HC Deb 25 October 1955 vol 545 cc103-49

Order for Second Reading read.

6.53 p.m.

The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Housing and Local Government (Mr. W. F. Deedes)

I beg to move, That the Bill be now read a Second time.

This is a very short and simple Bill. Its provisions are quite straightforward, and I hope that it will prove generally acceptable. Hon. Members will readily appreciate the necessity for it. Over the past eleven years the Rural Water Supplies and Sewerage Acts have provided £45 million for England and Wales and £20 million for Scotland towards water supply and sewerage schemes in rural localities. These sums will have been fully pledged by the early part of next year and we are therefore now seeking another £30 million for England and Wales and £10 million for Scotland, which will last another five years at the present rate of progress. In short, we are asking that the total amount for England, Wales and Scotland shall be increased from £65 million to £105 million.

These are substantial sums, particularly in the context of current events, and I think the House will expect a word from me upon the reason for these contributions and upon our past stewardship of the money expended. I do not believe that the reason for the contributions is in dispute. For more than 20 years, ever since the first Rural Water Supplies Act of 1934, they have been accepted by both sides. It has been accepted that there should be Exchequer assistance towards these vital services in rural areas, where the cost is inevitably high in relation to the capacity of the consumers and ratepayers. The services relate to basic needs, and without this assistance it is quite certain that a number of rural localities will have no means and no prospect of supply.

As to our past stewardship, since the 1944 Act, in England and Wales £15 million worth of water schemes and £12 million worth of sewerage schemes have been completed. That is the total expenditure; not the amount of grant. At this moment, £40 million worth of water schemes and £28 million worth of sewerage schemes are in progress. That gives a total of £95 million; £55 million for water, and £40 million for sewerage. In Scotland, water schemes worth £6 million and sewerage schemes worth £1.7 million have been completed, and water schemes worth £13 million and sewerage schemes worth £3 million are now in progress. In relation to both cases—England and Wales, and Scotland—there is a third category, of schemes approved, towards which Exchequer contributions have been pledged but which have not yet been started.

That brings me conveniently to the point which, I believe, will be of main concern to hon. Members, namely, the present rate of progress. Most hon. Members are aware that there are many schemes upon which local authorities are anxious to embark but which we cannot authorise. Where there is a substantial Exchequer subvention at stake there has to be a limit to the amount of work which can be done. At present, the amount of work in hand is the highest since the war. In England and Wales it has risen from £12 million spent in 1953–54 to £14 million in 1954–55. The total value of grant-aided schemes in the current year—that is, up to April, 1956—is likely to be £17 million, and of that £17 million the Exchequer grant constitutes about one-third.

This is not the moment at which it would be very appropriate for me to make general forecasts about the rate of future capital expenditure. All I can say is that we recognise that there are many rural water and sewerage schemes which are urgently needed and which cannot be postponed without serious consequences. Schemes which, in the opinion of the local authorities and my right hon. Friend, are to be regarded as in this category—that is, of great urgency—will still be authorised this year, up to the original total of £17 million. Any scheme that we have already promised to authorise this year will be allowed to proceed. The programme for 1956–57 must obviously be subject to wider considerations, which will affect all similar programmes involving heavy capital expenditure.

Another point which I should make here concerns the increasing share which sewerage schemes are taking in the programme. For some years water schemes took about 60 per cent. of the money spent. In the last financial year they took very little more than half—53 per cent.—and in the last half year they took only 37 per cent. We calculate that within the next few years the ratio between the two will be roughly 40 per cent. water and 60 per cent. sewerage.

The House may wish to have some forecast of where this latest substantial instalment will leave us in five years' time in relation to the total amount of work to be done. We estimate that the sums now under consideration will carry us on for about another five years.

Any such forecast involves a good deal of guesswork, but, assuming an annual programme of roughly the same size as that which we have now, we might say that in about eight years' time we should have authorised schemes to supply all but isolated properties and the smallest villages with water. In about 15 years we should have authorised sewerage schemes for most of the rural areas needing them.

In the light of these forecasts, I hope I have been able to give the House some idea of the part which this additional £40 million will play in giving our countryside the standard of life in two important particulars which most town dwellers regard as indispensable. Taken against the wider background of rural problems and bearing in mind the growing magnetism of the industrial centres and the need to make the countryside an attractive place in which to live, particularly for the housewife, I do not think—and I hope the House will agree with me—that this is too great a price to pay. I hope hon. Members will concur in that and will agree to give the Bill a Second Reading.

7.2 p.m.

Mr. George Brown (Belper)

The hon. Member need not worry that the House will ever think this too great a price to pay in order to make the countryside a place in which it is reasonable for the housewife to live.

I am a little surprised that, having told us how long it will take to provide sewerage schemes for the bulk of the countryside, the hon. Member then provides in the Bill for only a third of the money required. He has said that the Bill will carry us on for about five years but he reckons that the sewerage schemes will take fifteen years and the water schemes eight years to provide for all but the isolated areas. Perhaps the hon. Member who is to answer the debate—I do not know whether it is the Joint Under-Secretary of State for Scotland—will tell us why it was decided not to provide all the money that is required. I am sure the House would much rather vote the money required, since apparently we can estimate it with reasonable exactitude, than do so in bits and pieces.

To stand here to support, in a sense, a Bill which comes from the Government is one of those chances which comes to one only once in a while. Eight months ago, in the Parliament which died a little prematurely, with trumpets sounded by hon. Members opposite a good deal prematurely, we had a Bill called the Rural Water Supplies and Sewerage Bill, which some of us pointed out did nothing but add to the gain of the moneylenders and increase the cost to the taxpayer and ratepayer. I then told the Parliamentary Secretary that he was making a mistake and that he would do better to apply his mind to what was required. I said that we should have had a Bill which would provide us with the amount of money to enable us to continue the work.

The hon. Gentleman was then a little sceptical; he was rather patronising and thought we were talking without knowledge. After all, he was in the Government and he had behind him all the men in Whitehall who knew better than we did, so he thought, and I was talking "without the book." Curiously enough, we on this side of the House also have access to books, and we knew what was going on.

Eight months later we are able to say, "There it is. How much better if you had done it eight months ago. Now we have had two Bills in two separate Parliaments. The first was unnecessary and noxious and adds to the charges, and the second does what we said should have been done eight months ago."

There is more pleasure in Heaven and on the Opposition benches over one sinner that repenteth, and therefore I am grateful to welcome the hon. Member, eight months too late, to the bench of grace. He has come round to recognise what was not included in his brief eight months ago—that the money was running out and that he needed more. We are glad to have drawn his attention to it.

I know what happened. The day after the Second Reading debate he went to his office and said, "That chap from Belper last night said this and that; is it true?" That filtered through the office of the Ministry of Housing and Local Government, and many people wrote minutes about it. Then it filtered all the way up again. Not only the hon. Gentleman but others had not realised that the money had almost run out. That is why we have this Bill, and I am glad to have been of some assistance to the entire rural population of England and Wales. I have no doubt that my hon. Friend the Member for Hamilton (Mr. T. Fraser), who will speak for himself, feels equally happy at having done the same for the rural population of Scotland.

This shows what can be done very late at night, because we got this extra £40 million for the rural population between 11 o'clock and 12.15 a.m. Unfortunately, the newspapers "go to bed" long before that, so the rural population did not know what we were doing for them. We had to suffer our light shining under a bushel unseen, but nevertheless we did good.

That is where I must stop. [HON. MEMBERS "Hear, hear."] I do not mean "stop" in that sense; hon. Members must not get excited. This is not one of those occasions on which I shall stop prematurely. I meant that I should stop my panegyrics of praise and welcome at having the Government supplicants at our bench.

We have been fed in the last few weeks with stories about how tragic the country's economic position has become under this Administration, how different things are from when we had the Election and how important it is to stop all public expenditure which can possibly be stopped. I had the great advantage, Mr. Deputy-Speaker—I do not think you had that advantage because I seem to remember reading something about your driving off at St. Andrews about that time—of attending the Conservative Party Conference at Bournemouth. I do not know how to put the word "Conference" in quotation marks when speaking, but you will understand what I mean.

There I heard the Chancellor explaining how difficult it would be—and I heard him read a very long lecture to the delegates there assembled on how impossible it would be—for him to accept any of the very nice resolutions on the agenda demanding all sorts of nice things. He read them a lecture against which the policy of the late Sir Stafford Cripps would have been almost beneficence itself. In it he said that all these wonderful things must be postponed.

When I saw the Bill on the Order Paper I wondered how it fitted in with the Chancellor's story, with all the newspaper outpourings of gloom and of tragedy and with the fact that we are to have a special Finance Bill tomorrow. I wondered whether the Ministry of Housing and Local Government had slipped a fast one over the Treasury. On the last occasion we debated this subject it was obvious that the Treasury had slipped a fast one over the Ministry, for we had great trouble in getting the Financial Secretary to the Treasury to defend his own Money Resolution. He left it to the Parliamentary Secretary, who patently knew nothing about it. We sympathised deeply with the hon. Gentleman and did our best to extricate him, and in the end we got the Financial Secretary to speak on his own Resolution and to leave the Parliamentary Secretary in peace.

I thought this was perhaps an occasion on which the Ministry had slipped a fast one over the Treasury in return for that, and, being a fair-minded man, I was satisfied with that. But my sense of fair play was rudely shattered when I heard the hon. Gentleman say that the fact that we were voting the money did not mean that the work would be done. He said it did not follow that rural England would have the work done.

Mr. Tudor Watkins (Brecon and Radnor)

And Wales.

Mr. Brown

The greater includes the lesser. I hope I may be forgiven for that.

Mr. Watkins

Wales is the more important.

Mr. Brown

What interests the rural population is not what we vote in the House in terms of money. It is whether the pipes will be laid and the sewerage works built. In the circumstances, the Parliamentary Secretary should have gone to the Patronage Secretary and asked for this Bill to be postponed until after tomorrow. This is one of those capital investments, he told us, which will—I took down his words—have to take their place with all the other capital investments in the light of the economic situation and the announcements that have been made.

I gather that the hon. Gentleman is himself to reply to the debate, and not his hon. Friend the Joint Under-Secretary of State for Scotland. I ask him for a concrete and firm statement. Is this Bill just window dressing? When he says that this project must take its place with all other capital investment and thus be subject to the same restrictions as those to which all the others are going to be subject, does that mean that although we are voting the money we may well not get the work done?

The hon. Gentleman said just now that this money is sufficient for five years. I take it that he means five years at the old rate at which the work was allowed to be done. Are we to understand from him that the rate at which the work is now to be done is to be considerably slowed down? If so, why have the Government brought the Bill forward? Why are they trying to mislead rural England into thinking that this work is to be undertaken, when in fact it is pretty clear—I am sure the hon. Gentleman would not have interpolated that remark purely on his own initiative—that we are being prepared for a very considerable slowing up of this work?

The hon. Gentleman said that anything promised in the current year up to the extent of £17 million would be allowed to go through. I do not think he would have told us that unless he was preparing us for the news that anything not yet promised or anything that takes the total bill over £17 million will not be allowed to go through. Therefore, it seems to me we have the paradox of a Bill apparently increasing the amount of water and sewerage schemes that are to be carried out in rural England, while at the same time the Minister takes the occasion to warn us that anything not yet promised and anything that will bring the amount of the bill over £17 million will not be done, which means a slowing down, and that from this year onwards this, like all other capital investments, this work is liable to be subjected to the freezing hand of the would-be Iron Chancellor.

I think the hon. Gentleman ought to "come clean". It is not his fault. He can always blame the other Department. He ought to tell us exactly what is in the mind of the Government so that rural England really knows and is not just deluded by the fact that we vote rather more money than the Government intend to spend.

Another point with which the hon. Gentleman ought to deal is the cost of doing the whole job. After all, not only did the Government increase the cost by £20 million in the last miserable Bill which was presented to us, by making the job last for thirty-five years, instead of paying for it as it goes along, but they have been increasing the interest rates of all local authority work ever since. Just because they have deliberately increased the interest rates, it now costs far more to do this work than it would have done before.

This means that the ratepayer pays far more in respect of his own contribution and the taxpayer has to find more by way of grant. Let hon. Members opposite who represent rural areas realise that less of this £30 million for England and Wales will go to grant aid the work than would have gone before because more of it will simply go to pay the higher interest rates.

Mr. Deedesindicated dissent.

Mr. Brown

The hon. Gentleman shakes his head, but that is true.

The hon. Gentleman has arranged, not that the local authorities borrow what is necessary after the Government grant has been paid, but that the local authorities borrow the whole lot. The fact that they borrow the whole lot and do so at much increased interest rates means that they pay very much more interest than they would have had to pay before. They get a grant on the cost to them. The cost to them includes their interest rates. Therefore, more of the grant is eaten up by unnecessarily high interest rates due to local authorities being forced to borrow the lot and having to pay much more than is sensible. A good deal of this £30 million is not going to increase or speed up or genuinely help the supply of water and sewerage schemes for rural England but to fertilise the already very prolific areas in the City of London where this money is found.

I find it difficult to understand what the Government are about. One presumably fixes a high rate of interest to discourage people from borrowing. Equally one presumably votes £30 million of public money to encourage people to do the job. What is the point of a financial policy which discourages people from doing the job by putting the interest rate up to 5½ per cent. or whatever the figure is, and at the same time having a Ministry of Housing and Local Government policy which encourages people to do the job at the cost of another £30 million? Talk about the left hand not knowing what the right hand does—this is a classic example of it.

Under this Government we are running under two completely contrary policies. We want people to do the job, so we give them £30 million. We do not want them to do it, so we increase the interest rates. It is madness. It is costing us much more. It is absolutely stupid and it is only made intelligible by the Parliamentary Secretary's artless interpolation, "Well, of course, tomorrow there will be an announcement. Lots of capital investment is being slowed down and discouraged, and the whole thing will be brought into relationship."

We on these benches would like more of this work to be done. We are much more keen about it than anybody else has been. We should like more of this work to be done, and in that sense we welcome the £30 million. We wish that enough money had been granted to cover the whole amount of work outstanding. But we do not like the business of pouring a lot of this money into the moneylenders' pockets instead of genuinely doing the work. We are also very frightened by the hon. Gentleman's suggestion that the whole scheme is going to be slowed down.

In the last discussion that we had on this subject it was said that the rate of grant in Scotland was twice the rate of grant in England and Wales, and an hon. Member opposite said that generally speaking the rate of grant in England and Wales was about one-third whereas the rate of the grant in Scotland ran at about 60 per cent.

Captain J. A. L. Duncan (South Angus)

As against 28 per cent., which it is going to be now.

Mr. Brown

The hon. and gallant Member for South Angus (Captain Duncan) is forecasting another Government rate. All sorts of attempts are being made to forecast what the Chancellor is going to say tomorrow. Up to now Scotland has been getting a grant of about 60 per cent. and England and Wales has been getting a grant of about one-third.

My Scottish grandmother provided for me to be informed on many things concerning Scotland, and I realise that in Scotland there are many areas where the economics of this matter are extremely difficult. But then there are many areas in England and Wales, too, where that is true. If my grandmother will forgive me, I think our Scottish friends sometimes overplay the difference between the two parts of the Kingdom in this respect, and certainly our Welsh friends have good reason to kick about this difference in the grant.

I am not objecting to the Scots getting 60 per cent. In fact, I should have thought that that was a much fairer rate of grant than the one-third which prevails in the rest of the country. I am upset, however, that the hon. Gentleman, who is himself an English Member and an English Minister, should keep telling us that we get only one-third or thereabouts as against the two-thirds which our Scottish friends get, and should never think that he ought to explain why that is so. I should like to hear, in his reply, why we are so ill-treated in England and Wales, and in my own county of Derbyshire; why, in fact, our grant is so little, and whether he is prepared to have another look at this matter to see whether tradition and custom have not built up a wholly unfair situation in England and Wales, based on an assumption that is not correct.

If the Bill really represented a determination on the part of the Government, not only to carry on this work at the rate at which it has been going, but to increase its speed over the next few years, we should welcome it. That, no doubt, was what was intended when the Bill was drafted by the Ministry of Housing and Local Government. Since then, fate and nemesis in the shape of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, who has thoroughly mismanaged our affairs, and who for rather miserable electioneering prospects was rather less than honest eight months ago, has overtaken it. As a result lots of things, very unpleasant, now have to be done. The Bill, as presented to us, was apparently an attempt to carry on the work of giving rural England the amenities that it has the right to expect at the same rate that their provision has proceeded in past years, but it is quite clear—and the Parliamentary Secretary made it even more clear—that we may well expect that this is to be slowed down because of the chill economic winds which the Government have brought upon us.

Obviously we cannot refuse to applaud the Bill—we should be promoting it if we ourselves were in power—but we cannot applaud circumstances which mean that we are not going to get this work done. Therefore, the plaudits which no doubt the hon. Gentleman hopes to get from us are a little reduced from full measure by the unhappiness which we feel about his financial colleagues at the Treasury, who have prevented him from doing what he would, no doubt, like to do.

7.23 p.m.

Sir Harold Roper (Cornwall, North)

The Bill raises a matter which is of great topical interest in Cornwall at the present time. This is so in my own constituency in particular, because during the very height of the holiday season, owing to the dry summer, a part of my constituency, which is well-known to you, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, found itself suffering gravely from a failure of water supply.

The people there were saved from a complete lack of water only by the excellent work done by the fire brigade, which transported by road in Cornwall during that period close on one million gallons of water. This Bill greatly affects Cornwall, because Cornwall is so short generally of water supplies. In Cornwall, the proportion of householders who are entirely without water is between 25 per cent. and 30 per cent. The percentage is roughly double the overall percentage for England and Wales. What has happened during this dry summer has created widespread concern as to whether the requirements for water in Cornwall generally have not been under-estimated.

As I go around, I find the feeling gaining ground that reconsideration should be given to the major De Lank scheme. This is not the time in which to go into details of water supply schemes, but this scheme is relevant to this discussion because it is a very expensive one. As originally drawn up some years ago, it was to cost £4 million, and now, no doubt, it would cost considerably more. I am not asking the Parliamentary Secretary in winding up this debate to deal with the De Lank scheme, because it is now in the hands of the county council, which, I hope, will be reporting to him in the course of the next few months.

I trust that when the Parliamentary Secretary receives that report he will consider most carefully in consultation with the local authorities whether that scheme should be carried into effect as soon as circumstances permit.

There is also the question of sewerage. Cornwall is very backward in sewerage, which also costs a great deal of money. I hope that the passing of this Bill will enable the Government to have another look at an individual scheme covering the parish of St. Breward in my constituency. It is a scheme which is to cost about £33,000. The Ministry is proposing to contribute only 20 per cent. of that amount, which is much less than the normal of one-third of the total cost. The Ministry has given reasons for making such a low contribution, but, personally, I find that the reasons do not carry conviction.

I hope that the Bill will have an easy passage and that, when it is passed, the Government will find themselves in a position to reconsider the matter of the St. Breward sewerage, and that, in consultation with the local authority, there will be a re-examination of the De Lank scheme.

7.27 p.m.

Mr. Tudor Watkins (Brecon and Radnor)

I welcome the introduction of this Bill. Going back to June, 1951, I remember the then Minister introducing a similar Bill with far greater information than we have had this afternoon. I regret very much that the Parliamentary Secretary has so far not given us information which would indicate at least the number of schemes that are in progress and the number of schemes that have been completed. I hope that in fairness to his own Department he will give an indication to the rural districts of what has actually been done by his Department.

Each time I rise to speak on social service questions, I find that England and Wales are lumped together. A letter has come from the Minister on each occasion after I have spoken giving statistics for Wales. Surely we are as much entitled as Scotland to have the figures given in this House. I understand that separate figures are given for Scotland.

In my constituency, 19 of the local authorities are interested in water schemes and sewerage, and no doubt the two county councils have a watching brief on what is being said in this House. In South Wales and parts of England no fewer than 15 authorities derive water from Breconshire and Radnorshire. What concerns me is that my own constituency is satisfied that it does not get the piped water supply and sewerage schemes it should have.

I particularly ask the Parliamentary Secretary to look at the two Reports of the Council for Wales. Special mention has been made of the particular circumstances in mid-Wales and Wales generally in connection with water supply and sewerage schemes. The Government White Paper on Rural Wales said this in its summary of recommendations: The Government … will look with special sympathy at an application for grant towards the cost of a water or sewerage scheme. … I hope that, if he is unable to reply tonight, the Parliamentary Secretary will let Welsh hon. Members know, or will let me know, what has happened since that White Paper was published. Are the authorities in Wales to have special consideration, or even the consideration given to Scotland of an average of 60 per cent. on any scheme put forward? I have not seen any change since the declaration of policy in regard to rural depopulation in mid-Wales.

Water supply and sewerage schemes put an undue burden on local rates. Mention has been made of the difficulties in connection with joint schemes of local authorities. I wish to pose one or two questions to the Parliamentary Secretary in the hope that his Department will see that something is done about that problem. I have information in connection with all the schemes in my constituency. Every year I ask the people in the Welsh Regional Office for a detailed list of all the schemes in my constituency and I watch every move. I am glad of the information I get from the Welsh Regional Office, but what concerns me is the tendency—perhaps it is a good one—to have regional water schemes. Those schemes, however, have some great disadvantages. They have been talked about sufficiently long; the Abergwessin scheme has been talked about since 1947. At that time it was to cost half a million pounds; what it would cost now I do not know.

I am concerned about the urgency of the scheme being undertaken in that locality. It is a district where rural depopulation is greatest. I instance one village, Beulah, where, in a population of nearly 100, eighteen houses get a supply from a small spring by the side of the trunk road from Llanwrtyd Wells to Builth Wells and is 18 inches below the ground. Imagine elderly people filling buckets and cans there, with traffic passing alongside. Imagine the situation in wet weather with surface water running into the well. Imagine the feeling in that locality when an officer reported to the council that a "gentleman of the road"—commonly called a tramp—had bathed his feet in the well. Nothing has been done about this supply as a great regional scheme is awaited.

If we have to wait for regional schemes surely someone from the Department should see that some temporary expedient is allowed to these localities in order that people might at least have piped water which does not need boiling. Although this is a Second Reading debate, I hope no one will criticise me for bringing this matter to the attention of the Parliamentary Secretary and the House. There is another big scheme called the Llanbwchllyn scheme, which is to cost £235,000. It has been on the drawing board since 1949, but some action is still awaited or some pressure from the Government Department to get local authorities working on these particular schemes.

I have in mind a village where there are two supplies of water, one private and one public. The private supply is far better than the public supply. No one seems to be interested in the state of the water from the public supply except that the medical officer issues a notice saying that the water should be boiled, and that has been going on for years. The Parliamentary Secretary must look at the situation arising as a result of Government policy. How can these schemes proceed in view of recent decisions of the Government and the increase in interest charges? In the South Wales branch of the Rural District Councils' Association, whose meeting I attended recently as a vice-president, it was reported that because of the increase in interest charges a £50,000 scheme would mean an additional cost to the rates of £447 a year. Imagine such a call to authorities where the product of a penny rate is so very low. Brecknock Rural District Council will have to find £1,000 a year more because of increased interest charges and that will mean a 3½d. rate. There is no hope of local authorities putting schemes into operation with these extra charges. New Radnor has a very small scheme which, because of increased charges, would cost an extra 1s. 6d. rate.

I welcome what was said by my right hon. Friend the Member for Belper (Mr. G. Brown) when he asked whether we can be assured that an extraordinary grant will be given. I join with him also in his remarks about the Act passed eight months ago. That has tended to make matters far worse. At the annual meeting of the Rural District Councils' Association the Parliamentary Secretary was questioned on the effect it would have on the burden on local authorities and I have with me the reply he gave. I am very glad that he is prepared to look into some of the difficult cases which may arise. There are some difficult cases.

Local authorities now bear the brunt of all construction before grant is made. On the experience gained since the passing of that Act of Parliament, I hope that special consideration will be given to some of the large regional schemes where the product of a 1d. rate is so low. One of the authorities in my constituency, Brecknock Rural District Council, has to pay £64,000 on a scheme before it can get a penny back in grant. Surely it was not the intention of the Ministry to deprive that local authority where the product of a 1d. rate is about £300. Surely something can be done to make a payment on account in such cases. There are cases of hardship and I should welcome any assistance the Government can give in that direction.

I was glad to hear that the proportion in the amount to be allocated towards water supplies and sewerage schemes is changing because the sewerage schemes are catching up on the water supply schemes. In the constituency I represent there is a great deal of work to be done on water supply schemes, and sewerage schemes are complementary to water supply.

What concerns me most about sewerage schemes is the activity of river boards. I am glad of that activity, from the standpoint of hygiene, but some local authorities' sewerage schemes may do away with obsolete plant in a town in a rural locality and no grant is possible when the authority has scrapped an obsolete scheme for the sake of getting a sewerage scheme to meet the approval of the river board.

That is an important matter and I hope that the Minister will consider it, for Section 1 (1) of the 1944 Act does not provide for grants in that direction. I also ask whether it is possible to get a greater uniformity in connection with the attitude of county councils towards making their contributions to rural district councils in relation to that Act of Parliament.

Sometimes—and I am very glad to find it, at least in Wales—there are authorities who get grants. The Ministry of Agriculture makes grants when the farming community is affected, and farming is at a great disadvantage if water supplies are not allowed. To what extent is the Minister of Agriculture helping these water supply schemes with grants? Are figures available either for England and Wales or separately for Wales?

Local authorities have plenty of faith, but faith without works is dead. What they need with the faith is a greater encouragement by the grants that are made available, particularly if the problem of depopulation is significant, as it is with us. Do the Government still agree with the former Minister for Welsh Affairs that consideration will be given to some of the authorities with a 1d. rate product in order to get decent water supplies and sewerage schemes, so that people may be attracted once again to the countryside?

7.43 p.m.

Mr. Roderic Bowen (Cardigan)

I rise to associate myself with the observations of the hon. Member for Brecon and Radnor (Mr. Watkins). The situation in his part of Wales is substantially the same as it is in mine. While I make no complaint about our hon. Friends from Cornwall and other parts of England pointing out their difficulties, it is certainly true that our difficulties in respect of both water supplies and sewerage are substantially greater than in any other part of England and Wales. If only for that reason, I welcome the Bill and hope that its application will do something further to improve matters in both these spheres.

I should like to associate myself with what the hon. Member for Brecon and Radnor had to say about information. I think we could be told quite specifically what has been done, what is being done at the moment and what we can expect in the immediate future. When I say "we," I refer not only to people in positions of public responsibility but to the public as a whole.

One of the great difficulties so far as local problems are concerned is that one can never really ascertain why an area is not supplied with water or why a certain sewerage scheme has not been put forward. The public is entitled to be enlightened in this respect. Not unnaturally, perhaps, the local authority throws the blame upon the Government and upon the Ministry involved the Ministry throws back the ball and then there is a situation when no one seems to know why nothing has been done about an acute problem. I believe that by trying to pinpoint the responsibility for lack of progress in any direction, we might help specifically in the solution of some of the actual difficulties

One particular difficulty, of course, is the question of finance. As far as local authorities in my area are concerned, the real bogy is not a lack of enthusiasm for promoting water or sewerage schemes. If local authorities carry out too many schemes, they find themselves in a very precarious financial position. One of the items which causes delay is the substantial time lag between the promotion of a scheme and notification to the local authority of the amount which the Treasury is to contribute.

I should like the Minister to see not only that the grants, when they do come, are very substantial indeed—for that is the real cause of the hold-up in all these schemes in rural areas in Wales—but that there is the least possible delay in informing local authorities of their position financially in relation to the schemes so far as grants are concerned.

Part of the trouble is due to a failure on the part of different local authorities to combine effectively to produce workable schemes. Wherever the fault lies, whether it is a question of finance, lack of co-operation or the holding up of smaller schemes because of the existence of a large regional scheme, we are entitled to know the exact reasons for a hold-up in any direction. The fact remains that this is one of the main features in connection with rural depopulation.

I am satisfied that until we can provide our rural areas with basic social services, we shall not be able to commence to combat the drift from the countryside. One particular aspect is obviously the provision of a decent, clean, wholesome water supply and, in conjunction with that, a sewerage scheme. Because I think that the Bill will do something in that regard, I welcome it. I hope that the funds which will be provided through the medium of the Bill will be distributed generously to those areas where the situation is particularly acute.

7.48 p.m.

Mr. J. E. B. Hill (Norfolk, South)

I support the Bill and I hope that the splendid rate of progress of the last few years will, as far as possible, be maintained in the light of the general economic situation. I say "splendid rate" because, certainly in my area, many schemes have gone ahead. The trouble, of course, is that as water is extended into the rural areas, the farms and parishes on the fringe not merely have their longing for water accentuated because it is so near to them, but they have inevitably taken steps in advance of the arrival of water mains to expand their production or recast their farm plans in the light of other legislative requirements.

The debate has tended to emphasise water from the amenity point of view. Clearly, in the countryside water is now something more than an amenity. It is fair to say that electricity and water supplies are regarded as necessities; and the hon. and learned Member for Cardigan (Mr. Bowen) connected them with the drift from the land. That is quite clear, for in the absence of water and, up to a point, electricity, housing in an area may be sterilised. Without an adequate water supply one cannot, for example, apply for a reconditioning grant. One will not get it.

It is essential, if the people are to live in the countryside, that the services should be provided which enable them to reach the standard of living to which their earnings entitle them. If there is not electricity and if there is not water, then, as I have found, people do not want to live in what otherwise is a perfectly satisfactory house, with a job near at hand.

Over and above the amenity side, water is the most vital raw material in food production. I would remind the House that not only in milk production, for example, is clean water essential. In dry areas, such as the one in which I live, unless there are assured supplies of water in drought years one cannot carry on that land the same weight of livestock as one may wish to carry, having regard to the rest of one's farm programme. Other agricultural requirements are always demanding more and more water to be readily available—the development of crop spraying, and the growth, at any rate in eastern England, of irrigation. It will pay a farmer who has a valuable and small crop to buy water at a very great price in times of drought. It may be worth buying water at 3s. per 1,000 gallons, at a cost of £4 in water, to put an inch of water on an acre of land.

The supply of water in the rather drought-bound areas is not only vital to keep the population there, and to stop them drifting away to the towns, but is fundamental to the food production programme over the years. Therefore, I very much hope that in considering the impetus which can be given to rural water schemes and their expansion the Government will bear in mind the fact that water is a fundamental requirement for all other aspects of agricultural development, and that an assured supply of water is the key to the problem.

I believe that, along with electricity, the spread of water schemes is a most valuable way of investing capital in our agriculture and land. If over the next few years we can build a wide network of farm water supplies, then whatever form our agriculture in future may take, whatever changes science may induce in our ideas about the rotation of crops and so forth, we shall be able to take advantage of them, having the fundamental requirement of a nation-wide water supply.

As the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Belper (Mr. G. Brown) pointed out, interest rates have risen, but I myself do not see the dilemma with which he finds himself faced. This Bill provides a sum out of which, if the local authorities see fit to promote schemes, a grant is available. Nevertheless, higher interest rates make local authorities choose carefully, and they pose to them the question, "Is this water scheme really necessary now, or can we defer it perhaps for a year or two until the rates go down?" It is a function, as I understand it, of monetary policy to induce such forethought.

When we consider the progress we should make, the rate of it, or the slowing up that there may have to be, I hope that the Government will weigh the alternatives which are related. The hon. Member for Brecon and Radnor (Mr. Watkins) referred to river boards. I feel that capital expenditure available to the countryside should be concentrated upon positive action such as the spread of water. Perhaps it may be possible to accept some slowing up of such projects as the improvement in the standards of pollution by compelling the replacement of obsolete sewerage plant, and so on. I know from my own experience that that difficulty tends to arise when the river boards enforce their anti-pollution policies.

It may well be that it would be better to postpone that upgrading of pollution standards, and not to slow up the spread of the more positive action, the provision of rural water supplies. I should like to feel that all water supply and sewerage schemes and river boards' policies are related and surveyed as a whole, and that any slowing up that may be necessary will be concentrated upon the Flowing up of the amenities that we may like in a year or two, but not upon the necessities of today and tomorrow.

There are many areas, parishes, farms which are awaiting water supplies, which have their plans for expansion, from which we are looking for a saving in imports of food from abroad, and so on. However, I do not want to deal with that now. I want merely to emphasise that water supplies have this productive aspect as well as the amenity one.

7.57 p.m.

Mr. F. H. Hayman (Falmouth and Camborne)

I should like to support the hon. Member for Norfolk, South (Mr. J. E. B. Hill) in his appeal to the Minister that there should be no slowing down of the rate of progress with these rural water supply and sewerage schemes, though I feel that the hon. Member is a little optimistic in expecting that there will not be. The Minister has said that this Bill will mean an additional £30 million for England and Wales and £10 million for Scotland. I, too, should like to know what proportion of this additional £40 million is earmarked to meet the increased interest charges which were introduced about six or eight months ago. I think the Minister at that time told us that it would mean, over 30 years, an increase of about 70 per cent. in the Government contribution towards borrowing money, instead of their making it by way of annual capital grants for schemes -in a particular financial year.

I would draw the Minister's attention to a resolution passed by the Cornish branch of the Rural District Councils' Association towards the end of July. It deplored the increased interest charges, which, it felt, would slow down the progress of these improvement schemes. Since then there has been at least one increase—if not two increases—in the interest rates. The hon. Member for Cornwall, North (Sir H. Roper) referred to the big De Lank scheme for Cornwall. If the Ministry would provide most of the money for the grandiose De Lank scheme I, too, would put up both hands in favour of it, but I recall that some years ago, when the scheme was mooted, it depended on a contribution of 2s. 6d. from the rates of Camborne-Redruth, in my constituency.

I think that the scheme overlooked the fact that in West Cornwall we have ample water for our own needs. So much is that the case that two local authorities in my constituency, the Camborne-Redruth Urban District Council and the Kerrier Rural District Council, have put up a joint proposal to the Ministry for a scheme based on a reservoir at Stithians which would supply the increased needs of an urban district of something over 35,000 population and 22,500 acres for a long time to come, and indeed for the foreseeable future.

I have told the House many times that at Stithians we have a village school of about 130 children where the sanitation is abominable. It cannot be remedied by the local authority because a water supply is needed, although there is ample water in the parish. The local education authority must wait for a public water supply before it can be introduced into the school, and then be followed by a sewerage scheme.

Ten days ago a public meeting was called at the village of St. Day which is in the urban district of Camborne—Redruth. I was asked to attend. It was a very full meeting, and I have in my hand a weekly newspaper's report occupying two columns. The meeting evoked widespread interest. The people of the community are demanding that they should be supplied in the near future with a proper water supply and a sewerage scheme. The chairman of the meeting said that the village of St. Day had been in existence for a thousand years. It stands in the middle of what was a couple of centuries ago the copper belt of Europe. We are sorry to know that the right hon. Member for Torquay (Mr. C. Williams) is seriously ill and cannot be with us tonight. His forebears were very closely connected with the running of the copper mines in that locality.

A sewerage scheme has already been prepared for the village of St. Day and adjoining villages of Lanner and Carharrack which will cost £250,000. The rateable value of that ward of the urban district is £8,200. Therefore, the financing of this scheme by the ward alone would involve a rate of £2 in the £, whilst for the urban district as a whole it would mean a rate of 2s. 6d. in the £. In addition we need reinforcements of our water supply in the urban district—the Stithians scheme, which would involve an expenditure of £360,000.

The village of St. Day had to rely until four or five years ago on water retailed at 1d. a bucket. Then the urban district thought that it would do the best it could to provide a public supply. It did so but the resources of water are so inadequate that for the greater part of the day, particularly in the summer months, housewives are unable to obtain any water in their houses. They were very vocal about it, and I do not blame them.

No council houses have ever been built in the villages of St. Day and Carharrack. They cannot be built until there is a proper water supply and a sewerage scheme. They are compact villages with a vitality and a life of their own. They ought to be permitted to continue, but they will decay absolutely unless we can obtain these modern amenities.

I inquired of the sanitary inspector for the urban district how sanitation was managed in these villages, which are very closely built. He told me that no fewer than 260 sanitary buckets have to be emptied every week by the sanitation staff. I leave it to the imagination of hon. Members as to how long men will be available and will be found ready to undertake this most distasteful task. The time will come shortly when people will simply refuse to do it.

We cannot face the huge expenditure involved in providing these modern amenities unless there are substantial Government grants. Grants of 60 per cent. have been mentioned in the case of Scotland. We in Cornwall live in rural localities which in many cases are widely dispersed, particularly in the district of Camborne and Redruth. We must have some help. In the course of a Second Reading debate last February I drew the attention of the Minister to the fact that we ought to benefit by definition of "rural locality." I hope that if representatives of the urban district ask to see the Minister soon about implementing these schemes he will appreciate the real difficulties with which we have to contend, and will give us generous grants along these lines.

8.8 p.m.

The Joint Under-Secretary of State for Scotland (Mr. J. Nixon Browne)

I should like to say a few words about Scotland.

Mr. G. Brown

Is this the winding-up speech?

Mr. Browne

No, Sir. As my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Housing and Local Govern- ment has already said, the object of the Bill is to increase from a total of £20 million to £30 million the amount of Exchequer grant that can be paid to Scottish local authorities for water supply, sewerage and sewage disposal in rural areas. The Bill is probably the penultimate step in the completion of Scotland's rural water and drainage needs. The original Rural Water Supplies and Sewerage Act granted £6.375 million. This was increased in the Water (Scotland) Act, 1949 to £20 million, and now by this Bill the cash amount available is raised to £30 million.

Mr. G. Brown

The Minister has already told us that.

Mr. Browne

Of the £20 million already available, £17 million has actually been spent or pledged, and of this £6½ million has actually been paid out, but in order to preserve continuity of work it is now necessary to increase the total amount of grant available. The additional £10 million now sought for Scotland under the Bill is estimated to be sufficient for promises of grant to be made over five or six years.

Substantial progress has been made in providing rural water supplies and drainage in Scotland. Up to 30th September, 1955, schemes had been completed costing the Exchequer and the authorities together about £7.7 million, divided as to £6 million for water and £1.7 million for drainage.

Mr. G. Brown

We have been given those figures, too. This is repetition.

Mr. Browne

It does no harm to give them. I want to get them on record. Scotland is an important country.

At that date, schemes not yet complete were in progress estimated to cost in all about £16 million, on which work to the value of £8 million had been done. The total value of work done in Scotland, therefore, since the war is close on £16 million, that is £12½ million for water and nearly £3½ million for drainage. Another £8 million will have to be spent to complete the schemes. At present we are carrying out about £3½ million of work on water supplies and drainage schemes in Scotland every year.

Mr. G. Brown

The same figures again.

Mr. Browne

They are not entirely the same. I am giving many more figures than were given by my hon. Friend.

It will interest the House to know that of the 349 grant-aided schemes undertaken since the war and now producing water supplies, not one has been reported to the Department of Health as having failed in the severe test of adequacy which the drought of this year has imposed. The situation has been different, however, elsewhere.

Probably the worst example occurred in the Easter Ross and Black Isle district of Ross-shire. My hon. Friend the Member for Ross and Cromarty (Mr. John MacLeod) has actively brought the position in this district to the notice of the Government. Farmers have had to carry water at a time when all possible labour was needed for the harvest, and in particular they have been drawing water from the River Conon at Conon Bridge. In addition, the county council has installed in the Black Isle area eight tanks which it has kept filled from the Muir of Ord supply.

Clearly, these are makeshift arrangements, and a solution must be found in the regional water scheme based on Loch Glass, on which today about £320,000 has already been spent. Naturally enough, the county council and my hon. Friend wish to accelerate progress, and my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State, who must, of course, hold the balance between the various local authorities so far as grant is concerned, is most anxious to do what he can to help. The county council has asked to be received in deputation about this scheme, and my right hon. Friend the Minister of State is arranging to meet representatives of the council and of the local branch of the National Farmers' Union at an early date, when the whole problem of the district will be discussed.

The right hon. Member for Belper (Mr. G. Brown) spoke of the rate of grant in Scotland, which he compared with 30 per cent. in England. The average grant in Scotland is 60 per cent., individual rates varying between 15 per cent. and 85 per cent. There are three reasons for that.

First, we have a lower density of population in the rural areas, which means longer mains. The second is the geological reason. We have almost no underground water supplies in Scotland, and must rely on surface water brought often from very considerable distances from the hills. The third reason is that the figures are not truly comparable.

In England, as the right hon. Gentleman knows, the local authority receives grants from the Exchequer and the county council, so that the cost is split three ways. In Scotland, the county council does the work, so the cost is split two ways between the county and the Exchequer.

Mr. G. Brown

I understood that the hon. Gentleman was not, in fact, replying to the debate, but now I gather that he is engaged very largely in replying to me. I did not criticise the grants in Scotland. I specifically said that I was quite happy if they were getting 60 per cent. I asked what was the justification for us getting less than 60 per cent. in England. Some of the things enumerated in his reply by the hon. Gentleman in relation to Scotland—except for the three-way split—apply also to England. If the hon. Gentleman is charged with replying to me, is he saying that we could not have a rate of grant of 60 per cent. in England because that would mean less for Scotland? If he is not saying that, what does it matter to him in Scotland what rate of grant we have in England and Wales? Should he not leave that particular fight to us down here?

Mr. Browne

I should hesitate to speak for England just as much as the right hon. Gentleman opposite would to speak in this House for Scotland. The geological reason is the important reason why it costs more to produce water in Scotland than it does in England. I think that answer is entirely satisfactory, and it is also geologically correct.

To sum up, we are making steady pro-press. Our work is well under way in Scotland, and it has been done well. There is still much to do, and we need this Bill to help us to cope with the task ahead.

Mr. William Ross (Kilmarnock)

May I ask the hon. Gentleman if there is any contemplated change in the rate of grant in Scotland, and if he will make clear what he meant when he said that the rate varies but the average is 60 per cent.?

Mr. Browne

I do not know what the hon. Gentleman means by a contemplated change of rate. There is no immediate contemplated change of rate in the approval of schemes. We shall have to see how we go, but this extra £10 million will allow us to approve schemes in theory, as we are doing now. The hon. Gentleman's other question was about grants. The rate is not 60 per cent.; it varies, as I said, between 15 and 85 per cent., and it is based largely on the weight that is put on the local ratepayers. Every factor is taken into consideration, and there is fairness as between one local authority and another.

Mr. Watkins

What kind of authority gets the 85 per cent. in Scotland?

Mr. Browne

The authority that needs it most.

8.17 p.m.

Mr. Sidney Dye (Norfolk, South-West)

The contributions to this debate so far seem to have come from hon. Members representing the extreme parts of the country—north, south, east and west—and the one contribution that has so far come from Norfolk, that by the hon. Member for Norfolk, South (Mr. J. E. B. Hill), was addressed very largely to the need of agriculture for a piped water supply to increase production and to meet the requirements on the farms.

The experience of the hon. Gentleman in public life has, I believe, very largely been concerned with getting water out of the country into the rivers and to the sea as quickly as possible. I have spent the greater part of my public life in trying to bring water to rural districts, villages and farms, and I want to make some criticisms, not only of the speech of the Minister but of the Bill itself, from my experience, covering more than twenty years, of administration by county and district councils.

We are now speaking under a shadow, which was indicated by the hon. Gentleman himself when he said that the programme for 1956–57 will be subject to wider considerations. I thought that contradicted his estimate of the progress that we were likely to make in the next five years, for, after all, he said that the estimated expenditure for the current year was at the rate of £17 million on water and sewerage schemes, and the amount provided for the next five years was at about that rate.

Yet the hon. Gentleman said that he could not make any statement with regard to the programme for 1956–57 because of the wider considerations, these no doubt being the clamour that is going round the country for a reduction in Government expenditure. If the intention of the Government appears to be an all-round cut in the social services, and particularly in developments in rural England, our rate of progress will be slowed down.

This is the wrong time to slow down the rate of development of water supply and sewerage schemes in the countryside. There is one urgent reason why we should not do so. It was brought to my notice as a member of Norfolk County Council, when I found that Norfolk would be required to receive in organised parties no less than 100,000 evacuees from the big cities in the event of the outbreak of hostilities. That would mean that people would be brought from London, or from the Midland cities, and sent to rural villages, without adequate water or sewerage arrangements.

If we are to face up to our obligations in Civil Defence, we may have to put into operation schemes for the evacuation of our big cities within the next few years. I should have thought that we would be asked to speed up the arrangements for providing water and sewerage facilities in these areas. We are told by those in charge of military arrangements that we must not allow the present talks to lead us to ease our arrangements for Civil Defence, or for any other defence matter.

What discussions have taken place between the Ministry of Agriculture, the Ministry of Housing and Local Government and the Home Office about the arrangements which will be made for evacuation in the event of an emergency? If great numbers of people are suddenly to be deposited in the country, will there be the means of maintaining them in health and decency? Has there been any communication between the Home Office and the Ministry of Agriculture to see that the two are working hand in hand in the arrangements for the evacuation from cities to the country and the provision of essential means for looking after those people? If Civil Defence is important and urgent, then that is an aspect which should receive immediate attention.

Another matter which has already been mentioned is that of the flight of people from the land to the towns which, at present, is more rapid than at any time in recent years and which is denuding the countryside of labour, because of the lack of essential amenities such as water, sewerage and electricity. I was interested in listening to "The Archers" last night when Dan Archer was interviewing a prospective employee. After the interview he went in and Doris asked him how he had been getting on. He said, "It used to be that the women would follow the men wherever they went to work, but he has gone home to ask him wife whether he can come."

That is an indication of the present position, which is that unless amenities are provided for the wife and family a man essentially needed in agriculture if we are to maintain, let alone increase, our production will not be retained. In the light of these problems—getting men on the land and the prospect of being asked in the event of hostilities, even perhaps before they break out, to receive large numbers of people from the big cities—there should be no doubt whatever about whether we should reduce the rate of progress; rather should we speed it up.

The problem can be viewed from the position of people living in the villages. We have begun the job. Some are getting the advantages of piped water and sewerage as well as electricity. Others are not getting it and so the farmers in villages which have not got these advantages are losing their men. They are finding a bigger problem than those in areas where schemes have been carried out. There is also the position of council house estates. They now have piped water from a local well, bore, or other local source, or have it brought in from a distance and they also have sewerage facilities. Very often in the same village one finds council houses with local sewerage arrangements which are polluting other people's wells and causing a nuisance. So there is a need for each village to be fully supplied with these facilities so that there is not one half of a village with the amenities while the other half is without them, but still contributing rates for those people with the facilities.

We cannot stop where we are now in fairness to the whole population. We must have this programme of rural development carried through in the interest of the nation and in the interest of fairness to the people, for, because of our financial system, those without the amenities have to contribute towards the cost of them for the benefit of those who have them. In many of our localities we have some very crude arrangements. In fact, just recently two letters came to me, one from Lancashire, from a person who had been staying in the village of Brisley in Norfolk. Commenting on the various amenities, the writer says: As for the sanitary arrangements, these are shocking. I met a lady from London who has no running water; no electric light or gas; no radio, and the toilet is a large pail. This is only emptied once a fortnight. This in our England. I think the local authorities need to be shaken up a bit, and even if they have not the money the Government should loan it to them in these parts. Then from another person—who again probably came from some other part of the country—who is now married to a United States airman and is living in this village of Brisley, I received a letter in which she writes: … we are living at the above address. I am writing to ask you if you can do something regarding this part of England. We are ourselves pretty well off with regards to some people here, but even so our water from the well is not fit to drink and my husband has to carry water in a jar from the Base. Most people have no running water, no toilets, no light, and what hits most is there is no daily bus service. As I say, we cannot have some villages with these modern amenities and others without them. People living in villages without these amenities, particularly farmers, cannot be expected to carry on against the competition for labour which exists. To my mind, and I think to the mind of every clear thinking person, from a national point of view there should be no doubt whatever about whether we are to go forward, or whether this cry for economy in national expenditure should put this development in jeopardy. I hope that the hon. Gentleman, if he cannot say more than he has already said—and I thought his speech very disappointing—will, with the Minister, use all his powers to fight the Chancellor, and within the Government, for these water and sewerage services to be stepped up rather than curtailed.

It is the fact that all councils dealing with these matters are wondering what to do. They could, perhaps, have met the financial cost with the aid of grants in the days when interest rates were low. But now that interest rates are at their present level these councils are wondering whether they should proceed. No doubt tomorrow, in his speech, the Chancellor will indicate what is to be done, or should be done.

Though there are black spots in Norfolk and probably one of the darkest is in the area to which I have referred, the village of Brisley, which is in the Mitford and Launditch rural district, there are places where considerable headway has been made. At the end of the war a number of rural districts had no piped water supply at all. But working hand in hand with the Ministry, the councils have now completed their schemes and every village has a piped water supply. In four villages sewerage works have been completed, or are being constructed, and other schemes are in various stages of planning, so that we are making progress which I should not like to see retarded.

Arising out of our experience, we must ask ourselves whether the money being devoted to this purpose is being used to the best advantage. In the early days we came up against two difficulties. The first was that the Ministry advised big regional water schemes, but we found them rather impracticable. We have developed local supplies, confined in some cases to one or two villages or to a small group. By that method it is possible to get water more quickly and cheaply to a greater population.

The other difficulty which we experienced with regard to sewerage schemes was that we had to engage the services of consulting engineers whose offices were usually in London. Their previous experience had been with large city sewerage works or large-scale schemes for towns or, during the war, with schemes for the Air Ministry or the Army to meet the needs of expanding camps or airfields. When these people came to plan village sewerage schemes they had big ideas. We found those ideas very impracticable. They would use the money too quickly. Their return being based on a percentage of the total expenditure there was no encouragement whatsoever for the consulting engineers to be economical.

I have, in fact, seen schemes which have been based on maps, with long lines of sewers being laid along roads where the existing houses had been condemned. In one village I have seen a sewer laid 10 ft. in the ground which, to my know ledge, will never have a connection because there are not many houses along that street, and those people who are there will never go to the expense of connecting with the main sewer.

We have, therefore, used the ability of our local council officials in Norfolk to devise sewerage schemes on a more economical basis. Instead of taking as an example what has been done for the large towns we have taken what was done for the large country houses and have developed that system for a whole village. We have found that successful from both the technical and the economic aspects. A scheme that is working in the village of Sporle, where I live, has been under close observation. They have tested the effluent from the sewerage works. The water produced by this new and modified system has proved better than samples taken from wells, the water from which is still being used for human consumption in a neighbouring village.

To make the best use of the money devoted to this purpose there is no need to go into the question of the best method of sewerage works and the levels of the sewers. These people from the towns have the idea that one should cut through hills or little rises at great depths and at great cost, whereas we have found it very much cheaper to keep the sewers shallow and, if necessary, do some pumping rather than to incur the enormous capital cost of deep-laid sewers. I therefore believe that in reconsidering the working of the Bill we should probe fairly deeply into our methods and into the question of economy and efficiency.

The size of the grants is a matter which is now causing a great deal of worry. We are, in fact, getting it from both barrels from the Government at present. Every scheme now being submitted from Norfolk is getting a smaller percentage grant than was the case two, three or four years ago. We are getting the increased cost in the rate of interest on the loan and getting a smaller percentage grant to meet that cost. That ought not to have been necessary. The Government ought to have been in a position to see that the money was made available.

The great problem with which we are faced in many villages is essentially one of planning. Very often groups of council houses have been built outside a village and then connected with the village and with other scattered parts for sewerage purposes, which is very costly. What is needed is for each village to be planned before any new houses are built, and for the houses which are then to be built to be placed upon the line of the sewer.

This is an urgent matter, because the councils are proceeding with house building and are often causing a greater problem both in regard to the supply of water and dealing with sewage. I hope that the Ministry will give more consideration to the planning of sewerage, water and housing schemes. If we can rebuild upon the old sites in the village instead of developing new ones outside, the costs of these services will be very much cheaper than if the village is allowed to straggle out into the country.

8.41 p.m.

Mr. G. B. Drayson (Skipton)

It is most appropriate that on the day that Parliament has reassembled after a long Summer Recess we should be discussing this Bill, because the very splendid summer that we have enjoyed has in many cases shown up the inadequacies of local water supplies in some of our towns and villages. During the Summer Recess I had cause to be in communication with the Minister about the supply in Malhamdale, especially in regard to the town of Kirkby Malham, where the inhabitants were relying upon a village tap which was operating only for half an hour or so every day.

Not only did the farmers in Malhamdale lose milk, owing to their inability to cool it due to the lack of water; in the industrial towns of Barnoldswick and Earby the people may even now be rationed because of the inadequate water supply. It is rather galling to those who live in the Yorkshire dales to think that although they are the main source of supply to the cities of Leeds and Bradford, from the rivers and moorland becks, they themselves have not an adequate supply of water.

I should like to take this opportunity of mentioning the importance of sewerage. The parish councils of Buckden and Draughton have been writing to me for some time in this connection, and I hope that the additional money being made available for these schemes will be devoted by the appropriate rural councils to schemes in these areas. In fact, I understand that Draughton is included in a large water scheme promoted by the Skipton Rural District Council, and it may be that there has been a delay because of the inadequacy of the Government grant. I hope that this Measure will make it easier for the council to go ahead with its plans.

I hope that the Minister will speed up his decisions when local authorities ask for Ministerial approval of their proposals. I am satisfied that a great deal of the inconvenience which has been caused to my constituents during this very dry summer would have been avoided if approval of their schemes had been given rather earlier than it was. I welcome the Bill, which I believe comes at a most appropriate time, and I hope that local authorities, especially those in my own area, will take full advantage of it.

8.45 p.m.

Mr. G. R. Howard (St. Ives)

First I should like to thank my hon. Friend and his Ministry for the extremely helpful way in which they came to our assistance in a vexed local water supply problem during the Recess. I am most grateful, and I can speak for many others in that respect.

Secondly, in considering the wider aspects, to which my hon. Friend referred, I hope that there will be no question of curtailing this work.

Mr. G. Brown

What a hope!

Mr. Howard

I hope that there will be no question of curtailing the provision of water in rural areas. Every day we are told of the importance of the export market. Tied up with that is tourism, and what will people say if they go to a part of the country and find that there is no water? That should be borne in mind, apart from the agricultural needs. The Government are constantly urging people to get T.T. attested herds, and yet there is no water to enable them to do so.

I hope my hon. and right hon. Friend will do everything they can to impress this need upon the Chancellor. Although there may be savings in other directions, pray Heaven there will be no saving in the provision of water, which is a vital necessity to us in west Cornwall.

8.47 p.m.

Mr. Thomas Fraser (Hamilton)

We have had a useful debate, except that it had to be knocked about a little because the Joint Under-Secretary of State for Scotland felt obliged to come into the middle of the debate to explain the provisions of the Bill and the need for the Bill in Scotland. I hope that the hon. Gentleman will accept this in the spirit in which it is offered: the fact that he had to interrupt the debate as he did to make a speech which, he will agree, did not fit into the debate up to that point, is evidence that it was a mistake to have the one Bill for two countries.

We are amending the Scottish Act of 1949 and the English Act of 1951, and it would have been better if we had had two separate Bills. If we could not have two separate Bills, then my right hon. Friend the Member for Belper (Mr. G. Brown) is right and we might have had a little organisation on the Government Front Bench so that one Minister could have opened the debate and the other could have replied to it.

When we discuss rural water supplies and sewerage we are impelled to think about the provision of hygienic living conditions and improved amenities in the countryside. The point which has struck me most forcibly in recent years in my peregrinations about rural Scotland is this: since the public enterprise electricity authorities were established, a great transformation has taken place in the provision of electricity. No one believes for a moment that we should have had the rural electrification which we have at present had we not nationalised electricity. When we ask people in the rural areas what they think of rural electrification, since they have joined the grid, they say, "It is wonderful, but first things first; we should first have had water." That is what they say over and over again.

It is true that since 1944 a real effort has been made to provide rural water supplies. The Joint Unler-Secretary of State said the first Act was in 1944. In fact, it was in 1934. The hon. Member for Skipton (Mr. Drayson), who did not hear any of the debate, came into the Chamber a quarter of an hour ago, made a speech and disappeared. He said that this was a most appropriate time to have the Bill, after the drought of the summer, and suggested that it was evidence that the Government intended to see that there was no repetition of the drought.

The 1934 Act was introduced after there had been a public outcry following a severe drought in 1933. Under that Act we in Scotland were given £137,500. By 1944 the money had not been spent. That lends weight to what my right hon. Friend the Member for Belper said; it is one thing for Parliament to approve the passage of a Bill providing for the expenditure of public money but quite another thing for the Government to see that the money is spent and the work done. The work was not done in the late 1930s, even to spend £137,000 in Scotland, and now we are talking in terms of £30 million. The increase in Scotland is from £20 million to £30 million.

I thought there was a little inconsistency in the speech of the Joint-Under Secretary of State for Scotland. Perhaps he will correct me if I am wrong. He repeated what the Parliamentary Secretary said about the value of the schemes that had been completed to date and the schemes in progress—water supplies £6 million completed and in progress £13 million, sewerage £1.7 million completed and £3 million in progress, a total of £23.7 million completed and in progress. The Joint Under-Secretary also said that £17 million was spent or pledged. The £17 million is neither the £23.7 million nor is it 60 per cent. of the £23.7 million. The Joint Under-Secretary said that on average the Government contribution to those schemes was 60 per cent. in Scotland. I do not know what the £17 million is. It is neither the total sum, nor is it 60 per cent. of the total sum. I think it would be difficult to reconcile the figures offered by the Joint Under-Secretary.

I wonder whether the Joint Under-Secretary can tell us whether the additional money in Scotland will carry Scotland over the next five years, and whether it is expected that by the end of that time Scotland will be adequately covered by rural water supplies and sewerage schemes. That may be asking a lot, but I remember that in 1949, before the Measure of that year was introduced, a survey was made and it was calculated—perhaps wrongly—that the expenditure on rural water supplies and sewerage at the costs at that time would be about £40 million. That amount would do the lot. It would provide rural water supplies and sewerage schemes everywhere. Of course, there would be the odd shepherd's cottage in the hills which would be difficult to include, but every village and hamlet was to be joined up. It was assumed at that time that, taking the schemes overall, the average contribution from the Government funds would be 50 per cent., and that is why the Measure provided for Government grants amounting in total to £20 million.

Is it expected now that this £30 million—that is, this additional £10 million and the then sum of £20 million—will do the same work as was expected to be done for £20 million in 1949, or will the amount now be £60 million, in place of the £40 million that we estimated in 1949 would do the whole job in Scotland? Of course, one must bear in mind that the average rate of grant is worked out not at 50 per cent. but at 60 per cent. Can we have an explanation of what effect the higher interest rates will have? That is what we have not been told yet. An hon. Member opposite said that that could be left out of account because it did not matter. I should have thought that it matters very much indeed.

We had an Act of Parliament a few months ago which provided that instead of the Government making a capital grant towards the cost of the schemes, the Government would make a contribution in instalments over a period of thirty years. The Joint Under-Secretary of State said that rural water supplies and sewerage schemes are running at about £3,500,000 a year. With schemes costing £3,500,000 a year, if instead of paying for them out of capital we make the contributions over a period of thirty years and we have to pay 5 per cent. interest—that is before we hear what the Chancellor says tomorrow—then, of course, the £3,500,000 of work will cost rather more than double that amount of money at the end of the day. We wonder whether or not any part of this additional money is necessary to meet that additional burden.

It is not very clear, when one studies the Act which we passed a few months ago, whether the provisions of that Act will take care of the additional cost which will fall upon the Exchequer, not to speak of the local authorities, of having to fund those schemes over a period of thirty years.

The Joint Under-Secretary of State for Scotland and the Parliamentary Secretary both gave me the impression in a nod, half a minute ago, that not a penny of this money would be taken away in higher interest rates. I sincerely hope that is so. I hope that the Parliamentary Secretary will put that on record when he replies to the debate, and will explain in what way higher interest rates will not take a penny of this additional money.

The Joint Under-Secretary was good enough to explain that in Scotland the rate of grant varies from 15 per cent. to 85 per cent., and he suggested, but no more than suggested, that there was not any change contemplated. But during the speech of my right hon. Friend the Member for Belper, one of his hon. Friends, who was then in the Chamber but has not been in it since. intervened to say that it was now 28 per cent., not 60 per cent. Had he any reason for saying that, or was he merely thinking of a scheme in his own constituency, or was it that he had been given some advice from the Member or the office that a change was contemplated? I understand from the Joint Under-Secretary that he was not given any advice at all and that he was speaking quite irresponsibly.

Mr. G. Brown

Who, the Joint Under-Secretary?

Mr. Fraser

The Joint Under-Secretary if one likes, but I was really referring to the hon. and gallant Member for South Angus (Captain Duncan).

The Joint Under-Secretary also explained why schemes were more costly in Scotland. I gathered from the speeches that we have listened to in the Chamber this evening that hon. Gentlemen who have small towns in their constituencies believe that the provision of the Bill will help them to get water supplies in these small towns. This Bill does not at all help the position of water supplies in small towns in Scotland, and I am wondering whether the term "rural area" is differently interpreted in the two countries.

I speak subject to correction, but my recollection is that in Scotland a community of fewer than 2,000 is a rural area and a community of more than 2,000 is not a rural area. The provision of supplies of either water or sewerage to a community of more than 2,000 in Scotland would not get any grant at all, and I am wondering whether the same rule applies south of the Border. If there is a different interpretation of what is a rural area one can well understand that there is quite a difference in the average rate of grant paid in respect of water supplies and sewerage schemes.

It was pleasing to hear that more progress is now being made with the provision of sewerage. I know that people who do not have a piped water supply think only of the need for such a supply, but no sooner do they have a piped water supply than they want sewerage. How often have I had people say to me, "We have no modern sanitation in this community." They are inclined to think that they are the only people in the world who do not have it. People nowadays take for granted the provision of this service, which is essential to hygiene and proper, decent living in the second half of the twentieth century.

I hope that the Government will give every encouragement to authorities in the rural areas to provide not only water supplies but sewerage schemes. I hope that Ministers will do their utmost—irrespective of economies the Chancellor may feel obliged to impose upon his colleagues in the Government and on local authorities—to ensure that there is no slowing up of the provision of water supplies and sewerage.

9.1 p.m.

Mr. Deedes

I speak again by leave of the House.

I hope the debate which has taken the last two hours has answered at least the first of the six questions which the right hon. Member for Belper (Mr. G. Brown) addressed to me. I was surprised that he should do so, but he expressed doubt as to the policy of coming forward with instalments. We think it is rather a good thing that the House from time to time should be given a chance to review progress made in this matter. In fact it has always been the practice to ask for allocations for several years ahead and, when those are spent, to come back and ask for more. I am sure that on reflection the right hon. Member will agree that that is how it should be done. I hope he will further agree that the very helpful, constructive and useful debate which we have had justifies that policy. So much for the first question.

The right hon. Member asked why we did not introduce this Bill eight months ago, when we did not need the money as we do now. I would remind him that his humorous and widely inaccurate account of what happened before that has no relation to facts, and that on that occasion I gave him ample warning that we should be reappearing about this time to ask for the money for which we are asking today. He went on to seek to draw from me something more on the wider implications of the capital expenditure involved. When we last debated water supplies the right hon. Member made a reference to his being a member of the Parliamentary Secretaries' union. As an old member of that union, I am sure he knows that it is vain to try to draw from me, on the eve of the Budget, statements of wide financial implication on capital expenditure and so on.

I have no intention of being drawn further into that aspect than the remarks I made earlier today, which were prepared with certain care in view of the likelihood of the right hon. Member making a point of it. We have given the figure which we hope to spend between now and 1st April, 1956, the figure of £17 million, which is the highest total on record and about £3 million more than last year. I have said that schemes which are regarded by local authorities and by my right hon. Friend as urgent will be met up to that total and that any scheme which we have already promised to authorise this year will be allowed to proceed. May I stress this to hon. Members who have expressed concern on the point. That looks after and puts on the highest level expenditure between now and next April.

Mr. G. Brown

The hon. Gentleman introduced this point in his opening speech. He has the money to provide for expenditure up to April next year and, therefore, this Bill is not required for what he is now saying. He is telling us that what has been promised to be authorised, or is regarded jointly by the Minister and local authorities as urgent, up to £17 million, up to next April, will go through. He is not telling us whether anything will go through beyond that date, yet this Bill is to provide money beyond that date. Therefore, one is bound to ask him—and he must not be too coy, as he has introduced this question—what brakes are to be applied on the use of the money provided under the Bill.

Mr. Deedes

The right hon. Gentleman knows quite well that regardless of whether there is to be a Budget tomorrow, expenditure of this sort must be approved annually. It would be quite vain for me to forecast here what the expenditure will be for the financial year 1956–57. All I have stated is what we shall spend between now and next April. At that rate of progress, the money now being voted will last us for the five years.

The right hon. Gentleman and other hon. Members asked about the cost of doing the whole job. Perhaps at this point I might make as clear as I can the financial implications of the earlier arrangements that were reached in the previous Bill for the payment of instalments in relation to the £40 million and also the effect of the higher rate of interest, in respect of which one or two hon. Members have asked questions. The instalment system will not reduce what is spent out of the £40 million; it will not touch that sum which is now being voted. Only the capital sum—I stressed this in moving the previous Bill—will continue to count against the permitted total of £40 million.

This £40 million, converted into instalment grants, becomes, on the current 5 per cent. rate of interest, £2.588 million per annum for 30 years or, in all, £77.7 million. At 3¾ per cent., the £40 million would have become £66.96 million, and at 4 per cent., £69 million. I hope that, with a little fairly simple arithmetic, hon. Members can deduce from that the answer they sought as to the effect of the rate of interest and the policy of payment by instalment introduced by the earlier Bill.

Mr. T. Fraser

The Parliamentary Secretary has shown that at the 5 per cent. rate of interest, the £40 million will really cost the Chancellor of the Exchequer £77 million, which represents an extra £37 million, but eight months ago he and the Government—indeed, it was in the Financial Resolution of the Bill—said that the cost to the Exchequer was £19 million.

Mr. Deedes

The hon. Member is confusing another figure. I have given a fairly straightforward answer on the question—

Mr. Fraser

Oh, no.

Mr. Deedes

—of the additional cost of the higher rate of interest and the payment by instalments. I do not want to go over again ground which, the right hon. Gentleman will agree, we covered fully on the question of payment by instalments on the earlier Bill.

Mr. G. Brown

The Parliamentary Secretary is not treating my hon. Friend fairly. I am not good at figures and my hon. Friend must be responsible for those he has worked out. He says that, taking the figure which the Parliamentary Secretary has now produced, the cost at the 5 per cent. rate of interest on the instalment plan involves an additional £37 million over and above the £40 million now being voted. By the previous Bill, we voted £19 million for England and Wales and, I think, £8 million for Scotland, a total of £27 million. Therefore, there is £10 million which is not so voted. That £10 million, therefore, will either come wholly from the ratepayers, being un-grant-aided, or will come out of the £40 million, which would leave only £30 million. That is the point of my hon. Friend's interjection. If the Parliamentary Secretary does not dispute these figures, he is surely left to accept that we were right in saying that £10 million would come out of the £40 million now being voted, which ought to be added to the price of supplying the water.

Mr. Deedes

I am sorry if I misunderstood the right hon. Gentleman. Obviously, when discussing the instalment system on the earlier Bill, we were not in a position to consider the effect on the £40 million which is under discussion today. The figure which I have given of £40 million, which at the end of thirty years becomes £77.7 million, must be a new figure. Any figure which I gave during our earlier proceedings would have related to the money then under discussion.

Mr. G. Brown

But more money is wanted now.

Mr. Deedes

We certainly would want more money. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman is not confusing what I said during the earlier debate about the sum then under consideration with what I have said about today's sum of £40 million.

Mr. Hayman

The hon. Gentleman, I think, will recall that on the Second Reading of the previous Bill he said that the new interest charge which the Exchequer would have to bear because of the instalment system was about 66 per cent. By the time of the Report stage there had been an increase in the rates of interest and he put the figure at about 72 per cent. The hon. Gentleman said just now that we should have £40 million in capital grants and an additional £37 million interest. I take it that that additional charge will be no less than 92½ per cent.

Mr. Deedes

It is, perhaps, unfortunate that the hon. Member should now move on to a percentage basis. I thought the simplest way to answer the questions I was asked was to speak in terms of pounds. I hope that from what I have said anyone who wants to take the matter further can do the necessary arithmetical sum. I think I ought to press on.

Mr. T. Fraser

I am sorry, but I confess that I misunderstood the Parliamentary Secretary when he talked about £40 million. I thought he talked of the £45 million already provided by Act. If the interest rate on £40 million would bring that £40 million up to £77 million surely the higher interest rate on the £45 million already provided by Act of Parliament would increase it by more than £19 million?

Mr. Deedes

With regard to the instalment system I referred only to the amount outstanding of the £45 million. It was on the amount still outstanding we were having to apply the extra cost of the instalment system.

One further word about the English and Scottish rates. It is quite true, as, I think, the right hon. Gentleman discovered, that the Exchequer pays Scotland twice as much. The system is different because in England the county contributes roughly the same amount as the Exchequer, which means one-third from each party concerned. In Scotland the county does the job, but the Exchequer pays considerably more. The right hon. Gentleman wants to know why, and the answer is wrapped up in the very different geological, geographical, demographical and hydrographical situation in Scotland. The areas are larger and sparser, and many of the counties are poorer. That is why the grant is in many cases higher than the grant in England.

I think that that answers the bulk of the questions raised by the right hon. Gentleman. My hon. Friend the Member for Cornwall, North (Sir H. Roper) raised the question of the drought and of the effect it has had. I would certainly agree that the drought conditions of the summer have revealed insufficient resources. Not only in Cornwall, we are very far from being drought proof. It is part of the object of the Bill to enable the putting into effect of schemes to reduce the effects of drought in future. In north Cornwall the board is proposing to lay a main to connect its system with the adjoining undertaker's main, and will thereby be able to ensure better supplies for next summer.

The hon. Member complained of the proportion which was paid to—I think it was—one local authority for sewerage schemes. At St. Breward we have revised that grant and are about to write to the local authority about it.

The hon. Member for Brecon and Radnor (Mr. Watkins) and the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Cardigan (Mr. Bowen) both complained that there had not been a breakdown of the figures for Wales. I am sorry about that. I thought that in the first speech I made they were quite sufficient. I know that the hon. Gentleman likes to get the Welsh picture separately.

I can give him the assurance that Wales as a whole does rather better in regard to the amount of grant than England. No doubt the right hon. Member for Belper will want to "come back" about that. The average grant paid in England, as I have said, is 30 per cent. The average grant paid in Wales is 45 per cent., and for the same reason as in the case of Scotland, the different nature of the countryside. The grant paid is in actual figures £15 million in England and £3 million for Wales. England has had five times as much grant as Wales and England has approximately ten times the rural population. Therefore, I hope that there the hon. Gentleman can derive reassurance about the place which Wales has in the allocation of these grants.

Several hon. Members asked how these grants are determined. It is not done at a flat rate of 33⅓1 per cent. As I think is generally known, determination of the grant is based on the estimated annual net cost of the scheme after taking into account loan charges and working expenses on the one hand, and anticipated revenue and savings on the other, but it has due regard to the situation of the local authority and the ability of the local authority to meet the cost. A whole lot of considerations are taken into account and if necessary discussed with the local authority.

The hon. Member for Falmouth and Camborne (Mr. Hayman) asked a question about a local scheme on which I can give him news which I hope he will think good. His question was about the Stithians, St. Day and Lanner scheme. The Minister has today awarded a grant towards the rural portion of the scheme. I hope that that information will give pleasure to the hon. Member.

Mr. G. Brown

Forty-five per cent. or 60 per cent.?

Mr. Deedes

I should like to have notice of that question.

The hon. Member for Norfolk, South-West (Mr. Dye) made a number of observations of which we shall certainly take note. I know that he does not expect a short-term answer to some of the long-term implications which he raised. He asked about Civil Defence. We have not had direct conversations with the Home Office about that matter but we consider the question of evacuation when we consider the size of any scheme. That is one of the factors borne in mind in approving a scheme of a certain size. He quoted "The Archers" to me. I do not feel answerable even to Dan Archer in this debate.

One of the functions of a Ministry when approving a scheme is to make sure that unnecessarily extravagant schemes are not submitted. I do not say that they are, but if they are it is the Minister's function to persuade the local authority to avoid extravagance. That is one of the things in regard to which hon. Members say that a good deal of delay is involved, but it is one of the virtues in the Ministry having to approve a scheme.

The hon. Member for Hamilton (Mr. T. Fraser) asked me two questions. He spoke of the total amount of the schemes approved for which grant had been pledged. He was puzzled by the figure of £17 million. I gave three categories of schemes—schemes finished, schemes now in progress, and schemes in the third category which had been approved and for which the money had been pledged. It is that third category which brings us almost to the limit of our £45 million. I think that the figure of £17 million, to which the hon. Member referred, represented the total value of schemes approved for which grant has been pledged. That, of course, would not be the grant, which would be approximately a third or less of the £17 million.

The hon. Member for Hamilton asked about the position of Scotland under the Bill. As for England, this is not the final but rather we hope the penultimate step in getting us as far as we can with the laying on of water and sewerage. The hon. Member also asked how the term "rural locality" compared as between England and Scotland. As a number of hon. Members are aware, the term "rural locality" is unfortunately not defined in the original Act and that leads to a certain amount of difficulty in our negotiations. I assure the hon. Member that Scotland does not receive more or less than England by reason of this term. The term "rural locality" has no bearing between us.

Mr. T. Fraser

This is terribly important. We have been discussing rural water supplies the whole evening. It would help if hon. Members knew what we were discussing and how the Government determine what is a rural population. I had a shot by suggesting that a rural community was one of less than 2,000 population. Am I right or wrong?

Mr. Deedes

It would obviously be impossible to have over the whole of the British Isles an absolutely flat rule in this matter, but it is not as difficult as the hon. Member would think to decide in the end what is a predominantly rural locality. It could even be that an urban district authority with a predominantly rural population could qualify for one of these grants. It is much better that there should not be a hard and fast rule, but that each case should be examined with a view to helping those populations so dispersed as to need some assistance from the Exchequer.

I apologise for having taken some time in replying to the debate, but a great number of questions were asked and had to be answered. We have heard a good many examples tonight of what still remains to be done. I hope that I did not under-rate what has been done during the last ten years, or, if the right hon. Gentleman prefers it, the last twenty years. The strides in the last few years have certainly been lengthening, and I think that the right hon. Gentleman will accept that.

Of course, this work must take its place and pace among all the other runners in the field of public expenditure, and that is just as well-known to the right hon. Gentleman as it is to me. We shall do our best to ensure that it has its share, and a share which its importance demands. I hope that the House will now be able to give the Bill a Second Reading.

Bill accordingly read a Second time.

Committed to a Committee of the whole House.—[Colonel J. H. Harrison.]

Committee Tomorrow.