HC Deb 24 February 1948 vol 447 cc1897-9

Section sixteen of the principal Act (which empowers statutory water undertakers to prohibit or restrict temporarily the use of hosepipes in certain circumstances) shall have effect as if at the end of the Section there were added the following Subsection: (5) During any period when a prohibition or restriction imposed under this Section is in force, any officer of the undertakers shall, on producing if so required some duly authenticated document showing his authority, have a right at all reasonable hours to enter any premises to which the prohibition or restriction applies for the purpose of ascertaining whether there is or has been any contravention of the prohibition or restriction; and the Section of this Act relating to entry of premises shall apply to any such right of entry."—[Mr. J. Edwards.]

Brought up, and read the First time.

Mr. J. Edwards

I beg to move, "That the Clause be read a Second time."

The purpose of this Clause is to give water undertakers the general powers of entry under the Act to satisfy themselves that consumers are not contravening the prohibition or restriction on the use of hosepipes during water shortages.

Clause read a Second time.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Clause be added to the Bill."

Mr. Joynson-Hicks

Is there to be any provision for notice to the occupier of the land or premises? I appreciate the difficulty of the Parliamentary Secretary, but this Clause raises rather an issue. Presumably he will say that if notice is given that an inspector is to call at the premises to see if water is being improperly used from a hosepipe, the occupier will immediately turn off the tap, and there will be no sign of any water being used from the hosepipe. The Clause necessarily presupposes that the Minister or somebody will have to employ people to go and peep round the corner or through the hedges to see if water is being used either for washing a car or the watering of the garden. That seems to be exceedingly unsatisfactory and a very unpleasant thing to do. I hope the Parliamentary Secretary will give us some further explanation on this matter.

Mr. Berry

I am afraid the hon. Member for Chichester (Mr. Joynson-Hicks) has rather misconceived the functions of water authorities. As a matter of fact inspectors are employed by most up-to-date authorities to see that there is no waste of water. It is difficult at times, but it is part of the ordinary procedure. In times of drought and difficulty, one finds a person who says "I pay my water rate and I shall use as much water as I wish"—an anti-social person. I am sure the hon. Member would not defend him in the least—unless it was in the law courts. It is difficult at times to run some of these people to earth, but it is essential in the public interest that there should be these powers. I should have thought that anything that would stop the waste of water would have the approval of most Members of this Committee. I am much obliged to the Minister for introducing these powers, and as the public interest is paramount I hope that all of us will see our way to agree to this Clause.

Mr. J. Edwards

My hon. Friend the Member for West Woolwich (Mr. Berry) has answered the hon. Member for Chichester (Mr. Joynson-Hicks). Powers of entry are contained in Section 48 of the principal Act. There are ample precedents, and it would really he extremely difficult to justify a different procedure in this respect. We already have, as I said when I moved the Second Reading of the Clause, the general powers of entry in the Water Act, 1945. I hope, therefore, that the hon. Member will not feel that he must oppose this Clause.

Clause added to the Bill.