. In order to prove that conclusively, all an hon. Member has to do is to take the measurements of the outfall at Teddington—and they are measured every hour of every day. Every thousand million gallons over Teddington is the measure of this water that goes into the tidal estuary and is lost for the purposes of ordinary use. There has been no variation whatever, taking a period of years—you cannot just take one year. Since land drainage has been put into operation up to the present time, there is no difference whatever in the out-fall of water over Teddington Weir. That surely proves the falsity of the common fable, that gained so much currency, that land drainage rushed the water off the land so that it could not be used.

There is one other matter which I hope the Minister of Health and other Ministers will consider in drafting this Bill. I do not know whether it is fully appreciated by hon. Members, but the modern habit of building roads, and, since the war, the enormous number of runways on aerodromes, has entirely altered the catch, the normal spill, of rain. Rain normally falls on soft surface and falls through. In certain districts, where there are large numbers of airfields, with runways up to two miles and appropriately broad, a very simple calculation will show, by reckon- ing the amount of water coming off one's own roof, and multiplying it to something approaching the area of these airfields, that an enormous amount of water rapidly runs off. It is the business of conservancy to look after things like that.

There is another point about conservation. It would be a very great assistance, if it could be put in the Bill, that some authority responsible for the supply of water should be made absolutely responsible for ensuring that there is no wastage in delivery. A great deal has been said about a pipe supply. I do not believe a pipe supply is entirely necessary, or not nearly so necessary as people think. One of the things the war has taught us, and it has been developed by the Royal Army Medical Corps and the sanitary officers of the Services, is the way in which you can get a local supply of water and local sewerage for a very small catch. I hope that when the war is over a survey will be made of the plans and equipment which the taxpayers have provided at various camps, and that, when these camps come to be dismantled, it will be found that what was sufficient for a camp of 1,500 or 2,000 men can perfectly well be adapted for a village of the same size. I would remind the Minister of Health—I assume he has taken on the mantle of his predecessor and does not want to draw ribbon development—that, if he is in favour of ribbon development, I can give him no better means of producing it than by laying water pipes along the roads, because, if you do that, people will want to buy plots of land along the roads and there you will have ribbon development.

There is another matter about land drainage about which I want to say one further word. Land drainage is an enormous subject, not to be dealt with in very few sentences, and I am delighted to know that the Minister of Agriculture is to become more identified with the whole question than has been the case in the past. I implore him, however, to realise that something should be done to get rid of so many authorities dealing with this matter. I do not think it is necessary for the county councils to continue to have anything to do with land drainage. They may have done a very good job in the past. We have got our war agricultural committees, who are always dealing with the same thing; let us have one authority for land drainage in each county or area. I suggest that the much-abused catchment boards are probably the most competent people to knew about these things, and I think that their history is sufficient proof that they are working in the public interest. They cost the country practically nothing, there are no salaries to be paid, except to the officials, and I do not think you could have a better system than that of representatives from all the counties and boroughs, such as exists already in the Thames Conservancy.

There is this point about land drainage which I hope will be remembered. This country has spent millions of the taxpayers' and ratepayers' money in carrying out land drainage. It has brought back land into cultivation which has long been waterlogged, but that will not last unless there is imposed, somehow or other, on a proper authority, or on landowners, the duty of keeping the subsidiary streams clear. That is not being done at the present moment. It is no use coming back again and finding all your work thrown away.

There is another matter, that of electricity supply. An hon. Member said that he could not conceive of any association whatever between electricity supply and water. There is the very closest association. The one thing you must have is an electricity supply for every parish. If you have, you have the cheapest form of power in order to get the local water to local owners and you save all the other costs and complicated business. The White Paper mentions that all parishes have not a direct water supply, and the number of parishes which have not an electricity supply ought to be mentioned, and when I say "electricity supply" I mean a supply that can be afforded by the people. It is no good supplying electricity and then telling the people that they must pay something beyond their means. You have to provide the right supply and very soon the market will follow.

Some hon. Members have spoken about purification, and that is one of the main duties of the Thames Conservancy, with which I have been associated for many years. I implore the Government to do one thing which will save thousands of pounds. The catchment boards have no powers in regard to purification, except to institute a prosecution after the trouble has started. You have two local rural district councils nearly adjacent—I have in my own constituency—and one of them says, "We will put in a sewerage works for this little village." They put in a sewerage works and they put it on the gathering ground for the watering supply of the next village. Could anything be more ludicrous? We knew that they intended to carry out sewerage disposal and we could not compel them to put the sewerage works somewhere else, but when it was done we had to threaten to prosecute them if, at any time, the sewerage plant overflowed and the sewage got into the gathering ground of the next village. The fact is the plant has hardly been used, because they are terrified of polluting the gathering ground of the next village. This could not have happened if it had been made compulsory, before any plant of this kind which might interfere with purification was erected, to obtain permission from the proper authority, which is the catchment board responsible for the whole area.

It is said in the White Paper that it is not certain yet whether navigation powers are to be transferred to the new River Boards or not. I trust that, with regard to the Thames, they will be. I do not want to say things which are unpleasant in a Debate which has been one of the most interesting I have ever attended. There are many cabin cruisers on the Thames, and people wishing to take their children for a holiday in summer pay so much for a licence. But what would happen if we had not power over navigations? Every cabin cruiser might be polluting the whole river. If one considers the work done by the Metropolitan Water Board, and Mr. Berry, their chairman—who works in very close contact with the chairman of the Thames Conservancy—it is wonderful to realise that the Thames supplies over 70 per cent. of the water required by the city. I could give the figures in regard to the blitzes, especially the recent ones, of the amount of water consumed by the National Fire Service, but there is one curious thing which the House might be interested to know. The controlled water of the Thames goes from Lechlade in Gloucestershire to Teddington. When there is a drought, if we put six inches on to the doors of every weir throughout that length it provides London with, roughly, five weeks' additional water supply. I believe there is more nonsense talked about reservoirs than about anything else in the world. If you have a reservoir you are only adding so much cubic capacity to the river and putting it on the banks of the river. The existing plans of the Metropolitan Water Board for reservoirs are sufficient.

I am grateful to the House for listening to me on one of the most important subjects with which the House can deal. I am not a reactionary—I hope that the House will acquit me of that—but I ask the House to consider one thing. There are plenty of places where people have not proper drinking water. I hope that the matter will be dealt with in three stages. The most important thing is to give people proper drinking water, and water with which to cook. Once you put water into a house and add sanitation, which is right, it immediately more than doubles the consumption of water. I know, after a good many years in this House, that the wish we express one day, is not always the fact that is carried out the next. But I cannot see why proper water for cooking cannot be supplied in a short time. Then, when you get your other supplies, have your local sewerage scheme and the rest of it. The disposal of sewage is of tremendous importance. I know cases in Berkshire of wells from which people are using the water and if hon. Members had to drink out of these wells they would probably very soon cease to be Members of this House and cause a great deal of trouble in by-elections and so on. So I do not advise hon. Members to drink such water. People who use such water become inured and if they were given pure water to drink they would probably become very ill. When they go abroad no microbe will attack them. But there is nothing whatever to be said for allowing future generations to put up with that sort of thing.

It is rather a curious fact that we spend thousands upon purifying water and then we water the streets, with it and pour it down the drains. Why purify every drop of water? It is better to purify the water for drinking and cooking, and not to spend so much on the water used for watering the streets. It is a matter that ought to be looked at when the proposed Bill is introduced. I hope that people will be taught, as I am sure they can be, cleanliness both at home and when on holiday, and not to put filthy things into clean streams. There ought to be powers conferred upon the London County Council for taking the sewage of London further out than it is taken now. We were asked the other day to help the food supplies of the country, by stocking the river with eels, which used to be considered, and are, very good food. The Thames used to be full of them—

Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Mr. Charles Williams)

I am sorry but I think the hon. Member must leave eels alone now.

Sir R. Glyn

I would only say, in conclusion, that no self-respecting salmon or eel would use the Thames, because of the filth and sewage which are deposited in the tidal waters.

Mr. Hugh Lawson (Skipton)

At this stage of the Debate I do not propose to go over the main principles of the White Paper, which have already been well criticised on both sides of the House, but I would like to refer to one or two matters in detail. First, the White Paper makes out the case, which is I think a good one, that there must be a large amalgamation of water supply authorities. Hon. Members in this Debate have illustrated that, particularly with regard to the chaos that exists in distribution. I submit that there is just as much, if not more chaos, in regard to the collection of water from the gathering ground. I recall that the water authority where I served my articles had in one valley two pipe-lines, and another authority also had a pipe-line running through the same valley. In addition, there were two different authorities slightly higher up the hillside. Because there was no room for another pipe in the valley, my authority put a tunnel through the hill, and we asked the neighbouring authority—which would, we knew, want to put a pipe there some time in the next 20 years—if they would share the cost of driving that tunnel. They refused, however, so we made a tunnel just big enough for one pipe and, of course, if anyone wants to put another pipe through that valley it cannot go through the tunnel we made because it is too small. That, I think, illustrates the chaos that exists with regard to the gathering ground, as well as with regard to distribution.

I am glad the Minister has devoted an appendix to the White Paper to the question of compensation water, because one of the ways in which one can increase the availability of water in a very short time is by cutting down the amount of compensation. It is suggested that the usual procedure of giving one-third of the flow to the riparian owners and two-thirds to the public is too much. An instance I can quote is even worse than that. An authority which, because of the nature of the gathering ground, could not have an impounding reservoir but just a small intake, gave the first 3,000,000 gallons a day to the riparian owners. Until that amount was going down the stream each day, there was no water for the public at all. It should be realised that in the worst droughts the whole of the supply was going down the stream—3,000,000 gallons a day being equivalent to the total supply of say 100,000 people and, indeed, half the total supply for this particular authority. That anomaly, I am sure, will be duplicated over the country. I see that the Minister suggests that in any new projects, there will be a different basis of assessing compensation. Is he going to take powers to review the existing arrangements, even if they have been in existence for a very long time? By doing so, I am sure he could increase the water supply.

The White Paper foreshadows, I think, a considerable amount of new works on water supply and in spite of what was said by the hon. Member for Abingdon (Sir R. Glyn) about the desirability of using local supplies where you can, I am quite sure that in a development of the water supply of this country there will be a considerable number of new impounding reservoirs built. I want to refer to the Reservoirs (Safety Provisions) Act of 1930, which has some bearing on this matter. I had better remind the House very briefly of what gave rise to that Act, and what it proposed to do. There were, I think, two quite considerable disasters when impounding reservoirs collapsed, with the result that legislation was hurriedly passed setting up two panels, one of engineers competent to design impounding reservoirs, and one of engineers competent to inspect It was laid down that all reservoirs had to be inspected within a term of three years and, again, every ten years. It, obviously, was a very sensible idea that only properly qualified people should design such works, but, in actual fact, the arrangements have tended to work out rather badly.

The Act lays down that the Home Secretary appoints engineers to these panels, and he does it after consulting the President of the Institution of Civil Engineers. Now the Institution of Civil Engineers covers a very wide range of activities; in fact, anybody who is not a. military engineer can qualify to belong to that august body. But I do not think it is very often that the President of that Institution is a water engineer or, if he is, he has had nothing to do with the specialised job of building impounding reservoirs. Further, the Institution of Civil Engineers is very largely in the control of consulting engineers, because they have a rather archaic system of electing their council, whereby the council nominate those among whom the ballot shall be taken and ordinary members of the Institution cannot send in nominations. Therefore, it is not surprising to find that of the designing panel of engineers, 65 or so are consultants, and some 35 of these are employed by municipalities.

I am not suggesting that there has been anything improper in the way in which the Institution of Civil Engineers has acted in this matter. I have no criticisms against it from that point of view, but I suggest that the Institution is not the body in closest touch with water engineers, as it covers a very wide field. If there is to be consultation on the appointment of engineers to this panel, I suggest it should be with the President of the Institution of Water Engineers, which is a body inside the Institution of Civil Engineers. The qualification for membership of the Institution of Water Engineers is that you have to be a corporate member of the civil engineers and must be engaged in water supply. So it is not a question of taking a body which has a lesser standard of examination, because it is the examinations of the Institution of Civil Engineers which that body takes. I want also to refer to the inspecting panel, where it seems to me there is an anomaly. It is easier to get on to the panel of engineers who are going to inspect, than on to the panel of those who impound and design. I would say that it takes more experience for an engineer to examine an impounding reservoir and say it is safe or unsafe, than to design one.

I make three suggestions to the Minister. The first is, that he should transfer these powers which now rest with the Home Secretary to the Ministry of Health because, if the Ministry of Health is to deal with water supply, I think you should transfer these powers to the Ministry Health, as they really have nothing to do with the job of the Home Secretary. Secondly, I suggest that he should discuss with the Institution of Civil Engineers and the Institution of Water Engineers the way in which engineers should be appointed to these two panels, and see if he cannot get a scheme more acceptable to the water engineers as a profession. Thirdly, I hope he will put something into the scheme which is not there already, namely, the right of appeal for a water engineer who has applied to be placed on the panel and whose application has been turned down. At the present time there is no appeal.

With regard to the abstraction of water from underground sources, a previous speaker made out the case that this was not controlled at the moment, and the Minister of Agriculture intervened to say that powers would be taken to prevent improper abstraction of water from underground sources. Page 30 of the White Paper states: The Order will prohibit the additional abstraction of water within an area. Surely, it is not sufficient to prevent new abstraction of water; you should be able to control and prevent present abstraction of water, when it is against the public interest. No one knows what amount of water may be abstracted from a particular well. No one can say that, by additional pumping, I am extracting more water than was done in previous years. So, on that point, there is room for tightening things up. Lastly, I would like to go back lo the question of the carrying out of new works. More than in any other type of work the work of the water engineer is hidden. If you look at an impounding reservoir you probably do not see half the work, there is as much work below ground as there is above. Aqueducts also entail tunnelling, and large amounts of excavation. To submit that type of work to contract is a rather expensive way of doing it. If you ask the contractor to do the work in conditions which he cannot foresee—although you show him the results of your bore holes and geological surveys—he has to take the responsibility and face the risks. In those circumstances, I suggest that when he cannot foresee what will happen when he gets below ground, he will charge a rather higher price than the actual cost of the work. With the large amount of work which is to be undertaken, if the White Paper policy is to be carried out successfully, this risk could be more economically carried out by the water undertakings themselves doing this work by direct labour. I know from my personal experience that it can be done efficiently by direct labour, if one takes the trouble to organise it properly, and I submit that, as a suggestion, to the Minister.

Lieut.-Colonel Heneage (Louth)

I had the honour to be the only Member of this House who was a member of the Milne Committee, and I, therefore, trust that hon. Members will bear with me if I make one or two observations on the subject of this Debate. Since 1937, the Milne Committee distened to, and investigated, an enormous amount of evidence from everybody who wished to give evidence on the subject of water supplies. There was no hesitation on our part in asking people to appear before us, whether they were water undertakers, representatives of catchment boards, or anybody else, however independent of mind and however opposed they were to what might be called the stereotyped view about water. The result has been a succession of Reports, of which the third is the latest, and I would like to congratulate the Minister of Health on being very much quicker on producing his White Paper on our Reports than we were in introducing our three Reports.

It is the custom in this House to leave what is good unmentioned, and to make observations about possible difficulties. I think that is a sound procedure. I am glad the Minister has carried out our recommendations fairly completely. As the hon. Member for Abingdon (Sir R. Glyn) knows, catchment boards are in a special position. They are almost local authorities but not quite; they are the only semi-local authorities which are under the Ministry of Agriculture and not the Ministry of Health, which I think is a very good thing. In passing, may I also congratulate the Minister of Health on the secretarial work which was done by his officials and secretaries throughout the work of the Milne Committee? The assessors we had also gave invaluable assistance. As regards compensation water, this is a dangerous subject. It is not for the sake of the riparian owners; it is for the sake of clearing out the streams. If you do not have a steady flow of compensation water, streams become muddied and the water cannot force its way through. That is why catchment boards are anxious for a steady flow of compensation water all the year round, if they can get it. I am anxious that the Minister should bring in new rules about compensation water. We hope very much that every river will be taken on its merits, bearing in mind that you want compensation water to clear your channels, even in dry weather. It is a question of give and take.

This question of consultation is most important. Money is being wasted on Bills because catchment boards are not consulted about the taking of water from one stream and putting it into another. In one Bill that was introduced into Parliament recently the water undertaker did not know that the catchment board was interested. The want of concentration is sometimes lamentable. Catchment boards have at their disposal an immense amount of information about underground water. I hope this information will be asked for, and I know it will be readily available. I should like to strike out a new line on the question of conservation. I am speaking now, more individually than as president of the Catchment Boards Association. I am afraid we must be in for a period of a considerable shortage of water supply. One knows so much about streams that have dried up. The Minister, it is true, is taking power to prevent boring and so on, where it is unnecessary, and to amalgamate water supplies.

There is one thing that is possibly dangerous, and that is the deforestation which is going on throughout the country. Water undertakers rightly say that the rainfall is broken by the trees, and does not flow away, but there is much more than that. Trees have been cut down right through the country and afforestation has not been proceeded with. In this country the trees are in the places where mist comes and, even if there is no rain, the wet settles and gets through the undergrowth. Possibly catchment boards will have to draw the attention of the Ministries of Health and Agriculture to the danger of deforestation. It is a new subject which has not been considered as it ought to have been. A great deal of information is available in the case of the Mississippi, as to the result of deforestation on water supply. I hope everything like that will be studied. I should like it to be investigated how far afforestation not only increases the mist, but possibly increases the rainfall. We have very little information about it and I foresee a great deal of difficulty in the future.

Mr. Leslie (Sedgefield)

I am glad the Government have at long last taken up this question of water supply, and I hope they have taken it up seriously. I have on several occasions had to approach the Ministry of Health about the inadequate water supply in my constituency. Munition factories and military camps have aggravated the situation, so much so that, for domestic purposes, water has had to be taken from the mines. Naturally, there was an outcry over the quality of the water and it took a long time to improve it, but in the interval there were complaints all over the district about burst pipes. Again, in rural areas farmers have complained that, with the inadequate supply, they have been unable to produce the milk they were called upon to produce, or to clean their utensils. They were tossed about from the Ministry of Agriculture to the Ministry of Health, back to the Ministry of Agriculture and back again to the Ministry of Health. I hope that that will be stopped and that some Minister will take it over and see that the rural areas get an adequate supply. In view of the importance of agricultural production, I hope that no time will be lost in making ample provision for the rural areas. The matter is urgent, and steps should be taken without delay. The reason so far given against it, is the lack of labour and material, but plans should be ready and, as soon as labour and material are available, we should get on with the job.

Mr. Chorlton (Bury)

I have not spoken for so long that I feel almost inclined to ask for the indulgence of the House. I should like to congratulate the Minister on his courage in bringing forward this scheme. It is founded upon plenty of Royal Commissions and special Committees in the past and I am deeply interested in it—a parental interest, I might say, for I have some experience of producing schemes myself in the past and in much greater detail. I found certain difficulties which arose in criticism. I find trunk mains criticised as too expensive, but water must be brought from districts like Wales and Scotland to the dry parts of England such as Yorkshire and Lincolnshire. The criticism was that the cost would be much too high. It could not be done. What are you to do to replace it? I went so far as to gather water locally by impounding the Wash and pumping into and if necessary from that reservoir. There is a large quantity of water from the estuaries of the rivers flowing into it, but it means a lot of pumping. But you have to go further than that. There must be other rivers which can be dealt with in the same way. It means really a great deal more pumping than we have been used to in the past because it you fill a big reservoir it will require it both ways, in and out. I think the whole scheme a good one, but one cannot say more without more details. It will require a lot of going into from these Committees and somebody must sift out their findings.

Then there is the staff of the Ministry. I have to be careful what I say. Are they going to be strong enough to do the job? The man who goes out to do it must be properly backed. These regional committees are all right, but who is going to sift the evidence? He cannot do it all. He must have some help. I found another peculiar thing about the criticisms of my proposals. In the end I discovered it was trade unionism. I was not a water engineer but only a mechanical engineer. I feel that the Minister has done the right thing in bringing this scheme forward, and we all ought to support him to the full.

Sir George Elliston (Blackburn)

Like a previous speaker, I have been surprised that so many Members have found it necessary to be cautious in their reception of this White Paper. I was specially surprised that my hon. Friend the Member for Elland (Mr. Levy) expressed himself in such pessimistic terms. I thought that this would have been his great day, and that he would have come here and have claimed that this White Paper and the Bill which is to follow were the outcome of his magnificent persistence in pursuing this question for so many years. But evidently he is not yet prepared with his Nunc Dimittis. I hope, however, that when the Minister produces the Bill the hon. Member and all of us who are keen on the subject will be thoroughly satisfied with the result of our labours.

Having spent a considerable time on Scotland we might now return to London. The hon. Member for North Tottenham (Mr. R. C. Morrison) said something about the position of the Metropolitan Water Board as it would be affected by this proposed legislation. I need not remind the House that that great corporation supplies one-fifth of the people of this country who receive a piped water supply. Yet within the London Civil Defence area there are as many as 13 competing undertakings, and several of them rely for a portion of their supplies on the Metropolitan Water Board. Something approaching a grid system has resulted from the scheme of co-operation organised by the War Emergency Water Committee for the London Civil Defence Region. Surely the time has come for the incorporation of these 13 companies with the Metropolitan Water Board, thus completing the great scheme that was envisaged when the Board was brought into existence in 1902. This seems to be most advisable in the interest of Greater London, Accidents have happened to some of the outlying areas from time to time, but it was not reasonable to expect small units to maintain the scientific services which are possible in the case of the Metropolitan Water Board.

The record of Sir Alexander Houston and his successors in securing for London almost complete immunity from water-born diseases is something of which the Board have every reason to be proud. I was glad to hear the hon. Member for Abingdon (Sir R. Glyn) pay such a high tribute to Mr. H. Berry and his predecessor in the Chair of the Metropolitan Water Board for their great public service. To have saved London from trouble during this period of war emergency has been a great achievement, and it might be hoped that the House is conscious of it. I trust, therefore, that the Minister will consider whether London should not have one comprehensive water scheme in place of a number of bodies sharing the work with the Metropolitan Water Board. I believe that the Government have in preparation a Bill that will be a great public health measure, for the water supply must be regarded as one of the fundamental factors in the health of the country. That is why I am anxious to see the smallest villages enjoying those amenities which are only available to the great towns and cities. No doubt the Minister of Agriculture would be thinking of the great difference it will make to the life of the countryside and how it will contribute towards stopping the drift to the towns when every cottage enjoys the hygienic advantages that we are accustomed to in the towns.

Mr. McEntee (Walthamstow, West)

I would like to congratulate the Government generally on the policy of the White Paper. It is an advantage to have such a White Paper, because it gives us an opportunity to discuss the question and to allow the Government to rid out what we are thinking before legislation is introduced. The Minister has put before us a number of interesting constructive ideas, but some of them lack courage. I would like to congratulate him on the proposal to reduce the number of River Boards. If he had shown the same courage in reducing the number of organisations that are selling water to the public I should have congratulated him on that also. There is, unfortunately, nothing in the White Paper that gives us any special pledge that the number of water undertakings will be reduced. That appears to me to be the greatest failing of the White Paper. I know that it is said that encouragement will be given to amalgamations, but I am not in favour of that method. It would be far better to force the amalgamation, and ultimately some Government will have to take courage in their hands and do the amalgamating themselves. Surely it is discreditable that over 1,000 undertakings are now selling water to the public and that another 1,000 private persons or small groups of persons have control over water, not for the purpose of selling it but for the purpose of taking it from any place where they are able to get a little piece of land.

The hon. Member for North Tottenham {Mr. R. C. Morrison) referred to the people who sink wells over whom there is no control. The Minister of Agriculture interjected to say that control is being taken on page 13 of the White Paper. I hope he is right and that effect will be given to that control. I am not, however, struck with the wording of the White Paper and do not think it is strong enough. Here is an instance of which a great number of people know and about which all the people of London ought to know. The Metropolitan Water Board pay, year by year, and will go on paying for 500 years from 1581, when a gentleman got permission to take water from the River Thames at London Bridge. He established his wheel there to take up the water and to distribute it in a very limited fashion round about. Because he obtained that power as a freeman of the City of London, the Metropolitan Water Board and the people of London have been paying since 1581, and will pay till 2081, a sum of £3,750 per year to the descendants of that man. I believe there is still a company. That kind of company ought to be done away with. It is disgraceful that the people of London should have to pay tribute such as that. The nation ought to take power to destroy that kind of thing.

What is the Minister going to do to reduce the number of companies which are selling water to the people of this country? I hope that he will answer the question. The White Paper does not take any strong line on it. The River Boards are to be reduced to 29, and that is very good, but the companies are the people who are taking profit out of the industry and you do not destroy them by reducing the number of River Boards to 29. The Boards are not the people who take profit out of the water. Most of their members give their services practically free. Nevertheless, the people who are really taking the profit out of the industry are to be allowed to continue to do so indefinitely for the bad service that many of them have given in the past. It is true that many of these water undertakings have done extremely good work. Anybody who knows anything of their history will admit it, but there are a number who have not done so, and apparently they are to be allowed to continue, unless the Minister can induce them, by some form of argument, to amalgamate, or in some way to give up their power. I do not think that is a line of action which ought to be taken by any Government in the circumstances of to-day, and I hope that the Minister in his reply will be able to state something more definite and clear in regard to the form of action he intends to take to reduce that 1,000 down to, or approximately to, the number of River Boards which he is going to set up.

Mention has been made several times of the Metropolitan Water Board. Why not make the Metropolitan Water Board the model of the organisation which will sell water in the future? It is democratic. It is one of the most democratic and efficient organisations in this country. It has already been stated that it serves approximately one-fifth of the people who use water in the country to-day. Every member of the Metropolitan Water Board—I think they number 60—must have been elected to a local authority before he or she can become a member. When members cease to be the elected representatives of their local authorities, they cease to be members of the Metropolitan Water Board. That is the form of organisation which commends itself to me, and will commend itself generally, I think, to the public. They are representatives of the areas from which they come on to the Board. I do not think anyone will deny that, particularly since the war, the Metropolitan Water Board has proved itself one of the most efficient bodies in the country. I commend it to the Minister as a model, so that similar bodies can give as efficient a supply of water to their areas as the Metropolitan Water Board gives to the people of Greater London. My time is up. I would like to have said a good deal more but I hope the Minister will give consideration to the points which I have raised, and will remember that the Metropolitan Water Board might well have as its motto that it is democratic and efficient.

The Minister of Agriculture (Mr. R. S. Hudson)

The right hon. Member for Bedwellty (Sir C. Edwards) was good enough to say that he approved of the new Government practice of issuing White Papers. I think the course of the Debate has amply borne that out, because it has enabled a very large number of Members to address the House and to give us the advantage of their views. I can assure hon. Members that the views will all be gone through and taken into account when we come to draft the Bill which has been foreshadowed.

Criticism of the White Paper has mainly been by Members who expressed disappointment, like the hon. Member for South Bristol (Mr. A. Walkden), who suggested that we had been unduly timorous and ought to have been more bold. When I listened to the suggestions as to the sort of thing hon. Members would have liked us to be more bold about, I am bound to tell them that practically every one of those suggestions is incorporated in the White Paper. Only one major suggestion is not in the White Paper, and that is the proposal that there should be either a large National Water Board or a Minister of Water. The objection that we see to that proposal is that water is not, like electricity, something that you can treat by itself. You cannot really divorce water from the general administration, from such things as housing, health and drainage, which are all the intimate concern of the Ministry of Health. Nor, indeed, can you, as far as my Department is concerned, divorce drainage from agricultural policy. I hope to show in a minute that the necessity for the supply of water in rural areas cannot be divorced from agriculture, as exemplified by the necessity which we shall be under to increase the milk supply and to adopt systems of alternate husbandry. Accordingly, we came to the conclusion that it was necessary to provide the Minister of Health with full powers for central direction and control and, above all, powers to see that the authorities in the various areas carried out the responsibility which we hope Parliament will agree to their shouldering.

There has been a tendency, or perhaps I should rather say that there has been a fear, expressed among local authorities that the Government, in their reconstruction proposals, have it in mind to deprive local authorities of many functions that the authorities have hitherto performed and of which the local authorities are jealous. I do not think that that is an accusation for which there is any real basis. But in so far as we have in mind depriving local authorities of some functions or some portions of functions that they have performed in the past, let me say with some knowledge of what we intend that we propose to impose on local authorities on the other hand many additional functions and responsibilities. I think that local authorities will emerge from our reconstruction proposals with a great deal more work to do rather than less. I shall be bringing forward in the course of the summer two Bills, one with my right hon. and learned Friend, which may expose us to the accusation of depriving local authorities of some of their functions. Let me say in advance that this is an occasion on which we propose to impose on local authorities considerable additional responsibility, and at the same time to provide myself and the Minister of Health with powers to see that the local authorities carry the thing out and, of course, with the necessary finance to help them.

My hon. Friend the Member for Stone (Sir J. Lamb) said that agricultural interests were partly involved, and he wondered whether agriculture was going to have adequate representation. I hope he will be relieved by reading on the outside of the White Paper for the first time that I, as well as my right hon. and learned Fiend the Minister of Health, and the Secretary of State for Scotland, are putting forward this Paper, and he may be quite sure that we are very largely concerned, and that agriculture will receive adequate representation. My hon. Friend the Member for Bodmin (Mrs. Wright) said that £15,000,000 was not enough. Of course, £15,000,000 is not by any means the total that will be spent on these various schemes. Before the war the sum of £1,000,000 granted from the Exchequer produced works worth £7,000,000. Although it may well be said that the easiest works were carried out, we anticipate that with the help of £15,000,000 from the centre, together with the contributions made by county councils, and the fact that the expense is to be spread over districts instead of merely concentrated on parishes, the result will be an expenditure of a sum considerably in excess of £5,000,000. The hon. Member for Bodmin also asked about electricity, as did my hon. Friend the Member for Abingdon (Sir R. Glyn). They can both rest assured we have it very much in mind, but clearly the question of electricity will be dealt with eventually by the Minister of Fuel and Power, when he brings his proposals forward. Therefore, I cannot touch on it to-day, but the extension of electricity in rural area; is very much in our minds. My hon. Friend the Member for Chippenham (Mr. Eccles)—

Mr. G. Griffiths

; Before the right hon. Gentleman leaves the rural aspect can he say whether urban districts which have taken in, through the last redistribution, a lot of rural areas come in for part of this?

Mr. Hudson

If the hon. Member will wait a moment I am coming to the point. The hon. Member for Chippenham instanced two cases in his own constituency where there are a number of villages outside small towns which have not any water at all, and a small town where the water supply is inadequate. The Bill my right hon. and learned Friend the Minister of Health is introducing is primarily for the provision of water to rural areas and for the extension of water to rural areas, and not for the provision of water to towns. Clearly in a case like that where the total water supply at present is insufficient, it should be possible so to arrange matters that both the town and the rural villages benefit. The question of the exact proportion of grant is one which would be the subject of consideration.

Mr. G. Griffiths

There are some urban districts which are not towns.

Mr. Hudson

I have not much time, but if the hon. Member will write to Mt about the point which he is raising I will find out and let him know. I come to the hon. Member for Elland (Mr. Levy), and I confess that I shared the surprise which was subsequently voiced by the hon. and gallant Member for Blackburn (Sir G. Elliston), because the hon. Member said that he had been advocating a policy for many years and that the Waterworks Association had supported his scheme. If his scheme is that of the Waterworks Association all I can say is that, with the exception of the institution of a Minister of Water, all the suggestions for additional powers which are put forward in that paper by the Waterworks Association are, in fact, covered by the White Paper. My hon. Friend the Member for Huntingdon (Dr. Peters) asked if we would take steps to see that the water laid on for aerodromes and sites would be used after peace was declared. I think the answer obviously is Yes.

Mr. Levy

May I explain that when I said that the Waterworks Association supported—will the right hon. Gentleman not give way?

Mr. Hudson


Mr. Levy

He misrepresented what I said.

Mr. Hudson

The hon. Member for Brightside (Mr. Marshall) said that the Central Advisory Committee needed overhaul. He also said it was necessary to deal with the question of compensation of water. The question of compensation of water, we quite agree, needs dealing with. It is, in fact, referred to on the top of Page 14 of the White Paper. As far as the question of the central Advisory Committee needing overhaul is concerned, obviously we have to make it representative as far as we possibly can of all the various interests. The actual questions of this and of compensation will be a matter for discussion and one which hon. Members can criticize if they so desire when they see the actual proposals.

The hon. Member for Abingdon said he thought it was very important that the drainage works we have carried out should be maintained. I could not agree with him more. That is a matter I have very much in mind. I think it will rather come under the question of post-war agricultural policy and the powers we shall seek to carry that out. The hon. Member for West Walthamstow (Mr. McEntee) wanted to know to what extent we were going to apply compulsion in amalgamation. There, again, I do not think one can lay down any strict rule. He suggested that there were bad companies which we ought to take over. I am quite sure that he would agree that there are, too, local authorities which need gingering up. As far as my side of it is concerned, he will appreciate I want to see reasonable amalgamation, and have shown my desire by suggesting that 52 catchment boards should be reduced to the number of 24 River Boards.

I might perhaps add one word about River Boards and the question of the supply of water by drainage authorities. Many hon. Members are under the impression that the only task of catchment boards is that of removing surplus water. That is not quite the case, because the definition of drainage in the Land Drainage Act, 1934, from which these authorities derive their powers, includes not only drainage—the removal of water—but also irrigation and the supply of water. Out of a very large number of instances I would like to quote only one, the River Nene Catchment Board, who erected a very large sluice and lock at a place rejoicing in the name of Dog-in-the-Doublet. This was erected for the purpose of holding the water to cover some 17,800 acres in their own catchment area and 100,000 acres in the area of the Great Ouse. Most or many drainage authorities also raise dams in drainage channels to preserve water.

I would ask anyone who is in any doubt about the necessity for the creation of river boards to read the third Report of Lord Milne's Committee. There they will see, set out at considerable length, the reasons. I will only quote two sentences. They say that they are of opinion that the principal defect of the present system is not overlapping, but the fact that no single body is charged with the duty of co-ordinating the various river interests, or of ensuring that the requirements of all such interests are duly weighed when questions affecting the river are under review, with the result that the river is not used to the best advantage of everyone concerned. They say that the new conception ought to be that everyone living in a river basin should do his best to see that the water in that basin is used to the best advantage of everybody.

Another problem which faces us is the question of pollution. My advisers estimate that the total food production of the rivers of this country could be materially increased if we could get rid of pollution. In the 70's of the last century, the Tyne returns showed that over 100,000 salmon were caught every season, averaging 10 lbs. each, making 1,000,000 lbs. of food. In 1940, the catch was only about 550 salmon. The same sort of thing is true in South Wales, and increasingly so in Lancashire. Pollution affects not merely the comparatively small number of people who fish for salmon, but the very large number of anglers who fish as a pastime. The number of these anglers is much greater than many people realise. In 1938, over 300,000 people took out licences for fishing for coarse fish. The amount of pleasure which they can get is greatly decreased by pollution. The task of the river boards will be to remedy that, not merely by preventing further pollution, but by getting rid of a lot of the pollution which exists. They will have the advantage of very much greater funds than are now available. I hope that, when we come to set up these river boards, we shall be able to meet the difficulties put forward by the hon. Member for the Brightside Division and that the country will see that we have endeavoured to hold the balance fairly and to see that all the interests concerned are fairly represented, so that no one can complain, even if the decision goes against him, that his point of view was not considered before the decision was reached—which I think is really what the hon. Member for West Walthamstow wanted when he talked about democratic institutions.

Mr. McEntee

Will the Minister give them the necessary funds?

Mr. Hudson

Yes, they will have the necessary funds. This is set out fully in the Report. I do not think that anyone can claim that we shall be able to solve all our problems in the immediate future. The question of adequate water supplies, especially in the countryside, is bound to take some time, because it depends upon supplies of labour and material, and adequate supplies of labour and material cannot be available until the war is over. We are doing a great deal to improve matters in the country. The Domesday survey which I ordered some time ago is now showing results, and we estimate, from the information we have got, that there are no fewer than 220,000 farm buildings without piped water supplies. Since the beginning of the scheme nearly 6,000 cases have been approved, and as far as labour and materials are available, we are pushing on with the work. We are bringing in a Bill to extend that to cottages and—

It being the hour appointed for the interruption of Business, the Debate stood adjourned.

Debate to be resumed To-morrow.