§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, That the Bill be now read a Second time.
§ 7.1 p.m.
§ Mr. Basil de Ferranti (Morecambe and Lonsdale)
I beg to move, to leave out "now" and at the end of the Question to add "upon this day six months".
Some hon. Members may consider that the House has had a surfeit of water in the Committee upstairs for some time past. I apologise for taking up further time on the Bill, which I am opposing in no spirit of wanton obstruction but purely in order to represent the interests of my constituency, and because I want to see a solution of the problem of water supply in the area.
This is a comparatively simple proposition. There are no hydrogeological considerations such as have been involved in other Bills. The Bill involves principle as well as detail, and I will endeavour to be as brief as I can in putting the points across.
The ancient and famous city of Lancaster has a population of some 43,000 and a rateable value of £615,000. It has supplied Morecambe with water in bulk for many years, right from the days when Morecambe was the little village of Poulton. In the Bill, Lancaster proposes to take over the water undertakings of the borough of Morecambe and Heysham, and the water undertakings of the rural district councils of Lancaster and Lunesdale.
Morecambe is no longer a little village. The population of Morecambe has now risen to 37,000 and it rises every summer to no fewer than 80,000 people. The rateable value is £703,000, which is nearly £100,000 more than that of the City of Lancaster. Furthermore, the population of Lancaster is declining whereas the population of Morecambe, I am proud to be able to say, is increasing steadily. This is my first reason for opposing the Bill, which would empower the tail to wag the dog. My hon. Friend the Member for Lancaster (Sir F. Maclean) might say, "Some tail," but I would be fully justified in retorting, "Some dog". Another 636 interesting fact is that Lancaster is a non-county borough. It is almost entirely unprecedented for a non-county borough to propose a take-over of this kind.
My next reason is that the Minister is opposed to the Bill. I would like to read out what was said in evidence before the Committee in the other place. It is:The Minister notes that the purposes of the Bill could be achieved by an order made under the Water Act, 1945. In all the circumstances he considers that the proposals of the Bill do not represent the right approach to the problems of removing the water undertaking in this area, and that the only form of administration for the new undertaking is a joint board representative of all the local authorities concerned.He went on to say that he must recommend the Bill be rejected and he said this emphatically.
Regrouping has been taking place all over the country under the 1945 Act, and it is required because, although the country has plenty of water, we have under-investment in the fixed assets for the supply of water. The Minister indicated in Circular 52/56 the general way in which he felt that regrouping ought to be carried out. He further emphasised the point in Circular 41/58, paragraph 5, in which he said that he:will not normally feel able to support proposals for a takeover unless the initiating authority's statutory area of supply is appreciably more in population or in rateable value than 50 per cent."—that is the operative figure—of the proposed enlarged area.The Lancaster Corporation has 44 per cent. of the population of the proposed enlarged area. It has 36 per cent. only of the rateable value of the proposed enlarged area. Lancaster's statutory area of supply, which is what is mentioned in the Minister's circular, has 41 per cent. of the rateable value, that is 9 per cent. less than the Minister's criterion. It has more than 55 per cent. of the population in the winter.
What is so important is that Morecambe is a most attractive place to go to for a holiday.
§ Mr. de Ferranti
I am grateful to my hon. Friend for that support. About 40,000 visitors come to Morecambe in the summer, and the population of Morecambe goes up to 80,000 in the summer 637 months. It is obvious that the capacity to supply water must be related to the peak demand and not to the average demand. If one takes the summer figures, the population of Lancaster's statutory area of supply is only 41 per cent.—which is well below the criterion—of the total area concerned.
The reason for the Minister's opposition seems clear. The Minister cannot deny right of access to Parliament for these people to promote their own Bill, but if a Private Bill is contrary to the Minister's express wishes it makes the Minister's statutory task under the 1945 Act extremely difficult.
The next reason for opposing the Bill is financial. In evidence in the other place, the promoters claimed that a joint board, which the Minister would like to sec formed, would be more expensive than the takeover proposals. Costs go up if more staff is taken on. It certainly would be necessary for a manager and an engineer to be appointed, but it will be necessary for such an appointment to be made whatever form of regrouping we use, joint board or takeover. This brings out an interesting point. Lancaster has not a full-time water engineer. It is unprecedented for a non-county borough without a full-time water engineer to propose a take-over of this kind.
The promoters claim that a joint board would make it necessary to appoint a clerk and a treasurer. By the now well-known Parkinson's Law it would also be necessary to have secretaries, office boys, cups of tea and Uncle Tom Cobbley and all. This is all unnecessary. The existing staffs at the town hall could do these jobs adequately. I could cite several places where this is done, namely, Chesterfield. Guildford, Godalming, Accrington, Southport and the Thanet Water Board, se: up under the Kent Water Act, 1955. We must all realise that the object of regrouping is to provide efficient service to the consumers. There is a nation-wide need for capital expenditure because this sort of activity requires strength both administratively and financially.
The larger area, which is the object of regrouping, will provide this strength. The objective of the larger area is to be able to employ more staff. We will employ more staff, whether we have a joint board or a takeover. Therefore, I submit that financially it is six of one and half a dozen of the other.
638 My next reason for opposition concerns the ownership of the fixed assets of water supplies in the area. It is clear to us that Lancaster has done an extremely fine job in supplying Morecambe with water in bulk for these many years. Tribute should be paid to it for that, but it has only been able to do that thanks to the inhabitants of Morecambe paying adequately for the water they have consumed. In view of the additional capital expenditure that will be required, the inhabitants of Morecambe and the rural districts will have to continue paying handsomely for the water they use to provide capital for extending the service. It seems, therefore, not only equitable but essential for Morecambe and the other areas to retain an effective measure of control over the body which is to effect expenditure in future.
My final reason for opposition is a question of representation. I was a little alarmed to hear the view expressed in another place that representation was a matter of no importance whatever. I am utterly opposed to that view and I am sure all hon. Members of the House must be utterly opposed to the view that representation is of no importance. It is the whole basis of our democratic institutions. If the Bill gets through with the Amendments proposed in another place. Lancaster will have a two-thirds majority on the water committee and the council will have overriding authority and responsibility, whereas, if we were to set up a joint board, Lancaster would have eight members out of twenty, which represents a much fairer form of representation.
Those are my reasons for opposing the Bill and for supporting the formation of a water board. First, Morecambe, with the rural districts, is bigger in population and rateable value than Lancaster. Secondly, the Bill is contrary to the terms of the Minister's circular. Thirdly, it will not provide cheaper water. Fourthly, people should be denied representation only in the most exceptional circumstances, which clearly are not present in this case.
One thing I should like to stress is the excellent relations which exist between Lancaster and Morecambe. They have been going on for many years and they are two of the friendliest neighbours. There are many adherents of the White Rose in Morecambe, although it is jadedly 639 referred to as "Bradford by the Sea", and there is no question of another "War of the Roses". Credit should be given to Lancaster for the very fine way in which it has served the inhabitants of Morecambe. I do not think anyone can blame Lancaster for promoting this Bill, however expensive it is for its ratepayers. Similarly, I do not think that anyone can blame Morecambe for opposing it, because, clearly, it is not in its best interests.
The Bill has gone far enough and has cost enough. The ratepayers of the two towns should not be called upon to pay any more. Hon. Members will know of the extremely high cost of being represented by counsel before a Select Committee. I ask the House to accept the Amendment I have moved so that my constituents will be spared further expense and will be able to look forward to having representation on a joint board appropriate to the importance of the borough and to sharing control of a profitable organisation for the whole area.
§ 7.15 p.m.
§ Sir Fitzroy Maclean (Lancaster)
We have heard an interesting speech from my hon. Friend the Member for Morecambe and Lonsdale (Mr. de Ferranti), whose views on this subject, I need hardly say, are not identical with mine. Why should they be?
My hon. Friend made a number of very valid points, but I think that he overlooked—or perhaps it would be fairer to say he did not give sufficient weight and sufficient emphasis to—a number of other points. I should like to take the opportunity of underlining that. The Act of 1945, which is the origin of this whole matter, places emphasis first and foremost on efficiency. We find that same theme of efficiency echoed in the Minister's circulars. The object is to produce more efficient water undertakings.
I ask the House to consider for a moment what this Bill does, first as to efficiency. The Lancaster water undertaking has supplied the needs of the district, including Morecambe, for more than 100 years and, I submit, it has done so with the greatest efficiency. That, I think, has never been challenged or disputed by anyone. Proposals are contained in the 640 Bill to maintain that efficiency in future. That efficiency has never been challenged, either before the Select Committee in another place or in any petition in this House. A point which has not been sufficiently emphasised is that, at present, it supplies 98 per cent, practically 100 per cent., of the water involved.
Another interesting proof of the efficiency with which the Lancaster undertaking operates is contained in the attitude of another local authority in my constituency, the Carnforth Urban District Council, which, it will be seen, is among the promoters of the Bill. The interesting thing is that this is an instance of an undertaking taken over by Lancaster at the request of the Minister. Since 1953, it has had experience of being taken over and of how Lancaster treats a smaller undertaking which it takes over. It has shown satisfaction of the treatment received by helping to promote this Bill. I do not think that we could have clearer proof of the efficiency of Lancaster's water undertaking than that.
An integral part of efficiency nowadays must surely be cheapness, the amount of money involved. Here I join issue with my hon. Friend. I do not think that it can be seriously disputed in the light of the evidence heard by the Select Committee that the proposals contained in the Bill will provide water at an appreciably lower cost than would be possible under a joint board.
§ Mr. de Ferranti
It is true that the petitioners did not give evidence before the Lords Committee, so I would agree that in view of what was said before the Committee a case was not made that water could be provided as cheaply, but I am sure that if their evidence had been heard before the Committee it would have been clear that my case was made.
§ Sir F. Maclean
My hon. Friend has provided me with some very valuable ammunition for something I am going to say a little later. He shows how very important it is for both sides, not just my side, that the evidence on both sides should be properly heard; and that, of course, has not yet been done.
My hon. Friend mentioned the cost of a full-time water engineer. I think he will find that the additional cost per annum over and above the expenditure on the full-time water engineer is no less 641 than £26,000. It will involve an increase of about fivepence, or about 20 to 25 per cent. on the water rate, under a joint board compared with the proposals contained in the Bill.
We must bear in mind the consumers' position. Representation is very important. I do not in any way wish to try to detract from the importance of the democratic principle which my hon. Friend so rightly stressed, but we must also bear in mind the consumers' interests. My hon. Friend quoted the Minister. I should like to quote the Minister back at him—the Minister in the form of counsel appearing on his behalf. Counsel said:I would submit that, of course, the ideal of what has been called the democratic right of representation, and so on, is all very well in theory, but the person I should imagine that one should think of is the consumer.I do not know that I should express it as strongly as that. In my opinion, we have to keep a balance. Nevertheless, it is the Minister who was saying that and I quote him back at my hon. Friend.
The Minister appears again in the question of representation. The original Bill which was sent to Select Committee provided for much more generous representation than the present Bill, but that is not the fault of the promoters. The Minister objected to this by reference to the Local Government Act and the Select Committee altered it accordingly and greatly reduced the representation of Morecambe and other authorities. Our original idea was to give almost exactly the proportion of representation which my hon. Friend mentioned—seven or eight. It was no fault of the promoters that that was changed to the present proportion.
Everything which has been said so far shows clearly that there are arguments on both sides and that these need careful examination. It is important to stress that this is not a question of principle. There have been a number of similar cases and there will be others. In many of these cases one solution is found to be right and in many others the opposite solution is found to be right. That shows that each case should be decided on its merits, and I submit that that can be done only in Committee. It cannot properly be done in a Second Reading debate.
642 As hon. Members will see, the Report of the Committee contains an enormous amount of evidence. Indeed, there were days and days of evidence. As the Standing Order has been suspended, I suppose that it would be possible for us to go into all that this evening, but that would take a very long time and I do not think that it is the way in which we should deal with this matter.
I am particularly conscious that there is a great deal to be said on both sides, because I represent a constituency in which there are divergent views on the subject. I had to weigh these up and decide which I thought was right. Moreover, I represented Morecambe for a number of years when I first entered the House, and it puts me in an awkward position to have to go against my friends there.
There are many arguments on both sides and these must be carefully weighed. That must be done in Committee. As my hon. Friend pointed out, the opponents of the Bill did not call evidence before the Select Committee in another place. The promoters called a great deal of evidence and, as a result, the Bill was approved and sent back to us. Surely it is only equitable, in view of that result that the promoters should be given an opportunity of calling the same evidence before a Select Committee of this House and seeing what that Committee thinks of it.
Naturally, if the opponents have evidence which they want heard on the all-important question of costs, they will have ample opportunity to produce it, and in that way both points of view will be heard. That is what we want to achieve. For this reason in particular I very much hope that the House will give the Bill a Second Reading and thus enable a decision to be taken in the light of all available evidence.
§ 7.25 p.m.
§ Mr. J. T. Price (Westhoughton)
Like the two hon. Members who have spoken, I have the honour to represent a Lancashire constituency and I do not think that I need apologise for intervening briefly in this short debate. I appreciate that the hon. Member for Morecambe and Lonsdale (Mr. de Ferranti) has a duty to perform to his constituents, and, indeed, he put forward a vigorous case on their behalf, but on looking at 643 the matter rationally and at a distance of some miles away in Lancashire. I am bound to say that it seems to me that this boils down to a rather unusual expression of parish pump politics in which perhaps, on other occasions, some of us would not intervene.
When we look at the whole picture of Lancashire and its water supply we find that the large towns and urban centres are adequately provided with an excellent water supply, but that in many of the rural districts there is not such a happy position. In recent months I have had occasion to meet the Minister of Housing and Local Government with representatives from my part of Lancashire on this very question. Like myself, he was concerned only to see that whatever new system of water distribution is adopted in the future it is the most efficient and most economic system which can be devised, subject to proper regard being paid to the democratic principles which the hon. Member for Lancaster (Sir F. Maclean) mentioned.
For nearly 100 years the Corporation of Lancaster has been responsible for giving a water supply to some of the outside authorities which are now opposing the Bill. I think that that opposition to the Bill is quite unfounded. Surely any hon. Member who has a Parliamentary duty to discharge in coming down on one side or the other in a matter of this kind must realise that, if we have a successful, efficient going concern in the form of a corporation which is doing the job efficiently, it would be highly debatable to create a new synthetic authority which would require a new superstructure of technicians, engineers, bacteriologists and chemists, which would only add to the cost of the water and would not add a pint to the amount of water available in the consumers' taps. Therefore, I think it is quite irrational at this stage in the proceedings on the Bill, and after there has been the opportunity in another place to consider the merits of the Bill, for petitioners now to appear, having neglected the opportunity of putting forward those objections in another place, where the matter was fully deliberated upon, and to seek to prevent the Bill from receiving a Second Reading in this House and detailed consideration in Committee.
So far as I am concerned, while I fully acknowledge and appreciate the vigorous 644 case made by the hon. Member for Morecambe and Lonsdale, which in duty bound he had to put forward, I do not think that he said anything in his speech which will convince any fair-minded Member of the House that these are sufficiently weighty reasons why the Bill should not receive a Second Reading, take its place in Committee and be dealt with in detail.
Finally, I suggest to the House that on Second Reading there is abundant evidence in the history of this water undertaking to show that the Lancaster Corporation has provided adequate, efficient and reasonably cheap supplies of water to Morecambe and these other towns. Carnforth has already agreed that Lancaster should have the Bill in any case. So far as the outlying rural districts are concerned, in this most beautiful part of Lancashire—and here let me say that many people in the south of England do not know what a beautiful county Lancashire is in some of its northern parts, and I say that as a Lancashire-born man—many of these villages do not possess an efficient water supply. I should much prefer their chances of making progress towards obtaining an efficient water supply if they were to take water from the Lancaster Corporation because of that authority's better credit in raising the capital required to make such a project feasible.
Therefore, I strongly support the Bill on Second Reading, and I hope that the objections will be overruled and that we shall allow it to go forward to the Select Committee.
§ 7.32 p.m.
§ Mr. Maurice Macmillan (Halifax)
It is fairly obvious to the House that my support for my hon. Friend the Member for Lancaster (Sir F. Maclean) and my opposition to my hon. Friend the Member for Morecambe and Lonsdale (Mr. de Ferranti) is not entirely disinterested, any more than is the support which the hon. Member for Sowerby (Mr. Houghton) has given to the Motion.
I confess that I have not studied the Bill with the same care as I have the one which we shall shortly be discussing this evening, but I am bound to admit that the study I have made of it has not left me with a great conviction that this is the right solution to this problem. In fact, some of the points made by my hon. 645 Friend the Member for Lancaster were extremely telling, but in his arguments he left me convinced of what I already strongly suspected—that this Bill should be considered by a Select Committee of this House. The other points, on which he also raised my doubts, were points which will require more detailed argument and further evidence, more than a Second Reading debate can give.
There are certain great differences between these two Bills which we are discussing this evening, but there are also certain great points of similarity. One is that the figures which have been quoted show that bath of these are marginal cases, and that, as such, they deserve more careful consideration. As for the various points which my hon. Friend the Member for Morecambe and Lonsdale put forward, Halifax cannot claim either its attraction for holiday-makers nor, indeed, the rising population in which the hon. Member appeared to take a very personal pride.
It has been suggested that these takeovers set a rather unfortunate precedent for other water undertakings which are now under consideration at various stages, both by the Ministry and the authorities concerned, but surely, so far as the principle is concerned, all political parties are agreed that as between local and central Government it is necessary to re-organise the water supplies of this country into units of what might be called optimum efficiency, covering areas not dictated primarily by administrative considerations but by nature.
As to the method by which this is to be best achieved, there is a very wide variety of opinion, dependent in part on whether we are dealing with the collection and storage of water or dealing purely with the supply, or whether, in the case of supply, we are dealing with bulk supply from one or many different authorities, and, so far as takeover is concerned, whether it is proposed to take over the production and supply of water or the mere details of what may be called the retail aspect of it.
Therefore, I do not think that any one case can be said to be exactly like any other, and from such study as I have made of the Ministry's attitude to this point I would have said that the Minister was in agreement with that since some takeovers have achieved his support and some 646 have aroused his opposition. In others, he has taken the rather more subtle attitude of being willing neither to support nor oppose, but the same principle has dictated his attitude. That is the principle of efficiency that has already been mentioned several times in the debate.
I therefore think that we need the facts and evidence upon which to base our judgment as to what extent various schemes fulfil the Minister's own criterion of increased efficiency, and that these detailed arguments should be considered by this House as well as in another place. I am sure that there is no reason why we should not reverse on Second Reading a decision reached in another place, although I am told that it is sixty-five years since that happened. That is no reason why we should not start this evening. There is every reason why we should not reverse such a decision without taking the same amount of trouble in considering details as was taken in another place. We cannot do this in a Second Reading debate, and therefore I support my hon. Friend the Member for Lancaster in his plea that this House will reject the Amendment and allow the Bill to go to the Select Committee.
§ 7.38 p.m.
§ Mr. John Diamond (Gloucester)
I certainly cannot claim to represent a Lancashire division as an excuse for intervening in this debate, although it is perfectly true that at one time I had the great honour to represent part of the City of Manchester, a city in which, contrary to the general understanding, there has been a shortage of water every other year. Be that as it may, I have listened most carefully to what has been said by the hon. Members for Morecambe and Lonsdale (Mr. de Ferranti) and Lancaster (Sir F. Maclean), in order to carry out my duty as an ordinary back bencher, with a responsibility for listening to argument and coming to a conclusion about the papers which have been circulated.
The hon. Member for Morecambe and Lonsdale had an easy task, as he admitted, in putting forward the views of his constituents. The hon. Member for Lancaster had a much more difficult task, because in his own local authority there were differing views. He himself was a trifle ambivalent, because he had loyalties to his present constituency and 647 to a previous one. In these circumstances, I thought he put his arguments fairly and judicially, and made a very telling case for this Bill.
It is quite unnecessary to underline any of the points made by the hon. Member for Lancaster, but 1 wish to deal with one or two entirely novel anti-constitutional suggestions made by the hon. Member for Morecambe and Lonsdale. First, the hon. Gentleman suggested that it would make more difficult the task of the Minister in carrying out his statutory duty, and therefore one ought not to put that burden upon the Minister. To other hon. Members this must sound very odd. We spend a fair amount of our time, both in Question Time and in debate, trying to indicate to the Minister where we think he can improve on the excellent work that he and his Department do. I therefore cannot see why the hon. Member should ask us to deny this Bill the light of day and the hearing of evidence just because the Minister's task will thereby be made more difficult.
It is certainly not against the Minister's duty under the 1945 Act, which is to encourage an efficient water supply by the principle of take-overs as opposed to the principle of joint water boards. The Minister's duty is to provide an efficient and plentiful water supply. That being so, I think that the hon. Member was driven, on his first point, to rely on a very weak argument indeed.
The hon. Member then brought forward a point that seemed to me to raise a very unusual principle of representation. His theory of democracy is that unless one has a majority on any committee on which one sits one is not fairly represented. We could, of course, argue that at length in this Chamber—I am sure that there would be strong views expressed on both sides—but we know that in all these matters of representation there has to be give and take. The hon. Member himself told me the only thing I wanted to know when he said that there was the best possible relationship between his constituency and Lancaster. He had no complaints whatsoever that Lancaster had been or was likely, on any joint committee, to override any working together. I did not think that there was very much to the hon. Gentleman's second point.
648 It is efficiency, however, that will interest the House most. We are all anxious to see that the consumer shall have an efficient water supply at as reasonable a cost as possible. The general belief is that a take-over does not increase the cost, and that the formation of a joint water board does. It is also my belief.
I should have liked to examine these proposals in my professional capacity, if I may mention it, but it simply would not be possible here to ascertain which type of body would be the more or less costly, or to arrive at the overheads, and apportion them, and deal with the capital costs that have been incurred in the past. I do not think that it is possible for us to examine those things in this Chamber although, of course, they are matters which, after Second Reading, should be fully investigated.
Then the hon. Member said the most extraordinary thing. He said that because the petitioners had not thought fit to bring evidence before the Committee in another place in support of his argument that the alternative scheme is no more costly, the House of Commons and its Committees should be denied that evidence. That is really the most extraordinary proposition. Surely, if he believes his case to be as good as all this, he does not have to rely on these unsatisfactory arguments to prevent the case being examined carefully and slowly, with all the figures and necessary information available, by the appropriate Committee. I therefore very much hope that the House will give the Bill a Second Reading so that full examination can take place.
§ 7.45 p.m.
§ The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Housing and Local Government (Mr. J. R. Bevins)
It so happens that I, also, represent a Lancashire constituency, though that is not the reason for my intervening now—Liverpool recently was itself in deep water. I understand that quite a lot of political differences are likely to find expression in London and in the provincial towns and cities today. In my experience, those political differences, though themselves hard enough to resolve, are frequently easier to resolve than are some of the more intractable differences one finds between local authorities.
649 I think that I can fairly say that no hon. Member who has spoken in this discussion has quarrelled with the need to group water undertakings into more efficient units. Certainly, no hon. Member has queried the area to be covered by one unit in the Lancaster-Morecambe area. Indeed, the regrouping proposed in the Bill was recommended by the Minister's engineer who carried out a survey of this part of Lancashire.
The real cleavage of opinion here arises, I understand, solely over the constitution of the body that is to be responsible for water. The promoters of the Bill argue that the Lancaster Corporation should be responsible although, of course, they would admit some representation from other local authorities in the area. The opponents of the Bill would prefer that the management of the new undertaking should be in the hands of a joint board.
My right hon. Friend's primary responsibility is quite clear. It isto promote the conservation and proper use of water resources and the provision of water supplies in England and Wales and to secure the effective execution by water undertakers, under his control and direction, of a national policy relating to water.The House will see that, in the broadest sense, my right hon. Friend's responsibility is discharged when regrouping produces a new undertaking, whatever its farm, that is capable of discharging the duties now falling on the various suppliers of water in this part of Lancashire. But, of course, the form taken by the undertaking may be a matter of very great importance, as it clearly is here, and on this I should like to say a word or two which. perhaps, applies not only within the context of this Bill but of that which the House will later be discussing.
I start by saying that there is no rigid pattern for the organisation of the bodies managing these undertakings, and there is no reason why there should be. As hon. Members know, towns very often supply nearby districts, and those adjoining districts have no representation at all on the water committee of the authority running the undertaking. Normally, these arrangements work perfectly well. Again, about one-fifth of the country's water is provided by private water companies, on which the local authorities, as such, are not represented.
650 It might be of same help if I were to give the House two types of case we very commonly come across in regrouping. The first is where there is one good undertaking—and whether it be a local authority or a company does not really matter—which is absorbing a small area adjoining it. There, as a general rule, we find that the best method of taking in the new area is to extend the present undertaking's limits of supply, even though it means that the local authority whose area is being added will have no automatic means of expressing its interest in the management of the water supplies. There is nothing necessarily wrong in that. I agree entirely with the hon. Member for Gloucester (Mr. Diamond) that it is not always possible to improvise perfect methods of representation in this class of case.
Then there are cases where new undertakings have been farmed by the amalgamation of a number of local authority undertakings, all of which may be more or less of the same size. Very often, there is not one large undertaker with what one might call a ready-made organisation to take over the management of the new area. There is no single authority whose undertaking is being amalgamated with the others which, of itself, is sufficiently outstanding to be the new undertaking. Very often in this sort of case the right answer appears to be the creation of a joint board.
That being said, of course, there are bound to be cases in the process of amalgamation which are either near the line or which are, at any rate, very arguable, as, indeed, is the case of Lancaster and Morecambe. My right hon. Friend's general views on these contentious cases were set out in the circular issued last year in which he said:The Minister will not normally feel able to support proposals for a take-over unless the initiating authority's statutory area of supply is appreciably more in population or rateable value than 50 per cent. of the proposed enlarged area.He went on to say thatIf this condition is not fulfilled, he considers that in order to provide for adequate representation of the added areas, regrouping should generally take the form of a joint board.651 Applying that rule to the Lancaster Corporation Bill, we find that, while Lancaster at present supplies in detail—I emphasise the words "in detail"—about 56 per cent. of the resident population of the proposed new area as a whole, though I agree that it supplies pretty well the whole of the area in bulk, the area which it supplies in detail represents only 46 per cent. of the rateable value of the whole proposed new area.
My right hon. Friend takes the view that it is right that regard should be had not only to population but also to financial resources because, of course, the finances of the new undertaking must depend ultimately on the rateable value of the area which the undertaking covers.
Applying these tests, it seems to us that a fairly clear balance of argument here lies in favour of a joint board for the new Lancaster water area and that a joint board would be a more appropriate
|Division No. 101.]||AYES||[7.54 p.m.|
|Baldwin, Sir Archer||Hill, Rt. Hon. Charles (Luton)||Rippon, A. G. F.|
|Batsford, Brian||Hill, John (S. Norfolk)||Ross, William|
|Black, Sir Cyril||Hughes, Emrys (S. Ayrshire)||Skeffington, A. M.|
|Blackburn, F.||Hynd, H (Accrington)||Smithers, Peter (Winchester)|
|Browns, J. Nixon (Craigton)||Hynd, J. B. (Atteroliffe)||Spriggs, Leslie|
|Bryan, P.||Iremonger, T. L.||Steward, Sir William (Woolwich, W.)|
|Castle, Mrs. B. A.||Linstead, Sir H. N.||Studholme, Sir Henry|
|Chetwynd, G. R.||Lucas, Sir Jocelyn (Portsmouth, S.)||Sumner, W. D. M. (Orpington)|
|Cole, Norman||Maclean, Sir Fitzroy (Lancaster)||Taylor, William (Bradford, N.)|
|Corfield, F. V.||Mason, Roy||Viant, S. P.|
|Currie, G. B. H.||Morrison, John (Salisbury)||Wall, Patrick|
|de Freitas, Geoffrey||Nicolson, N. (B'n'mith, E. & Chr'ch)||Wigg, George|
|Diamond, John||Noel-Baker, Francis (Swindon)||Willey, Frederick|
|Drayson, G. B.||Page, R. G.||Winterbottom, Richard|
|Finlay, Graeme||Parker, J.|
|Gibson-Watt, D.||Partridge, E.||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Godber, J. B.||Popplewell, E.||Mr. Maurice Macmillan and|
|Gough, C. F. H.||Pott, H. P.||Mr. J. T. Price.|
|Hayman, F. H.||Redmayne, M.|
|Bell, Ronald (Bucks, S.)||Greenwood, Anthony||Stross, Dr. Barnett(Stoke-on-Trent, C.)|
|Craddock, Berestord (Spelthorne)||Grimston, Sir Robert (Westbury)||Wakefield, Edward (Derbyshire, W.)|
|Dance, J. C. G.||Hicks-Beach, Maj. W. W.||Ward, Dame Irene (Tynemouth)|
|Deedes, W. F.||Leavey, J. A.||Williams, Paul (Sunderland, S.)|
|du Cann, E. D. L.||Medllcott, Sir Frank|
|Ede, Rt. Hon. J. C.||Nicholson, Sir Godfrey (Farnham)||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Edwards, Rt. Hon. John (Brighouse)||Noble, Michael (Argyll)||Mr. Houghton and|
|Elliott, R. W.(Ne'castle upon Tyne, N.)||Roberts, Sir Peter (Heeley)||Mr. Gresham Cooke.|
§ Bill read a Second time and committed.652
§ instrument than a take-over. As the House knows, that was the view of my right hon. Friend expressed at an earlier stage, and he still stands by it. I want to make that perfectly clear. Nevertheless, we recognise that there is room for more than one point of view on the Bill. The sense of the House may well be that these matters may very properly be thrashed out in detail by a Committee of the House.
§ Accordingly, the advice which my right hon. Friend wishes to offer to the House is that the Bill ought to be allowed to go to Committee to be thoroughly examined. This, I think, would accord with the general sense of the House on both sides, and I trust that that counsel will be accepted.
§ Question put, That "now" stand part of the Question:—
§ The House divided:Ayes 52, joint board would be a more appropriate Noes 20.