HC Deb 04 July 1956 vol 555 cc1458-74

Order for Second Reading read.

Motion made, and Question proposed, That the Bill be now read a Second time.

10.29 p.m.

Mr. G. B. Drayson (Skipton)

The reason my I objected to the Bill receiving an unopposed Second Reading on Monday was because it contains matters of vital importance to my constituency. Already 40 farmers, mostly my constituents, have petitioned the noble Lords in another place against certain provisions of the Bill, as did the West Riding County Council and a number of other bodies.

Clause 3 of the Bill is the cause of most concern. By a 1925 Act the Fylde Water Board undertook to discharge 6½ million gallons of compensation water per day from the Stocks Reservoir into the River Hodder, both of which, of course, are situated in my constituency. Among other things, the Bill seeks to reduce the amount of compensation water to 3 million gallons per day, subsequently amended to 3 million gallons between October and May and 4 million gallons between May and September. That is still considered to be unsatisfactory even with a provision in Clause 4 for a water bank of 150 million gallons.

It is still estimated, even if these conditions are complied with, that the river will lose about 960 million gallons of water per year. There would be nothing in return and certainly no financial compensation is proposed. I believe that 1 million gallons of water today is considered to be worth £100 so that the Fylde Water Board would be getting water to the value of £96,000 per annum.

The present compensation water is based on a yield from the catchment of 33⅓ per cent. and the new proposal would reduce that to only approximately 20 per cent. I am informed that at no time has any Government committee suggested a figure of less than 25 per cent. to keep the river in proper condition. I suggest that the needs of the Fylde Water Board are not so urgent as has been made out. It has also been found that the Stocks Reservoir has never had less than 100 days' supply available up to the present, even during the drought of 1955.

The Board has recently sunk two bore holes which, it is hoped, will be yielding at the rate of 8 million gallons per day in two years' time. There is no reason whatsoever why the Board should not sink further bore holes. If the Board relies on the River Hodder, it will be reduced from a full flowing river to a barren beck. Water is already taken from it by the Blackburn Corporation, Preston Corporation and Fulwood Urban District Council.

It should be appreciated that the Fylde Water Board is permitted to receive up to 2 million gallons per day from the Manchester Corporation's Haweswater Aqueduct. Nothing has been said about what further approaches have been made to Manchester Corporation on that issue. That source does not seem to have been explored at all and it appears that the Board would rather take water free from the Skipton division than have it from the Manchester Corporation and pay for it.

The Fylde Water Board estimates that its demands at present are 14½ million gallons a day which will rise to 21 million gallons a day in 1976, a difference of 6½ million gallons. That could easily be met by a vigorous boring programme and additional supplies from Manchester Corporation's aqueduct. From our knowledge of these things, we can be sure that the estimate for 1976 is likely to be on the top side. That is the statistical side of the problem.

I should like now to say a few words about the agricultural, cultural and human aspects of the proposals. It is contended that a loss of this flow into the river would be a disaster to agriculture in the area where there is some of the best agricultural land in the North of England. I am sorry that the right hon. Member for Bishop Auckland (Mr. Dalton) is not still in his place, because we have bitter memories of his visit to the Hodder Valley when he was Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster. When he saw the nature of the land, he immediately returned to his office and instituted some of the most savage increases in farming rent that have ever been known in that part of the country. In fact, farmers in that area are only just beginning to recover from the blow he dealt them then—and now comes this proposal to reduce still further their available water.

Since 1925, when the rate of compensation was fixed, there have been great changes in the nature of farming in the district. Whereas it was once principally a stock-raising area it is now largely devoted to milk production, and especially to attested herds. This means that there is a greater demand for water for cleaning and general dairy purposes. For the attested herds, too, it is essential to have an adequate supply of clean drinking water, and for the rivers themselves to be fast-flowing and unlikely to carry persistent water-borne infection. The reduction in the flow would add considerably to this risk.

The Hodder River, through part of its course, is the boundary between Yorkshire and Lancashire, so that Lancashire farmers are also vitally concerned in this matter. They also consider that the reduction in the compensation water to the river would have the effect of lowering its level, and that it would cease to be an effective boundary between the two counties. It would be quite impracticable to adopt a fencing programme adequate to meet this situation, and even if it were tried there would be a considerable loss of marginal grazing land.

The area about which I am talking, which is on the West Riding side of the river, is shortly to become wholly attested, and will be designated as an eradication area. That is not yet the case on the Lancashire side of the river, and so there will be an added danger of contact between the attested herds on the Yorkshire side and the unproved stock on the other side.

Mr. Richard Stanley (North Fylde)

Does my hon. Friend mean that Yorkshire farmers are so good, with wonderful herds, and that Lancashire farmers are not? Does not he know about the idea of milk farms in Lancashire?

Mr. Drayson

I do not want to go into the question of the relative merits of Yorkshire and Lancashire farmers at present, although I think that the Yorkshire farmers, in spite of their climatic and other difficulties, are some of the finest in the country.

My point is that the Yorkshire side of the Hodder is about to become an attested area, and that if there is no effective barrier between the two counties there is a danger that the good cattle on our side may cross over and rub noses with the less worthy beasts on the Lancashire side.

Sir John Barlow (Middleton and Prestwich)

Does my hon. Friend realise that the number of acres per cow in Lancashire is far greater than it is in Yorkshire, and that the cattle in Yorkshire, proportionately, are far fewer in number than in Lancashire?

Mr. Drayson

Yes. The point I am trying to make is merely with regard to the area of Lancashire and Yorkshire where the Hodder River and Valley forms the boundary between the two counties. It is a distance of only about 10 to 15 miles. I am dealing only with the cattle in that area and am not making any suggestions about the general quality or stock throughout Lancashire itself.

Apart from the valley being one of great natural beauty, there is high-quality fishing in the river, too. There is no suggestion in the Bill that there should be any compensation to the riparian owners for any loss in value that they suffer if the compensation water is reduced. That is a matter which could be very well dealt with, as the fishery boards keep a careful check of all the fish which are legitimately removed from the river, and over a period would be able to see whether they were reduced materially in numbers. Some system of compensation could, therefore, be worked out. As I have said, there would be a considerable effect on the value of the land if it was found that the fishing rights were seriously affected.

This part of the country has been greatly improved in recent years. The standard of farming has gone up and it is playing its full part in its contribution to the national economy. These claims of agriculture rank no lower—in fact, they are higher—than those of a public water undertaking seeking the easy way to augment a possible future demand. I say that the proposals in Clause 3 are not justified either in principle or because of any recent change in circumstances, and I hope that before we see this Bill again suitable adjustments will have been made.

10.37 p.m.

Sir Roland Robinson (Blackpool, South)

I am sure that the House listened with great interest to the remarks on the glories of Yorkshire from my hon. Friend the Member for Skipton (Mr. Drayson). On the other hand, many of us know that the good things of the country do not stop at any county boundary and that more or less the same conditions prevail on one side of the Hodder as on the other. Indeed, by hon. Friend the Member for North Fylde (Mr. Stanley) represents some of the finest farming lands in the country. We in Lancashire are indeed proud of them.

I do not think that my hon. Friend the Member for Skipton need feel so badly about the Fylde Water Board. It is not trying to steal anything from anybody, but it is charged with the responsibility of providing water for the people of its own area. It is not a matter of private enterprise it is a statutory body which has been set up to see that the people have their necessary water.

Some of us are very keenly interested. As Member for Blackpool, South, I am affected very much. My right hon. Friend the Member for Blackpool, North (Mr. Low) is equally concerned, as are my hon. Friend the Member for North Fylde and my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for South Fylde (Colonel Lancaster). I shall try to put the case so that we need not take up too much of the time of the House at this rather late hour.

The Fylde Water Board is a statutory body and it has the duty of supplying water to the people over an area of some 211 square miles. It covers four large and important holiday resorts—Blackpool, Lytham St. Annes, Fleetwood and Thornton Cleveleys—in addition to the remaining urban and rural districts of the Fylde. It has a resident population of 280,000 people. What is important, too, is that, these areas being holiday resorts, there is in the season a tremendous influx of population from Lancashire and from Yorkshire and, indeed, from all over the country who have to be catered for. Last year, about 7 million visitors came to Blackpool alone during the season. They all had to be looked after.

It is not a matter of holidaymakers only. Fleetwood is one of the most important centres of the fishing industry. It needs a great deal of water for supplying ships and a tremendous quantity to provide the ice for fish packing. It is a matter of preserving the food for the people of the country. Fleetwood also has a new electricity power station, which is consuming a quarter of a million gallons of water a day.

In Thornton Cleveleys there is a large and expanding factory owned by Imperial Chemical Industries, who know that during the next 18 months they will need a further 2.2 million gallons of water a day in order to carry on. The Atomic Energy Authority, which is working within the area of South Fylde, will need another 1 million gallons of water a day within the next year or so. These matters are important.

Water is needed sometimes to help the people outside the area. Recently, there was trouble because for nearly two years the Fylde Water Board has been supplying an extra 2.2 million gallons of water per day to help Blackburn. Now the demand for water is so great that the Board can no longer fulfil the corporation's demand, and Blackburn has had to draw upon the supplies of the Manchester Corporation to make up the deficiency. At the same time, the Board is helping Preston and Fulwood, which are drawing bulk supplies to the extent of ½ million dollars a day. [Laughter.] Well, we all know that water is worth a lot of money to people. I meant to say "gallons."

In this year, the safe supplies which the Water Board may rely upon are only 15 million gallons a day, while the present demand and consumption is 15½ million gallons per day. We are, therefore, steadily going down by that amount of the difference. The seasonal demand is rising. Apart from bulk supplies, the record figure was reached on 31st July, 1955, when more than 19 million gallons of water were used. Now at the beginning of the holiday season, the Fylde Water Board's normal supply in the reservoirs was down by more than 1,100 million gallons. The situation of the Water Board is, therefore, urgent and serious.

There are remedies. My hon. Friend the Member for Skipton asked how we could get more water to meet the demand. The first and easiest, and the most immediate, way would be to reduce the amount of compensation water which has to be put into the River Hodder. There are two other schemes. One is the development of underground water and the other is to build new reservoirs in a slightly different area. The last two suggestions are costly, and neither would give the amount of immediate relief which is necessary in the circumstances. My hon. Friend has made objection to the first suggestion, about reducing the amount of compensation water. Many years ago these things were based on ordinary rule-of-thumb: two-thirds of the water went into the reservoir and one-third to the river. In point of fact, the river has been rather fortunate because the proportion was based upon an erroneous calculation of the amount of water available. The river has had rather more than its third.

This matter has been considered again. Those interested in the matter should be concerned mostly to see that whatever happens the water is not wasted and is put to the best use for the people, whoever they may be. The proper answer is that the matter should go to the Committee where evidence can be taken and the whole matter thrashed out in the proper way.

The Bill has been considered in another place, where there was considerable opposition. Evidence was heard, and it was decided that the figure of compensation water during the winter season, from October to April, should be 3 million gallons a day, and in the summer, from May to September, to help people in fishing and with cattle, it should be 4 million gallons a day. In addition to that, the Water Board should provide a reserve bank of about 150 million gallons to be available to be put into the Hodder River at any time at the request of the Lancashire River Board, with a proviso that not more than 6 million gallons should be put in on any day. That seems a very reasonable solution.

There have been objections from the point of view of those keen on fishing and other objections from the point of view of farmers, because of the fencing for their cattle fields. Others have thought of the problems of pollution. After all, this is clean water and may help with the problem lower down the river. The Hodder is a flashy river: water flows away quickly and the Water Board has the job of ensuring that it provides an even flow throughout the year. Under the proposed scheme the supply would never fall below 3 million gallons. Without the reservoir and the regulation of the flow there would be many times when it would fall below 3 million gallons. Last year, during the dry summer, the amount of water which would have come in naturally was only 1 million gallons a day.

By providing this water I believe we should be helping the fishermen of whom my hon. Friend spoke. How much difference will it really make? A test was made on the night of 27th–28th March this year to see what would happen over a 12-hour period when the flow was reduced from 6½ million gallons to 3 million gallons a day. This is what happened at three check points. At Slaidburn it was down to 1.75 inches, at Newton it was down to 1 inch and at Burholme it was 1.425 inches. Yet my hon. Friend said this would be turning the river into a barren beck. It seems to me that he has very much overstated the case.

In some ways it is a matter of technical argument which should be properly considered by the Committee. There is no principle at stake. It is recognised by this House that there will be variations in the amount of compensation water. In the last three water Bills, the Manchester Corporation Bill, in 1954, the Cardiff Corporation Bill, in 1955, and the Taf Fechan Water Supply Bill, in 1955, alterations in the amount of compensation water were made and accepted by this House. I suggest that my hon. Friends should let the Bill go to the Committee. It may be that the interests of my hon. Friends the Members for Skipton and Clitheroe (Mr. Fort) are rather different from what they realise. We already supply those two authorities with 27,000 gallons of water a day. If, as seems possible, we have a reorganisation of the water supplies of the country it seems to be odds on that the Fylde Water Board will be responsible for supplying Clitheroe Rural District Council and Bowland Rural District Council and my hon. Friends may find conflicting interests among their constituents. In the interests of all it would be far better if, after argument by counsel and examination of witnesses, the matter were decided by the Select Committee.

10.54 p.m.

Mr. Richard Fort (Clitheroe)

My hon. Friend the Member for Blackpool, South (Sir R. Robinson) has certainly stated his case as persuasively as that case can be stated, although at the end of his speech he seemed to spike the argument of those of us who object to much in this Bill by pointing out that if we did not toe the line in a year or two perhaps our constituents would be at the mercy, for their water supplies, of those with whom we may feel we have to deal roughly this evening.

Like my hon. Friend the Member for Skipton (Mr. Drayson), I have constituents who object to this Bill living alongside the Hodder, which divides them from Yorkshire. We have not had the good fortune to have all our cattle attested and the area declared a clean area. My hon. Friend the Member for North Fylde (Mr. Stanley) said Fylde is raising its standards of animal husbandry towards the same end and it is expected that we in east Lancashire will be close behind them.

My hon. Friend the Member for Skipton very exhaustively set out the main reasons for the objections to the Bill, and I have only one or two points to emphasize and one or two weaknesses to draw to the attention of the House in the case which my hon. Friend the Member for Blackpool, South has made. He rightly pointed out that under present arrangements the Fylde Water Board in its compensation water is taking about one-third from the catchment area, with two-thirds going into the reservoir. He described the concessions which were made when the Bill was considered in another place, but he failed to add that under the new proposals the average compensation water, if the House agreed to the Bill, would amount to only one-fifth of the water of the catchment area, which I understand is a good deal lower than in any other part of England where water is being taken from a non-industrial river. I think the House should be chary of accepting what I understand is a new principle in the amount of compensation water which is being put back into the river.

Even it we accept the Bill, there are two points on which we feel that the pro- moters have treated our constituents roughly. One is a point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Skipton, that if damages to farming are proved—as I think they certainly will be on the boundary question—no provision is made in the Bill for compensation. The second, on which he touched and on which I want to enlarge for a few minutes, is the compensation for the angling associations.

One of the local angling associations, that in Accrington, acquired in 1951 a stretch of water, the best part of three miles, on two banks of the river at Newton-by-Bowland, at a total cost of £1,900. It subsequently acquired another stretch of water on the very edge of my constituency at an annual rent of £150. In making those agreements with the riparian owners the angling association, and also the riparian owners, assumed that the fishing would be that of a river carrying 6½ million gallons a day of compensation water. The association and the other parties to the agreement are now convinced that with the marked reduction which will take place—and the figures given for March are not those for much of the fishing season—in the fishing will far from justify the amount of money which that angling association and no doubt others have paid for their fishing rights. If the House accepts the Bill, it would be only fair for the Promoters to insert compensation Clauses to deal with those features which have been left uncovered.

My hon. Friend the Member for Blackpool, South told us about the increasing demand for water in the statutory area of the Fylde Water Board, and he painted a pretty black picture of the way in which it is increasing, but he should have added that even in the very dry summer of 1955, when the flow in the river fell from its average of 24 million gallons a day to 16 million gallons a day, the Fylde Water Board still had, at the end of the drought period, 100 days' reserve in the Stocks reservoir.

To all of us who are objecting to this Bill, it really seems that the promoters have been at least exaggerating their immediate danger. I have no doubt that what has been said about alternative water supplies is entirely correct. It is commonsense that the alternatives of the boreholes and the Manchester Hawes-water supply, to which my hon. Friend the Member for Skipton referred, would cost some capital to bring into use, but the fact remains that even at the present time stocks of water are available and, one would have thought, are likely to be available for the next few years until the alternative sources can be developed.

Furthermore, I understand that if there were a really drastic drought one year and the Fylde Water Board's area was facing a dangerous shortage it would be possible for the Ministry of Housing and Local Government to operate a Defence Regulation of the last war which would allow emergency supplies of water to be drawn from the Hodder to meet the requirements of the Board. In these circumstances, I suggest that the House should seriously consider whether the promoters have made out a case strong enough to allow this Bill to go forward at all on Second Reading, whether it would not be more sensible to reject it now and to allow the promoters at a subsequent Session to bring forward a new Bill covering the points which the objectors have raised tonight, or whether we should allow the Measure to go forward to a Committee, at very considerable further expense to what are not rich organisations. I think that we should all listen carefully to this debate in order to make up our minds whether or not, in the light of the information put before us now, we divide.

11.2 p.m.

Mrs. Barbara Castle (Blackburn)

I am the last person in this House to underestimate the importance of amenity. I am even prepared to lend a sympathetic ear to the arguments of the fishermen, whose delight in the sport I do not share or even understand, but which I am prepared to encourage as a simple, innocent pleasure of which there are too few in this life of ours.

I will be frank with the House and say that I look with great care at any proposition which comes before us which might tend to reduce or to wreck one of the few beauty spots near my constituency. The Hodder Valley is one such beauty spot, and one which is a constant source of weekend joy to hundreds of my constituents who visit it, particularly in the brief summer we have in that part of the world.

That being so, I have given, I think, objective and dispassionate thought to this Bill, and I must say that at the end of that consideration I believe that the arguments put forward by the hon. Member for Blackpool, South (Sir R. Robinson) are quite unanswerable, and that it would be a frivolous piece of discrimination against the people in the Fylde Water Board's area for us even to try to reject the Second Reading of this Bill tonight.

It is rather interesting that on this matter there is now, and has been for some time past, an alliance between Blackburn and Blackpool. The Chairman of the Blackburn Water Authority, Alderman Beardsworth, is, as I am sure the hon. Gentleman knows, a member of the Lancashire River Board and for many months he has been conducting a one-man campaign in support of the plea of the Fylde Water Board for the introduction of this Bill.

He has done that for a very simple reason. We in Blackburn have a constant headache over water supplies, and it really is quite frivolous for the hon. Member for Clitheroe (Mr. Fort) to say, "Well, they are not really desperate. For most of the time they can just get by." But we in Blackburn, despite, I should have thought, a quite adequate supply of rainwater, are always on the edge of a water crisis. We know what it means, and that it is very easy for hon. Gentlemen to come here and say, "Find some alternative methods of supply." We have not been able to, and we are in a constant hand-to-mouth position.

As the hon. Member for Blackpool, South said a little earlier, we have been very grateful to the Fylde Water Board for giving us a valuable 3 million gallons of supply, as long as it can manage to do this. Only recently, however, it had to come to us and say, despite our difficulties, "We are sorry, our demand is pressing so strongly against the capacity, that we think we will have to ask you to do without." So we have had to make desperate appeals to Manchester to come to our help, and substitute another source of supply for that which we got from Fylde.

Mr. Ellis Smith (Stoke-on-Trent, South)

And Manchester is short of water.

Mrs. Castle

My hon. Friend is right, and I am coming to that point.

It is ridiculous for opponents of the Bill to come here and say, "Oh, you can go to Manchester". Are they not aware that when Manchester helps us they have to say, "We are very sorry, but we cannot guarantee this water indefinitely. It is only temporary. We are drawing on our reserves at the rate of 7 million gallons a day, and although we will help you out we cannot promise to do this for ever"?

I understand that there was a meeting in Blackburn yesterday with the Manchester officials, when we thanked them for the help they had brought us, and said, "Do keep it up as long as you can." But it is wrong for the opponents of this Bill to come along and say, "The Flyde Water Board can enter the Manchester queue and get supplies from there." It is just nonsense. This might mean a water crisis in Blackburn as there is in Blackpool and that area.

I challenge the opponents of the Bill. Before they ask us to interfere with a vital matter like this, of maintaining essential water supplies for a growing area, before they say, "Oh, there could be some alternative sources of supply", they must be a little more specific. We have the hon. Gentleman the Member for Skipton (Mr. Drayson) saying, "Why do you not have a vigorous boring programme?" If one did, one would have just the same objections coming from certain sectional interests who have been raising a hail of protest over this.

I have here a report of the Ribble Fisheries Association. A gentleman who has been circularising, us all, the secretary of this association, has been the fountain-head of the opposition. He helped to fight the battle before the House of Lords Committee, and I was interested to find that this is not the first of these little efforts at increasing water supply which this association has opposed. He describes, in fact, how, when Blackburn Corporation sunk a borehole in the Dun-sop Valley, the association stepped in to object, and fought until it had the amount of abstraction reduced. So boreholes will not meet with the applause of the Fisheries Association.

What then, if Manchester is out as a source of supply, is the alternative? "Oh", says the association glibly, "they can build a reservoir". Do some hon. Gentlemen opposite really say that the remedy is for the Fylde Water Board to build a reservoir? Will they get capital approval from this Government? Blackburn desperately wants to build a reservoir, and in principle have decided that they must build a reservoir, filtration plant, etc., at a cost of £4 million. But can we get Government sanction? We have desperate need for a modern sewage plant and dozens of other capital works, on which the Government are clamping down. They have just slashed our new building programme in the interests of the economy campaign, and hon. Gentlemen opposite say, "You do not need do this. You can build a reservoir". It is on the objectors to this Bill that the onus lies to prove where is the alternative source of supply. We have heard statements made about interests which are going to be affected. I should have thought that the House of Lords was not particularly unsympathetic to agricultural interests, and yet it has turned down the objections and has authorised the Bill with certain modifications.

Most of the outcry is coming from the pressure of the fishing fraternity, who have turned out to be a much more powerful lobby than I would have ever expected. Their claims, however, are quite spurious. What is never explained by the objectors is that the fisheries officer of the Lancashire Rivers Board has gone into this whole question of the state that the Hodder would be in if this extraction were to take place. When the Lords turned down objections, officials of the Lancashire Rivers Board got together with the officials of the Fylde Water Board and said, "Let us come to the best possible compromise so that the interests of both sides are safeguarded." As a result of that, the Fylde Water Board said that they could have £25,000 for the improvement of the Hodder by means of weirs and dams.

I have here the report of the Fisheries Officer of the Lancashire Rivers Board. He says that a good deal of nonsense is talked about fishing interests, and he lays down a plan of how the money should be used. He concludes with these words: There is no doubt whatever that if the full approval, consent and co-operation of all parties interested in the River Hodder could be obtained, the River … will be improved without any detriment whatever to farming, land drainage or other riparian interests. What we are being asked to do when we are asked to oppose the Bill is to give precedence to sectional and selfish interests over a great and urgent need in an important area of Lancashire.

11.12 p.m.

Mr. Charles Fletcher-Cooke (Darwen)

The hon. Lady the Member for Blackburn (Mrs. Castle) represents the bulk of Blackburn. I represent a section of it. The logic of her case I simply cannot understand. It is that because Blackburn rightly draws a certain amount of water from this area, it is therefore right that Blackpool should also draw some water from this area. The fact that Blackburn draws some water from this area means that there is even less water there than there would otherwise be, and less water to spare, and for that reason such water as is left has got to be carefully conserved for the natural users of the area.

The natural users of the area, for all she may say—the farmers, the fishermen and others—are very worried that the 6½ million gallons of compensation water which, according to their understanding of two Statutes in this century, is to be sent down there, is to be unilaterally reduced. It seems to me to be an extraordinary state of affairs.

Why is it that the landladies, tourists and holiday makers in Lytham St. Annes and Blackpool should have more claim to this water than the people who live on the banks of the river and farm and fish there? What is there in principle which entitles people miles away from the Ribble, the Hodder and the Calder to take preference to those who live on its banks? When there is a limited amount of water and when water is hot politics in Lancashire, as it certainly is, that is the question which justifies us in opposing the Second Reading of this Bill.

If there were plenty of water, as there was in the old days, no doubt we could spare it for such worthy people as those who go to the coast for their holidays. But when water is in such short supply, and so valuable, I do not understand why it is that because Blackburn must take water from this area for its industrial needs, Blackpool and North Fylde should also take more water. Surely the argument is the other way round. It is because Blackburn needs the water that Black- pool, Lytham St. Annes and other seaside resorts should not have it. That must be so. That seems to me a perfect justification, for us for opposing, in principle, this Second Reading.

The principle is that when one gets a state of desperate water shortage, as in the County Palatine of Lancaster—which, incidentally, must be one of the wettest places in England—then those who wish for more water, must bore holes or get water from the sea and soften it, or go to other places rather than rob other people; and to rob other people is what the Bill proposes. It proposes to rob the agricultural and fishing industries in an area where this commodity is far more valuable than it is, for example, in East Anglia, Dorset, Wales, or the West Country. It is desperately valuable in the Hodder or Ribble Valleys, set between vast urban conglomerations. Robbing them of water is rather like robbing a child's money box. Why should not rich places like Cleveleys, Lytham St. Annes and Blackpool get their own water instead of taking it from somebody else? At this late hour I close on that note, and am sure that the Parliamentary Secretary must agree with it.

11.17 p.m.

The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Housing and Local Government (Mr. J. Enoch Powell)

The House has been presented in the course of this debate with a wealth of statistical and other information. There has been argument as to the effect upon fishing, agricultural, and other riparian interests of the reduction of the compensation water from the Stocks Reservoir. There has been argument as to the needs of the Fylde Water Board and the practicability of its meeting those needs otherwise than by reducing the compensation water.

From the welter of statistics I propose to select only one set; that which was given by my hon. Friend the Member for Blackpool, South (Sir R. Robinson), who stated that the average daily water consumption of the Fylde Water Board is running at present at 15½ million gallons against an availability of rather less than 15 million gallons—a situation which has to be seen in the context of a very heavy summer increase of demand in the area served by the Board. It is no part of my duty to vouch for these facts, although, if they be substantiated, they certainly constitute a very powerful argument, or for any other facts which have been urged for or against the Bill.

What I submit is that the right conclusion can only be arrived at, not by discussion on the Floor of this House, but by hearing in Committee the contentions of counsel on both sides and the examination of witnesses. This is not a matter of principle, but one which can only he decided by Committee procedure. Already in the Committee stage in another place substantial modifications have been made to the Bill: the reduction in compensation water originally proposed has been modified and a "bank", as it is called, of 150 million gallons a year has been made available for discharge into the Hodder river. Further examination here might result in further modifications being made to the Bill, and it would be quite wrong, as a matter of principle, to say that in no circumstances should there be any reduction in the compensation water without giving the promoters and the opponents of the Bill the opportunity to state their case and fight it out in detail before the Committee. I therefore recommend the House, without prejudice to what might happen in Committee, to give the Bill a Second Reading.

Bill accordingly read a Second time and committed.