HC Deb 23 April 1963 vol 676 cc33-156

Order for Second Reading read.

3.38 p.m.

The Minister of Housing and Local Government and Minister for Welsh Affairs (Sir Keith Joseph)

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

The purpose of this Bill is to provide for systematic and comprehensive managements of the water resources of England and Wales so as to be able to cope with rapidly rising demands for water for domestic, industrial and agricultural users. Much has been done legislatively and administratively since the war to pursue the national water policy set out in the Coalition Government's White Paper in 1944. The River Boards Act of 1948, for the first time, brought into the hands of a single authority for each river board area the statutory functions relating to land drainage, fisheries and the prevention of pollution which had previously been exercised by a large variety of authorities.

A series of Measures, the River (Prevention of Pollution) Acts of 1951 and 1961, both of them to the credit of my hon. Friend the Member for Harrogate (Mr. Ramsden), now Under-Secretary of State for War, and my hon. Friend the Member for the City of Chester (Mr. Temple) respectively, have increased the anti-pollution powers of river boards. Meanwhile, the water supply industry has been strengthened by steady amalgamation of separate undertakings. The number in England and Wales has been reduced from 1,030 in 1956 to 488 in March this year. The river boards have achieved much. Their testimony is the better land drainage, the better maintained rivers, the cleaner rivers and the better fishing which are beginning to be widespread, but new needs are generally recognised with which the river boards are not equipped to deal.

Demand for water is increasing fast on every front. The general public supply, met by statutory water undertakings, is already about 2¼ billion gallons a day and is increasing. Industry requires nearly as much, and its needs are growing, too. Water for spray irrigation has perhaps the highest potential growth of all. The demand on a peak day for this purpose might before long exceed the total demand on that day for the public supply. Meanwhile, rivers are coming to be more and more important as land drainage channels; for carrying away purified effluents from our towns and industries, and, to a more leisured nation, for their beauty and for the pleasures which they can provide.

If these growing needs are to be met effectively, economically and with the least damage to all the interests concerned, new steps must be taken to secure the proper management and development of our water resources, for, while we are blessed with abundant rainfall, additional available supplies of water are becoming increasingly scarce in many areas.

At present, we use about 10 per cent. of our rainfall, but the great bulk of the 90 per cent, that is unused could not, in practical terms, be put to use, being lost by evaporation, or running away quickly at times of flood to the sea. But there is much that can be done to increase the quantity readily available provided that the measures for water conservation and management are adequate. The purpose of the Bill is to put right the fact that at the moment they are not adequate.

The Water Act, 1945, gave the Minister of Housing and Local Government the duty of providing for the conservation and proper use of water resources, but gave him little in the way of powers to discharge that duty. River boards, statutory water undertakings and navigation authorities are vitally concerned with the volume and level of waters in rivers and underground, but no one of them has comprehensive powers to control abstractions. At present, it is left to the individual non-statutory user to take water for his own purposes where he can, subject only to the common law. The statutory user must obtain from Parliament or from a Minister the necessary powers to abstract water. But above all, the organisation and effective powers for positive measures of water conservation and control on a comprehensive scale are lacking.

Foreseeing that the rising demand for water would probably require action over a wide front, my right hon. Friend the then Minister, now the Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations, in 1955, asked a sub-committee of the Central Water Advisory Committee to study the subject. In essence, this sub-committee, the Proudman sub-committee, concluded that it should no longer be left to independent initiatives to develop the country's water resources according to the separate needs of particular users and areas but that the situation now called for new authorities to review the various requirements and to plan the ordered development of resources to meet them. The final Proudman Report was generally welcomed. We owe much to the chairman and members of that sub-committee—representatives of all the major interests involved—and I should like, on behalf of the Government, once again to thank Professor Proudman and his colleagues.

The sub-committee's final Report was published in February, 1962, and two months later the Government's attitude was set out in a White Paper. The Bill implements the proposals outlined in that White Paper, subject to two changes to which I shall refer later. The nub of the Bill is the provision which it makes for national planning of water resources at the centre and for the day-to-day management of those resources by river authorities. These authorities will also be responsible for the existing functions of river boards, whom they will supersede—that is, for land drainage, fisheries and prevention of pollution. Under Clause I, the Minister of Housing and Local Government is required to provide for the conservation, augmentation and redistribution of water resources in England and Wales. In discharging this duty the Minister will be assisted by the Water Resources Board and by the river authorities, whose duty it will be to measure the demands for water in their areas and to match them by positive action to provide the necessary water. From this all else follows.

Abstractions of all sorts, whether from inland waters or from underground, are to be controlled by a licensing system, except for domestic and agricultural use—other than spray irigation—and certain other specified categories which will be exempt. On the basis of a survey of existing resources and of the demands on those resources by statutory water undertakers, by agriculture, by industry, and by all other users, a water use balance sheet for each area will be drawn up and periodically reviewed by each river authority.

The river authorities will balance the further needs of new abstractors against the interests of existing abstractors and other river users by determining for the more important rivers a minimum acceptable flow—the flow needed to meet the requirements of all the various uses to which the river is already being put. This minimum acceptable flow will be established after a process of consultations, advertisement, objection and public inquiry.

Meanwhile, the river authority, financed, after an initial period when precepts will be issued, by income received from licensed abstractors under charging schemes which will need ministerial sanction, will be carrying out measures of conservation to increase its water resources so as to meet, without infringing the minimum acceptable flow, growing demands of which its survey will have given notice. Some river authorities will have less scope for conservation in their own area and will look for help to other river authorities which have potentially a surplus of water.

In this task, the redistribution of water, the river authorities will be assisted by the Water Resources Board, which will direct and co-ordinate the water measurement work of the river authorities, plan the development of water resources on a national basis and stimulate the promotion of schemes for the transfer of water from water-surplus to water-deficit areas.

So much for the general outline of the Bill. I turn now to slightly more detail. Part II provides for the establishment of the river authorities and of the Water Resources Board. The river authorities will be 26 in number, in place of the 32 river boards. The Proudman subcommittee recommended that there should be some amalgamation of river board areas. The House will recognise that in planning efficient management of water resources there are positive advantages in relatively large areas. Redistribution is easier the fewer the authorities concerned. The larger the area, within limits, the easier to balance all the relevant factors and to marry demand and supply. The larger the area, within limits, the more effective will be the co-ordination of surface and underground water resources. A smaller number of units will enable more economical use of the key scarce hydrological staff and will offer better career prospects for those who serve under them.

Taken by themselves, these criteria might suggest even fewer river authorities than the 26 set out in the Bill, but the needs of land drainage and fisheries have to be borne in mind, too. The amalgamations proposed in the Bill, therefore, are the minimum for water conservation purposes and are wholly compatible with the interests of land drainage and fisheries. No doubt, as in another place, the Bill will be criticised on this subject both for going too far and for not going far enough. We shall obviously study most carefully any arguments on this point.

Sir Cyril Osborne (Louth)

Why do land drainage and fisheries require a larger number of smaller units? Why could not my right hon. Friend accept the sub-committee's recommendation of about 10 or 15 units instead of 26?

Sir K. Joseph

Land drainage and fisheries can be dealt with only on a much more local basis than conservation, augmentation and the redistribution of water resources. We are faced here, as in so much legislation, with trying to find an acceptable compromise which will meet all the legitimate interests.

The river authorities cover all England and Wales, except the Thames, the Lee and that part of the Greater London area not at present in the area of a river or catchment board. I will come back later to the arrangements for the London area. Under Clause 5 and Part IX of the Bill, the river authorities will inherit the existing staffs of river boards whose interests will be fully protected. The authorities will be prescribed in size and composition by the two Ministers, the Minister of Housing and Local Government and the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, after consultation with the interested bodies. They will normally range from 21 to 31 members. If special circumstances justify it a greater number of members may be prescribed. Moreover, where navigation interests are particularly affected, or a drainage charge is levied, additional members from these backgrounds may be appointed.

Whatever the overall number may be on a river authority, a bare majority of members will always he appointed by the councils of counties and county boroughs and occasionally from county districts, when these are disproportionately heavy ratepayers. The balance will be Ministers' nominees, qualified in land drainage, fisheries, agriculture, industry other than agriculture, and public water supply.

In size and composition these authorities differ for both the Proudman Report and the White Paper. The 10 to 15 members recommended by the Proudman sub-committee majority were thought by the Government too few adequately to give the necessary representation to local authorities who will be required to meet precepts issued by those authorities and to all the other interests affected by the work of the authorities and contributing to their income.

The White Paper proposal that local authority representatives should be drawn from rating authorities, that is, from county boroughs and county districts, would have led to complex and not very satisfactory electoral college arrangements and has been dropped in favour of the present arrangement whereby members of river boards are appointed by the councils of counties and county boroughs. Once established and in operation, which, we hope, will be by the spring of 1965, about two years from now, river authorities are to be responsible for discharging the new functions conferred on them for the conservation, augmentation and redistribution of water resources as well as the transferred function now discharged by river boards, land drainage, prevention of pollution and fisheries.

Mr. Edward Short (Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Central)

On the question of representation, in a case where a sparsely populated, water surplus area is linked to a heavily populated, water deficit area, does what the right hon. Gentleman said about representation mean that the thickly populated urban area will be the majority on the new authority and can out-vote the large, rural, water surplus area?

Sir K. Joseph

No. That is the sort of consideration which the Ministers would have to take into account after their consultations in prescribing the composition and the numbers of any particular river authority.

Clause 4 of the Bill, supplemented by Clause 14, makes it clear that the authorities have a positive duty to estimate future demands for water, to formulate and secure the execution of proposals for conserving, augmenting and redistributing where necessary the water resources in their areas to meet such demands. The Water Resources Board will be a Crown agency with its own expert staff. Its members, some or all of whom may be paid, and who may serve full or part time, are not to exceed eight, and will be chosen for their experience of the key skills involved in water conservation. By virtue of Clause 13(2) at least one is to be appointed—and the hon. Member for Anglesey (Mr. C. Hughes) will be interested to know this—as having special knowledge of water conservation and use in Wales, and I intend to choose one member on account of his experience of amenity questions.

The Board will be the master planner of our water resources. It will have an intelligence function of building up comprehensive information about water resources and demand for water. It will have also the duty to work out on the basis of this intelligence the action needed to augment resources. It will stimulate promotion of schemes for the transfer of water resources from areas with a surplus to areas with a deficiency. It will make the necessary recommendations to the river authorities for action and it will be the duty of the river authorities to act on such recommendations.

The Water Resources Board, if dissatisfied either with the plans or the progress in achieving the plans or the programme, can make its dissatisfaction known to the Minister, who has in reserve both powers of default and powers to direct. The Board will also have the duty and power to commission and supervise and carry out research. The Board will be concerned with securing the proper use of water resources and will, therefore, be concerned with the quality of our water, a matter to which, I know, great importance is attached by both the statutory water undertakers and industry.

Mr. Harold Davies (Leek)

On reading the Bill, and having followed the discussions in another place, may I ask the Minister whether he agrees with the criticism made in another place that this Water Resources Board has the function of giving only advice? Despite Amendments in another place, as I read the Bill I cannot see that the Board has more than advisory powers. Ought not some drive and punch to be given to this Board if we really want conservation and analysis and intelligent discussion of our water resources?

Sir K. Joseph

I hope that the hon. Gentleman, who has taken such an interest, will look carefully at Clause 12, where he 'will see that the Board is empowered and, indeed, directed to make recommendations to the river authorities, and those river authorities are required by Clause 14 (1, c) to satisfy those recommendations.

By Clause 14 (4) the Board must be kept in touch by river authorities with their plans, their programmes and the progress of their actions. So the Water Resources Board will be in the position that the river authorities are bound to carry out its recommendations and are bound to report their progress to the Board, so that the Board can invoke the Minister, who is, after all, answerable to Parliament. That is why I think that the balance now in the Bill is about right.

Part III provides for the collection of the information upon which the proper management and development of water resources depends. It also deals with fixing this criterion, the minimum acceptable flow, which is to be the foundation of the control of abstraction of water. River authorities are required, again by Clause 14, to carry out and periodically to bring up to date a survey of water resources and demands upon them—as it were, a water-use balance sheet—for their areas. This is essential to their basic task of developing or securing development of water resources in anticipation of future demands. The authorities are required by Clause 15 to submit hydrometric schemes for the approval of the Water Resources Board and to carry them out when approved.

Grants for this sort of work by river boards are at present made by the Minister of Agriculture, and in future will be paid by the Minister of Housing and Local Government, under Clause 84.

The basis of control of abstraction of water from inland waters is by this criterion to which I have already referred, the minimum acceptable flow. Clause 19 places upon the river authorities the duty of determining for the rivers in their areas the minimum flow needed to meet the requirements of all the various uses to which a river is being put, including abstraction of water, dilution of effluents, land drainage, fisheries, navigation. The authorities' proposals are to be prepared after consultation with those statutorily involved in the river in question and will be advertised so that all affected may have a chance to consider them and to make representations to the Minister or Ministers concerned, who will be required to hear objections. Approved statements are to be periodically reviewed and brought up to date where necessary.

I now turn to the control of abstraction and impounding for which Part IV makes provision. The basis of the control of abstraction and impounding, which the House will find in Clauses 23 and 36, is that, at the expiry of three months after the new river authorities effectively take over their functions, it will become unlawful to abstract or to begin to impound water otherwise than in conformity with a licence granted by a river authority.

A licence will be required for all abstractions of surface water, except by a riparian occupier in the exercise of common law rights for the domestic purposes of his household or for agricultural holdings other than spray irrigation. There are also to be exemptions from licensing for transfer of water by navigation, harbour and conservancy authorities in the performance of their statutory functions.

Mr. Harold Davies

Does agriculture include horticulture in this context?

Sir K. Joseph

Yes, certainly.

A licence will be required for any abstraction of underground water, save only for the domestic use of the abstractor, and, of course, the Bill gives control over abstractions of undergound water over the whole of England and Wales, which was, under Section 14 of the 1945 Act, limited only to conservation areas declared by the Minister. For both surface and undergound water abstractions, there are a number of commonsense exemptions from licensing, including such things as fire fighting.

Mr. R. H. Turton (Thirsk and Malton)

In the hill areas a number of springs are usually used for agricultural purposes for the watering of cattle. I believe that they come under the definition of underground water. Will an attempt be made to exclude them from this very complicated licensing system?

Sir K. Joseph

My right hon. Friend has raised the point which I have seen set out with some force in a paper by the N.F.U. We shall certainly have to consider the difficulties which might arise from this.

The new licensing system we are imposing has really two duties. It must fully protect rivers and underground waters from undue deprivations and, at the same time, prevent unregulated and wasteful competition for the available water. Part IV of the Bill therefore contains, in Clause 29, safeguards for those who are concerned to have water in the rivers and for those who are lawfully taking water out of the rivers.

The river authorities, in considering applications for licences, are obliged by the Bill to protect both the interests of those who require a certain level of flow to be maintained and the interests of those already abstracting water. The river authorities must, under Clause 29, have regard to the minimum acceptable flow, thereby ensuring that the general interests of the river are looked after, before deciding on any licensing application. All abstractions which are licensed and those—for domestic and agricultural use—which are exempted from licensing, are described as having a "protected right". The river authorities are not to license abstractions which would injure such protected rights.

Moreover, the holder of a licence is made immune under Clause 31 from action at law, subject to reservations for neglect and breach of contract, provided that his abstraction or impounding is in accordance with his licence. Additionally, by virtue of Clause 48, any derogation, subject to some qualification, from a protective right will found an action at law against the river authority for breach of statutory duty. These are the limits upon the licensing authority which make a licence issued by a river authority so much more valuable than a mere piece of paper.

I now turn to those who are already, and at the time when the river authorities take over their functions, abstracting water. If they have been doing so for five years prior to that date, by virtue of express statutory authority or in pursuance of prescriptive rights and the like, they will be entitled to a particular form of licence called "licences of right" authorising them to continue abstracting for the same purpose and to the same extent as previously authorised or, in the case of non-statutory abstractions, as near as can be assessed to that quantity.

Clauses 33 to 35 contain the detailed provisions for settling these quantities. I am aware that industry is not totally satisfied at the moment with the drafting of these Clauses, and in Committee we shall need to study very carefully the points which are raised.

All applications for licences other than applications for licences of right are required by the Bill to be advertised locally. Representations may be made and the river authority must consider these before taking a decision. There is a right of appeal to the Minister for an applicant who is dissatisfied by the decision of the river authority, or by its failure to decide. A licence may be varied or revoked, and if this is proposed to be done against the wish of the licence holder the decision will not be taken by the river authority, but will be a ministerial one. The licence holder will have a claim for compensation for injury sustained.

Sir Harry Legge-Bourke (Isle of Ely)

Can my right hon. Friend be a little more clear about the relationship he expects between the Geological Survey and the river authorities? Obviously, the Water Resources Board will have close association with the Survey, but before abstractions, especially of underground sources, are licensed, it is important that the licensing authority itself should know the geological situation. Surely, therefore, the river authorities should have direct access to the Geological Survey and should not always have to go to the Water Resources Board.

Sir K. Joseph

My hon. Friend has put his finger on the gist of the issue—the combined management of surface and underground water. Whether, in fact, the Geological Survey will need to be transferred to the Water Resources Board so that intelligence functions are complete under one body, or whether there will be just a close link, I do not think that it is necessary to say now, and no decision has yet been made. Clearly, the Water Resources Board will have to dispose of knowledge now secured through the Geological Survey.

Parts V and VIII of the Bill deal with finance. There will be an annual licence fee of £5, reduced to £1 for abstraction of underground water for agricultural purposes other than spray irrigation, and there will be charges for abstraction licences by the river authority. From this income, the river authority will be expected to discharge its new functions—that is to say, its day-to-day expenditure on administration, its work in measuring water resources and in any new works for replacement, augmentation and distribution of water supply.

The charge to the abstractor will, in general, be related to the quantity of water authorised to be extracted by him, because it is this authorised amount which the river authority will have to reserve for him in all its plans. I have spoken very generally, but there is an exception to that proposition in the case of licensing for spray irrigation purposes.

Authorities are required by Clause 56 to prepare and publish maximum charges schemes which, after due hearing of objection, will be decided by the Minister. It will necessarily take some time for this process to be completed, because authorities will need to assess in broad terms their water resources, the demands upon them, and conservation and other works that they will have to carry out before they begin to arrive at the balance of cost from which they will deduce their water charges. In the interim, perhaps until 1969, new abstraction will be charged by ad hoc arrangements. But licensees of right—that is, abstractors of water at the time when the river authorities take on their new functions—will pay no charge until a charging system is approved.

Rates of charge will be varied according to the source, season and purpose of the abstraction and to the way in which the water is subsequently disposed of; but where the circumstances are identical, the rate of charge must be the same. Where the abstractor has himself carried out conservation works, this will be taken into account in fixing a charge. The authorities will be entitled to precept on local authorities for any deficiency on their new functions prior to the approval of charging schemes only and, thereafter, must balance their income and expenditure, which are to be kept in a separate water resources account. For their transferred functions—land drainage, pollution control and fisheries—river authorities will precept as river boards do now.

Part VI of the Bill provides river authorities with powers relating to land and works. Clauses 63 and 64 confer powers to acquire land and to acquire or create interests or rights over land. They really do no more than re-enact existing powers of river boards, extending them to cover the new, conservation, functions. Under Clause 65 and Schedule 7, river authorities may be equipped, by order of the Minister, with compulsory powers in connection with the carrying out of engineering or building operations for the purposes of their new functions. This provision is similar to those which already apply to water undertakers.

For compulsory powers in connection with their other, transferred, functions the authorities will need to rely on the powers conferred by other enactments. It is to be noted that Clause 69 provides that any works carried out by the authorities will be subject to the provisions of the Town and Country Planning Act, 1962, like those of any other developers. There will be no riding roughshod over local planning authorities. Indeed, the Bill pays studious regard to protecting the interests of amenity and the natural beauty of the countryside.

Part VII makes provision for certain additional functions of river authorities. Clauses 70 to 72, dealing with the prevention of pollution of water in underground strata, and Clause 75, empowering river authorities to provide recreational facilities on reservoirs which they own or manage, are noteworthy. I have already briefly referred to Parts VIII and IX of the Bill.

Part X contains miscellaneous and supplementary provisions, including powers of entry and inspection, power to take samples of effluents and power to require information. While apparently extensive, these powers are such as river boards possess already. It is intended by order under Clause 120 to confer on the Thames Conservancy and the Lee Conservancy Catchment Board the new functions relating to water conservation for which the Bill provides and to make suitable provision for the control by the Thames Conservancy of abstractions from underground in the rest of the Greater London area. There will, of course, be full consultation with both of them.

My colleagues and I recognise, in particular—and I know that my right hon. Friend the Member for Guildford (Sir R. Nugent) will be interested in this—the vital importance to the conservators of the River Thames of an assured income for the Conservancy Fund. The Conservators, in the discharge of their duties as a navigation authority, effectively safeguard the supply of water to more than 5 million people. For many years, with the sanction of Parliament, they have received payment for these services from various abstractors, including the Metropolitan Water Board. Accordingly, when an order comes to be made applying the Bill to the Thames catchment, provision will be made to ensure the finances of these current services—including those in respect of navigation—as well as the finances of the important additional functions to be undertaken under the Bill. I intend that these additional functions shall include the control of abstraction of ground water in the the inner part of Greater London, which is not at present within the area of any river or catchment board. Any order that is made will be subject to the affirmative Resolution procedure.

I am aware that I have not described the place of flood control in all these arrangements. This is at present the responsibility of the river boards, but will become the responsibility of the river authorities. My hon. Friend will reply to any points which may be made on this matter during the debate.

To summarise, we are faced with rising demands for water from all its main users—for domestic, industrial and agricultural purposes. Our rivers must still serve for land drainage and navigation and we are determined to clean them so that they may be enjoyed by the nation. The Bill provides the machinery by which all these purposes can be achieved; by means of the systematic and comprehensive management of the water resources of England and Wales.

The modernisation of a country is a continuous process, reviewing and adapting the services of the country in the light of new demands. By the Bill we are modernising and strengthening our methods of harnessing the water with which we are blessed to the needs of the larger, healthier, more productive yet more leisured population of today and tomorrow.

4.16 p.m.

Mr. Cledwyn Hughes (Anglesey)

I would like to begin by thanking the Minister for explaining the Bill so clearly to the House. It is, as hon. Members will agree, a complicated Measure—but then, this is an extremely complicated subject. This must surely be one of the most important Bills of this Session. As the right hon. Gentleman said, its effects, on industry, agriculture and the householder will be far-reaching. It is, in part, a consolidation Measure, for it re-enacts the 1948 Act, and I believe that the House will welcome this because it is better to have one comprehensive Act than a number of Measures to which reference must be made.

I would also like to endorse the right hon. Gentleman's remarks and pay my tribute to the Proudman Sub-Committee—to Professor Proudman and his colleagues—who paved the way for the Bill and who did an enormous amount of useful work. I would also like to pay tribute to the work done in this matter in another place. Substantial improvements were achieved there and our burden has been lightened by those efforts. I must say, in passing, that those in the other place seem very knowledgable on this subject. I do not know whether that has anything to do with the dilution of their powers. Certainly, they are strong on water; and we must be grateful to them for their efforts in connection with the Bill.

In general terms, the Opposition welcome the Bill. We are glad that the Government have at last accepted our view that a national plan for water is vitally necessary. It is necessary because we have been receiving expert advice on this subject for a number of years, all of it pointing to the fact that unless the country's water resources and the way they are distributed are properly balanced and planned, industry and the economy will soon find itself in difficulties. The Bill does not go as far as we would have liked in certain directions, but these are mainly matters of detail with which we can deal in Committee. On the whole, however, we welcome the Bill as a big step forward and will do everything we can to improve it and help it through its various stages.

It is remarkable how little has been done to plan our water resources over the years. The Minister referred to the work that has been done since 1945. We seem to take water for granted. This probably has something to do with the weather. It rains so much in Britain that everyone seems to think that there must be plenty of water somewhere. In fact, that we have been lackadaisical about this subject and successive Governments did virtually nothing between the passage of the Waterworks Clauses Act, 1849, and the 1944 White Paper "A National Water Policy". After 1849, throughout the Industrial Revolution and the explosive growth of population which accompanied it, no real action was taken. A good deal was done by local initiative—by water undertakers, public and private, and we should pay tribute to them for what they have achieved—but the Government did not intervene until after the last war. Today, we have arrived at a crucial stage. The old methods of haphazard abstraction unrelated to national requirements and a national plan are dangerously out-dated.

It is mainly a matter of distribution. Water is most plentiful in the West and the North, where the population is sparsest. It is most likely to be scarce in the East and the South, where the population is most dense. To put it in another way, in Wales, the dry areas under the Licensing Act are the wet areas under this Bill. The piping of water from Wales or from Cumberland to East Anglia or the south of England would be an enormously costly operation. I think that in due course, it will have to come to that, but, in the meantime, it is absolutely essential that full and economic use be made of local resources. I believe that this Measure will help to that end.

The question is whether the Bill measures up to the problem we have to tackle, and I shall try to deal with the main facets of the problem bearing this in mind. First, industry must have the water it needs without unnecessary trouble being put in its way. Some industries, such as chemicals, iron and steel, oil refining, pulp and paper, need very large quantities of water. I understand that the making of a ton of steel requires six tons of water, whilst the chemical industry is estimated to use at least 780 million gallons per day. Production in these vital industries, and for our exports as a whole, depends on a sufficiency of water being available.

In a lecture which he delivered a few months ago, Mr. P. J. Walker, managing director of the Reed Paper Group, had this to say, which goes to the very heart of industry's water problem: The power requirements for driving a newsprint machine and providing the steam for drying are enormous and so are the requirements for water in the process. For instance, at our Aylesford mill, in Kent, the power installation is equivalent to 70,000 h.p., or sufficient power to run a city of the size of Brighton and the water requirements are 25 million gallons a day. Probably the growing shortage of water supplies throughout the country is the most likely factor arising from natural causes to hinder the growth of paper making in this country, but this is a problem facing most of our important industries … Again, I understand that a few more days of drought in 1959 would have resulted in many industrial plants being closed down. We were lucky then by just a few days, and it is no use saying that this cannot happen again and that we must hope for the best. I understand that between 1740 and 1743 there were four very dry years in succession. We were then a pastoral country, with a population of about 5 million. I shudder, as we all must, to think of what would happen now to industrial production and exports if we again had three or four dry years in succession. The prospect is appalling. This, therefore, is one of the urgent tasks with which the new Water Resources Board will have to grapple at once.

There is, I understand, inadequate information of industry's estimated need for water in the coming years. If that is true, it is a very serious matter. The first Report of the sub-committee said that the problem of estimating industrial demand is intractable. Again, under the new dispensation, engineers in industry and in the water undertakings must get together so that proper data can be provided.

Doubts have been expressed whether industry has been properly treated under the Bill, and I was glad to hear the Minister say that he will give this matter further attention. The word "confiscation" was used in another place quite a good deal, but that is perhaps going just a bit too far. Industry seems to be giving the impression that it will be slightly victimised by the Bill, but I would not take that view. Industry will have its licences of right, and it will have adequate representation under Clause 6 (3, e) or, at least, it will have representation——

Sir C. Osborne

The great feeling in industry is that it has totally inadequate representation. That is the great complaint.

Mr. Hughes

I would not argue that with the hon. Gentleman. There may be something in what he says, but at least industry is to have representation under that Clause, and perhaps, in Committee, we can discuss whether it is sufficient or whether there should be added representation.

The vital thing is that all the interests represented should work for the common good. What we want to avoid is a clash between the various interests represented on the various authorities——

Mr. John H. Osborn (Sheffield, Hallam)

The hon. Member has mentioned the rights of industry. Would he touch on the fact that many firms have built up their rights, because they have put their factories at rivers and regard water supply as an asset?

Mr. Hughes

We know precisely what industry has done. Our task now is to see that industry is adequately represented, but, above all, that the needs of the nation as a whole are properly catered for, industry fitting into the general pattern.

There is a growing need in agriculture for water for spray irrigation. This is a new and formidable demand. I understand that about 130,000 acres can now be irrigated in this way, and the area is increasing by about 15,000 acres a year. That represents a very considerable increase in the use of water. The estimate is that by 1980 500,000 acres will be irrigated in this way annually. That is largely in those areas where water is not plentiful and, of course, the water is required for irrigation when river and stream flow is at its very lowest. Clause 44 deals with this point, but we shall have to deal very carefully with the whole subject in Committee.

I do not know whether there is not a danger that, in the meantime, there will be an attempt to acquire licences of right that will take rather more water than the Minister or his Department now visualises. I am glad that the Minister told his right hon. Friend the Member for Thirsk and Malton (Mr. Turton) that the position of small hill farmers especially, who depend for water to a large extent on the mountain springs, will be looked at again by his Department before we reach the Committee stage. The domestic consumers' demands are also increasing rapidly, due to improved sanitary provision.

The Bill is not directly concerned with the statutory water undertakers, except as far as they are to be represented on the new authorities. There has been a good deal of criticism that under the Bill there are still too many river authorities. I will return to that in a moment, but I would say that there still are too many water undertakings. Since 1956 there has been some very good progress. I was glad to hear the Minister mention a present figure of 488 river authorities, but even that number is still too many. We cannot have real efficiency in distribution until the number is again drastically reduced.

It is a pity that the Bill did not go a step further and recast the undertakings as well. I believe that we shall have to wait a very long time before voluntary amalgamations succeed in bringing the number down to a reasonable figure. In saying that, I do not detract from the work of many undertakings which have first-class achievements to their credit, but we cannot hope to achieve a national plan—which is really the purpose of the Bill and, I understand, the purpose of the Government—at present until conservation and distribution are planned as an integrated whole.

It must be one of the basic weaknesses of the Bill that this is rather left to chance. Some critics have said that we should have fewer river authorities, because they will tend to take a parochial view and will be less efficient than a smaller number of authorities with fewer members. But most of these authorities have jurisdiction over large areas of land. I would not think that our experience since 1948 shows that the river boards have been parochial in their attitude. I am sure that it will be the consensus of opinion of hon. Members on both sides of the House that the river boards have done an excellent job on land drainage and flood prevention and in their other tasks. They have often carried out their work under considerable financial difficulties, which is not the fault of the Opposition, but certainly is the responsibility of the Treasury.

Clause 3 and Schedule 1 of the Bill set up the new river authorities. The river boards are to be dissolved and recreated with much wider powers, but I am not satisfied at this stage that there should be a drastic reduction in the numbers, primarily because of the efficiency which I have just mentioned and also because I feel that in these initial stages things might wall be left as they are.

My hon. Friend the Member for Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Central (Mr. Short), in his intervention when the Minister was speaking, made a point about representation. If amalgamation were to take place on a large scale, I understand that huge areas with low rateable resources would have small representation merely because representation would be based on those resources.

There are powers in Clause 10 to adjust the areas if that is found necessary, but the House must grasp this point as one of importance now—that the Minister in a year or two could completely recast the boundaries of the river boards. If the right hon. Gentleman does that, will he lay regulations before the House? If there is to be a major recasting of boundaries, the House should have the opportunity to discuss it.

We must remember that the new authorities, which will be the re-created boards, are now to undertake a new kind of work. Since 1948 they have dealt with drainage, pollution and flood prevention, but now they are to take over the duties of conservation which is quite a different matter. It seems to me that the country will need a very large number of highly qualified water engineers over the next few years. Is the Minister satisfied that they will be forthcoming? Has his Department made an estimate of the number of engineers who will be required because the river authorities will be taking over these new powers? What steps are being taken to get in touch, through the Minister for Science, who, no doubt, is on his toes, dealing with this question, with the universities and technical colleges to make provision for the engineers who will be required during the next few years?

Sir C. Osborne

Is this not a perfectly good argument why there should be a smaller number of larger areas, so as to be able to use more satisfactorily the relatively small number of expert men who will be needed?

Mr. Hughes

I should not have thought that that would be an overwhelming argument in favour of reducing the number of boards. The important things is that the boards should be efficient and that we as a country should produce the engineers who will be needed. It is the Government's responsibility to do that.

The Water Resources Board to be set up under Clauses 12 and 13 is to be the co-ordinating authority, the link between the Minister and the new river authorities. The Board has been strengthened since the Bill was first published, but we on this side of the House would like to see it strengthened further, I should like to see all the recommendations of the Proudman sub-committee put into effect in relation to the Board. We welcome the fact that it is to be set up, but while undoubtedly it will be a mine of information, we do not feel that it will be a dynamo to ensure that the job is done if the river authorities fail to do it. Nor will it have the financial power. I should like to see it have power to assist in financing conservation schemes until they are self-supporting.

The financial arrangements will be very complicated. The Board will have two main accounts. First, there will be the old account on the precept, to do the job of flood prevention drainage, pollution, and so on. Then there will be the new account dealing with the charges. The two accounts will be completely divorced from each other. Under Clause 57 the specified date is 1st April, 1969, when the charge scheme will come into operation, although I think that there is a saving Clause which enables the Minister to delay the date if he thinks it necessary. In the meantime, the cost of setting up the new machinery and the cost of the hydromatic schemes and so on will fall directly on the rates.

Sir K. Joseph

I must correct the hon. Gentleman. In the interim there will be ad hoc charging schemes from which only licensees of right will be exempt. Therefore, only deficiency in the interim will fall on the rates.

Mr. Hughes

The right hon. Gentleman says that a deficiency will fall on the rates. What will it be? It might be quite large. If it falls on the rates, will this qualify under general grant?

Sir K. Joseph

The river authorities, naturally, will try to adjust their ad hoc charging schemes, which they will try to make by agreement with the abstractors so as to eliminate a deficiency. The deficiency, I hope, will be minimal.

Mr. Hughes

I am glad to hear the right hon. Gentleman making that prediction. All I say is that if a deficiency turns out to be large I hope that he will see that the river authorities are assisted. As I have said, they have been labouring under difficulties in carrying out flood prevention and drainage because of lack of resources. It would be very unfortunate if, at the start of this new work, they were to be inhibited from doing the job properly.

The relationship of the Water Resources Board with the river authorities is confined to the conservation side. The central authority will be concerned only with conservation. The river authorities will have conservation and all the old jobs as well. I do not know to what extent this is justified, or whether it will work out well. The experts, however, disagree with this part of the Bill.

Mr. C. B. Townend, C.B.E., formerly chief engineer to the Middlesex main drainage authority, said, a few months ago: Quite apart from political considerations and administrative patterns, if our water resources are to be used 'in a way that will benefit the greatest number of people for the longest possible time' it seems certain that this could best be achieved by unified control over abstraction, prevention of pollution and all other aspects of a realistic water conservation policy. In other words, if a central authority is to do its job properly we should not divorce one function from the other. It is only right that the functions of conservation, flood prevention, prevention of pollution, and the provision of drainage should be treated as one task. I want to know why, under the Bill, these functions are being kept in separate compartments. I think that this will prevent the central authority from doing the job which the Minister hopes it will do.

On the question of the transfer of water from areas where there is plenty to areas where there is not sufficient—and the Lake District and Wales have exploitable surpluses while some areas have insufficient water, and our great cities must plan for the future—what will be the procedure under the Bill? This is perhaps the greatest obscurity in the Bill. It is something which we must have cleared up today.

The licensing system which it lays down is necessary and welcome, but the procedure is not at all clear. If, for example, Manchester wants water from the Lake District and Birmingham wants water from Mid-Wales, what will the procedure be? What will the Birmingham and Manchester undertakings have to do? They will have to get planning permission in the usual way. The application for a licence must be made to the appropriate authority. If the licence is rejected, there is the right of appeal to the Minister.

But Clause 27(2) states that an application may be made by a person for a licence if he is the occupier of land contiguous to that inland water, or … he satisfies the river authority that he has, or at the time when the proposed licence is to take effect will have, a right of access to such land. Before Manchester and Birmingham make the application, will they have to acquire the land in the first place? We must have this clarified by the Minister.

We are told that Private Bill procedure is left unimpaired by this Bill. The short question is: how is Private Bill procedure to walk side by side with the procedure outlined in this Bill? It is not at all clear at present. If the Minister rejects an appeal, can a Bill be introduced anyway? What is the position?

Then there is the Minister's right under Clause 38. There he has the right to require that licences should be referred direct to him, in certain circumstances, by-passing the river authorities. The House ought to be told in what sort of cases the Minister visualises he will need to by-pass the authority.

Then there is the position of the Water Resources Board. It is on this very question of transferring water, of piping an exploitable surplus from one part of the country to another, that the Board should be called in aid. This, I should have thought, was one of its primary jobs. It is the body which will know where the water is and where it should go. But the Board is not brought into the Bill at all at this vital stage. The House will want to know a great deal more about this, and I hope that the Minister will tell us carefully, stage by stage, how this new procedure is to work.

I think that the root cause of the Tryweryn controversy, in Wales, was not that the people of Merioneth objected to water being abstracted from Wales and taken to another part of the island, but that the procedure enabled the scheme to be conceived and carried out without adequate local consultation at the very earliest stages.

Mrs. Eirene White (Flint, East)

Would my hon. Friend not also agree that it was without adequate recompense for one of our few natural resources in Wales?

Mr. Hughes

I agree, without adequate recompense to an area where there are depopulation, unemployment and very few local resources.

Mr. James Griffiths (Llanelly)

A great deal of the opposition comes from the fact that very large authorities with large resources are able to come and tap water resources and run pipes through villages which are denied any water resources and which for that reason are losing their population.

Mr. Hughes

I am obliged to my right hon. Friend. He has made a point of considerable importance. As my right hon. Friend says, it should be perfectly obvious that land and farms cannot be taken away from people without injuring local susceptibilities and upsetting communities, although we agree that water is needed and that means must be found for supplying water to areas where it is required.

I warmly welcome Clauses 96 and 97, which deal with the preservation of amenities. The wording is: flora, fauna and geological or physiographical features of special interest … These things are protected by these two Clauses. But surely we must not get to the point in this context where authorities say, "We must not go to that valley because there are some very rare flowers there. Let us go to the next valley; there are only people there. Let us drown that." This is a real danger, that we over-emphasise this side of the matter and forget the communities.

I am disappointed, and so are many of my hon. Friends from Wales, that the Government, and the Minister, in particular, did not take the opportunity presented by the Bill to implement some of the recommendations of the Welsh Advisory Water Committee in its Report on the Water Resources of Wales. Apparently there will be one Welsh member out of eight on the Water Resources Board. Really, this is a sop to Wales. It is not good enough. The Minister knows perfectly well that there is a wide consensus of opinion in the Principality that there should be a Welsh Water Board. This has been supported by conference after conference. Here was an opportunity to set up a Welsh Water Board, or at least a sister committee to the Water Resources Board to operate in Wales. There will be widespread disappointment that the Minister has not taken advantage of the opportunity to do this.

We feel strongly that in view of the devolution that has taken place in Wales over the last fifteen years, and the obvious resources that we have, here is a part of the kingdom which is suffering from depopulation, unemployment and all the difficulties of which the Minister is well aware; and this valuable asset is in these very areas where there is poverty. Here is an opportunity for us to do something to assist areas in Wales which have boon hit. The opportunity has for the time being been lost. It is typical of this Government that they arrange a referendum in Wales on beer that they can sell to us, but on the water that we can sell to them we get nothing at all! In any event, as time goes on we shall put down Amendments and new Clauses in Committee proposing the setting up of seine sort of authority for Wales, and I hope that the Minister by then will have been persuaded that it is the right and proper course.

Before I leave the point, I would say that it seems extraordinary that the Government can bring in a Bill to plan the conservation of the country's water resources, leaving Scotland out of it entirely. The area where there is the greatest potential of water in these islands is left out. Will the Minister say why Scotland has been excluded? We know there are legal difficulties. This is an old chestnut, that Scotland must be left out because it has a separate legal system. Of course, we know there are legal differences, but this is a minor point, and Scotland should be brought into the national picture. We cannot get the proper conservation and planning of our resources until Scotland is brought fully into the picture.

There are many other points which I should like to raise, but I will leave them for the Committee stage. I remember Aneurin Bevan saying that we are an island of coal surrounded by fish and that it would take an organising genius of the first magnitude to organise a shortage of both at the same time. We are an island with ample resources of pure water. I hope that the Bill will enable us to avoid a shortage of this vital commodity.

4.50 p.m.

Sir Lionel Heald (Chertsey)

No one, I am sure, could reasonably quarrel with the fundamental idea of the Bill, or with the objects at which it is aimed. The duty of formulating and putting into effect a national water policy was laid on the Minister as long ago as 1945, but it cannot be suggested that that duty has yet been performed. At the same time, it is fair to successive Ministers to point out that, according to the Proudman sub-committee's final Report and according, I think, to general agreement, this has largely been due to the fact that the necessary machinery had not been created.

Now that it has been accepted that there must be river authorities which combine both the functions of conservation and river board duties and also a central independent water authority which is properly qualified and empowered to give advice and help to the various river authorities as to the proper discharge of their new and much more comprehensive functions, we can really hope that results will be obtained.

Provision is made under the Bill also for the river authorities to secure the proper use of all available sources of water. There can, therefore, be real hope of putting an end to the constant succession, or apparent constant succession, of droughts and floods which makes people feel, not unreasonably, that there is no policy or plan at all and which cause people also, quite unfairly, to criticise some of the river boards on the basis that all they are concerned with is getting the water away to the sea as soon as, and as completely as, possible, thereby causing serious trouble on the way down, apart from the general effect on the rivers from the point of view of other users.

Nevertheless, however much we welcome in principle what is proposed, it is our duty in this House to examine the provisions of the Bill which are designed to attain these desirable objects in order to see what interference with existing and ancient rights, such as common law rights, is involved and whether those rights will be adequately safeguarded or compensated for. If it is found that this is not so, then, I believe, it will be in accordance with our practice in this House and Parliament to decline to give further facilities to the Bill until proper assurances to the required effect are given.

I am not satisfied, as the Bill stands, that the proposed degree of interference with the rights of individuals, particularly as provided for in Clause 31, is justified, or that the Bill ought to proceed without clear assurances as to the Government's intention to introduce Amendments to deal with at least one most important objection, which has already been voiced publicly, but which, I find, appears not to have been referred to in any detail at all, or even to have been discussed in another place, and which was not mentioned by my right hon. Friend in his very interesting and characteristically explicit presentation of the Bill.

The Bill deals with two quite different and separate aspects of the management of our water resources: first, the conservation and augmentation of resources; second, the means of ensuring that they are put to the best use. With regard to the first of those matters, I have only one thing to say.

The Water Resources Board is directed to consider not the quality but only the quantity of water. Pollution remains a matter for the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food. Quality is for the Minister of Housing and Local Government. This, I suggest, is unfortunate, and I should like to have seen the Minister of Agriculture having a much closer connection with the proposed system. I hope that this will be ensured. I gather that something was said in another place about consideration being given to this matter, but we have heard nothing about it today, and it is a matter of regret to those of us who are interested particularly in matters within his province that there is no representative of the Ministry of Agriculture present today. I hope that the points which will be raised by several of us will be conveyed to him.

Sir K. Joseph

It is only because of illness that my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food is not able to be here this afternoon.

Sir L. Heald

I am very sorry. I had heard that, but I was not sure that I should mention it as the reason.

It is very important to appreciate that the river authorities are not specifically directed under the Bill to take all possible steps to preserve the quality of their water. A river is not merely a stream of water. It is a complex system which includes all sorts of things within it, plants, animals, birds, fish and many other things as well, and the Bill, as a modern approach to the solution of the problem, ought to make specific reference to the need to preserve the proper balance of nature. There is no such direction in it.

I believe that representations have been made by those interested in biological and natural problems of this kind to the Minister for Science, and I hope that they will be considered. In this connection, it is not enough to point, as has been done in certain publications I have recently read, to the existing duties of river boards and say that they are transferred to the new authorities. If one looks, for example, at the River Boards Act, 1948, one finds that there is only a general duty cast upon the boards and there is no reference of any kind to such matters as quality or balance.

Passing to the second aspect of the Bill's objectives, that is, securing proper use of water, this is dealt with in Parts III and IV which are designed, in particular, to create a licensing system for the control of abstraction, the bugbear which causes so much concern today to all those who, like myself, are more interested in keeping water in the rivers as much as we possibly can rather than taking as much out as can be. Our concern is, I suggest, seen to be a very reasonable one when it is appreciated that the Bill itself adopts as its criterion for the purpose of dealing with abstraction the very kind of approach which causes us alarm, the conception of what is called the minimum acceptable flow. This directs one's mind to how much one intends to take out, not to how much one will leave behind.

This minimum flow is defined in Clause 19(5). There have been references to this already, but it is worth glancing at it again for a moment, because one finds that when a river authority comes to deal with licences the assumption is that it will have in mind this conception of minimum flow, taking into account the requirements of all the various users, including, among others, fishing, agriculture, industry, and so forth.

I must confess a personal interest in this matter, but I hasten to say that it is not a financial one in any way, because I have found that the price of every fish which I catch is quite substantial, and, certainly, I have not received any financial remuneration in connection with this matter. However, for a number of years I have been a member of or connected with various societies and organisations which deal with fishing and amenities. I also have a number of constituents who are concerned with the use of rivers for many good purposes.

I read the other day that it is estimated that 2½ million people regularly take part in the peaceful recreation of fishing. There is no distinction whatsoever to be drawn between those who fish for salmon, sea trout or trout, and those who fish for any other kind of fresh water fish. We are all in the same boat together.

I am privileged to say that the points which I am putting forward today have the support of such widely known and representative bodies, among others, as the Anglers' Co-operative Association, the Salmon and Trout Association and the National Federation of Anglers. We are quiet and orderly people who do not create riots outside the Palace of Westminster. We have better things to do and better places to which to go. We are concerned about this matter for reasons which I believe are very important because they apply not only to anglers, but to everyone who has these common law rights.

Clause 29, which lays down the procedure for the grant of licences, requires the river authority to take the "minimum acceptable flow" into account. What on earth does "minimum acceptable flow" mean, and "acceptable" by whom, on what basis and on what comparison? This is a matter of the length of the Chancellor's foot, or the length of the river authority's rod, or whatever it may be called. It is to be noted that the Proudman Report, which is such a valuable document in this connection, cursorily mentioned the "minimum acceptable flow". It did not discuss it in any detail but dwelt very briefly on the point and then went away from it.

It is interesting to refer to what The Times said about the "minimum acceptable flow" principle. It stated: On its face value this appears a neat and tidy Whitehall solution. Unfortunately, it bristles with difficulties". That is the case, and yet it has been adopted as a sort of magic answer. How in the world are we to deal with the problem when this is the situation? As soon as the Bill comes into operation everyone will be entitled to and everybody will rush to apply for a licence. The minimum acceptable flow may take, according to the experts, four or five years to settle. How in the world are we to know that proper provision has been made?

The Clause deals with the matter by saying that if the "minimum acceptable flow" has not been settled—it is clear that this is recognised as a likelihood—then the river board must proceed as though it were settling it then. When one thinks that the "minimum acceptable flow" cannot be decided except after consultation with large numbers of other authorities and after many details have been gone into, it is obvious that the river authority deciding whether or not to issue a licence will not be in a position to proceed on the basis of the "minimum acceptable flow" as it will eventually be decided. It would probably be a miracle if it arrived at the same figure.

Perhaps that would not matter very much if the riparian owner, as he is called—the owner of the bank, through whom the fishermen and everyone else obtain their right to protection from pollution and to an adequate supply of water—retained his common law right and could act to restrain unreasonable diminution of the flow of the river. That would provide a very strong deterrent. Even if someone obtained a licence to take out a very large amount of water, he might well hesitate to use it to the full extent.

But the serious matter which I have not been able to find discussed in another place at all is that Clause 31 gives the holder of a licence immediate and complete immunity from any action at law, provided he complies with the terms of the licence. Even if the licence allows him to run the river dry—and we must remember that this applies to tributaries as well as to main rivers—there is no redress of any kind for a riparian owner who is affected, and there is no compensation for anyone else who is affected by it.

We say that the only proper safeguard is at the very least temporarily to retain the common law right. A large number of people think that that is inadequate and that it should be retained permanently. but, to be realistic and to try to make the Bill work in the way that we should like it to work, I suggest that at the minimum we should suspend the operation of Clause 31 in relation to any particular river or tributary until the minimum acceptable flow for the piece of water concerned has been settled. It can be settled by the excellent provisions in the Bill—public inquiries and consultation with everyone concerned—and full opportunity is provided to deal with it.

Just consider the position if someone has a licence on the basis of an assumed minimum acceptable flow of X and three years afterwards the minimum acceptable flow is settled at X multiplied by 2. Would it be possible to take from the man who has the licence what he has received? It is provided in the Bill that the river authority may take steps to reduce the quantity permitted by a licence. But will that be done? Who is more likely to go to the wall—the people interested in the angling, the bathing, or whatever it may be, in the river, or the people who can say, "We have spent £10,000 on the basis of our licence"?

Surely this attempt to anticipate the time when it will be safe to destroy the common law rights is crazy when one thinks about it. As I say, very few people seem to have thought about it, but I do not think there is any answer to the situation which I have tried to explain.

The right of a riparian owner has never been better described than in a famous judgment of Lord Macnaghten in the case of John Young and Company v. Bankier Distillery Company, in 1893, which is quoted in extensor in Appendix II to the final Report of the Proudman sub-committee. Lord Macnaghten said: The law relating to the rights of riparian proprietors is well settled. A riparian proprietor is entitled to have the water of the stream, on the banks of which his property lies, flow down as it has been accustomed to flow down to his property, subject to the ordinary use of the flowing water by upper proprietors, and to such further use, if any, on their part in connection with their property as may be reasonable under the circumstances. Every riparian proprietor is thus entitled to the water of his stream, in its natural flow, without sensible diminution or increase and without sensible alteration in its character or quality. Any invasion of this right causing actual damage or calculated to found a claim which may ripen into an adverse right entitles the party injured to the intervention of the court. That is an ancient common law right which was already established at the time when the courts first sat in Westminster Hall seven hundred years ago. It is to be abolished by the Bill for the mess of potage, which is a very distant one, of the protection that will eventually be produced by the "minimum acceptable flow", decided some years after a large number of people already have licences. That is something into which this House should inquire carefully.

Therefore, this right must not be abolished unless and until the House is satisfied that proper and adequate safeguards will be established in its place. It is clear that at least until the minimum acceptable flow has been settled—assuming that that is properly and fairly done, as, I believe, it can be done, at the proper time—that there will be no real protection whatever.

I must remind hon. Members that there is a remarkably clear precedent in this House in this very subject. When the Rivers (Prevention of Pollution) Act, 1951, was first conceived—the late Mr. Aneurin Bevan was Minister of Health and was responsible for it—the Government of the day decided in the first instance that they would do exactly the same thing in relation to pollution. They decided to abolish the common law right of pollution and to substitute for it what was called the concept of "standard of purity". What would have been said was that when the standard of purity had been settled, if a man could show that he had observed it, there could be no right of action against him.

There was a great outcry about that by all parties on both sides of the House. To his great credit, Mr. Aneurin Bevan, although, in unfortunate circumstances, he had ceased to be Minister of Health before the Bill was actually introduced in 1951, had already persuaded the Government to abandon the claim to abolish the common law right and they actually put into the Bill, so as to leave no doubt about it, Section 11(6) of the Act, which states: Nothing contained in this Act shall affect the law relating to nuisance. In other words, reinforcing 100 per cent. the common law right.

I happen to remember that because it was my privilege to become involved in it. It was one of the first things I ever did in the House of Commons. It brought me into close contact with Mr. Aneurin Bevan. I was immensely struck by his great concern for the purity of rivers and also for the rights of anglers, about which he took a strong view. He made a strong and eloquent speech in support of what I had said. The hon. and learned Member for Kettering (Mr. Mitchison) pointed out the remarkable concatenation that I had been found, apparently, in complete agreement with the then right hon. Member for Ebbw Vale.

It is worth while remembering that precedent, and particularly that that wonderful standard of purity was never settled. It never has been settled. Therefore, if we had abolished the common law right of pollution, one can imagine what a mess we should have been in. I suggest that there is good reason to be careful in what we do about it now.

There is, surely, another warning for us. Here we have an example of proposed abolition of common law rights and the substitution therefor of protection given by ministerial control. Immediately before the Easter Recess, we had an interesting example when discussing the subject of aviation and the noise and nuisance caused by jet aircraft. That was a case in which, in 1949, under the Civil Aviation Act, the common law right of every person not to be disturbed at night was abolished in favour of the right of the Minister to grant licences for night landings, the protection being left in his hands.

On the day when the House rose for the Easter Recess, the Parliamentary Secretary said, in effect, at the end of the debate that he was very sorry but, unfortunately, people had to put up with it. He said that air transport was so important that, unfortunately, the rights of the individual must be submerged and that nothing could be done about it.

I yield to no one in my admiration of the way in which this matter is being approached, as all his duties are, by my right hon. Friend the Minister of Housing and Local Government. In the process, however, can we afford to do this kind of thing? In this case, fortunately, there is ample time to deal with the matter. Now is the time. We are not waiting until we find that we have the same state of affairs as has been arrived at in Sweden.

I do not know whether hon. Members have read recent articles which have appeared in certain articles written by a Swedish expert describing the appalling conditions experienced in Sweden which were caused by the very thing with which we are concerned: the letting down of the rivers by the inadequate, uncontrolled use of the water, the resulting pollution and the appalling consequences to the Swedish rivers. Public opinion was aroused to such an extent that most drastic measures were taken and the position is now being restored. Unless we are careful what we do, it is by no means impossible that such a thing should happen here.

The spraying figures, already mentioned by the hon. Member for Anglesey (Mr. C. Hughes), are alarming and could be tremendous. When that water is taken out, unlike other water which is used for irrigation or industrial purposes, it is lost, because if the spraying operation is efficient, none of it can go back into the river. It is not intended to do so.

I would be very sorry if my right hon. Friend thought that I was being hostile to the Bill. I am certainly not. I do not believe that this subject has been properly considered. The special problem which I have raised is a serious one. As has been announced in the public Press, it has been put forward to the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food on behalf of the organisations to which I have referred. Unfortunately, however, my right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food is not directly concerned in this matter.

I sincerely hope that my right hon. Friend the Minister of Housing and Local Government will consult his right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food and that in Committee we shall have an opportunity of dealing with this matter free from any kind of commitment. It would not be fair for me to ask my right hon. Friend to give any assurance today beyond that he will go into the matter and take it seriously, because I recognise that it is essentially a matter upon which the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food will, and must, have access—I know that he has access, because he has been provided by those interested with a considerable amount of material—to the necessary information. I ask my right hon. Friend, however, to do that.

I say, in conclusion, as I began, that I welcome the principle of the Bill. I wish my right hon. Friend all good fortune with it, but I sincerely ask him to pay the most serious attention to the point which I have raised.

5.19 p.m.

Mr. Harold Davies (Leek)

The House will be grateful for the speech which we have just heard from the right hon. and learned Member for Chertsey (Sir L. Heald). As a layman without legal knowledge, having gone through pretty well all the debates in another place, I can confirm that, unless I have missed it, the point so succinctly brought out by the right hon. and learned Gentleman appears not to have been brought out in the other place. It is a factor that it is the duty of this House to consider.

I for one enjoyed the speech of the right hon. and learned Member, have learned a great deal from it and am grateful that the House of Commons and the Minister have been made aware that in Committee the Minister will have to contend with this point of view from a number of people. I hope that a formula can be found by means of which the excellent purposes of the Bill will not by any means be destroyed if we ensure the protection of the individual as advocated by the right hon. and learned Member for Chertsey. It is not my intention to make a long speech or to reiterate too many of the points that have already been made. While welcoming the Bill, some of us on this side of the House have a number of reservations about it. I think that the Minister of Housing and Local Government is taking on a massive job. He has already overwhelming responsibilities in connection with local government and housing. In the very near future he will have this vast problem added to his other duties, and I am inclined to think that he will have too many responsibilities to do this job properly.

I am of the opinion that the question of water conservation and the ecological balance of the countryside and nature is of such importance that we may have reached a pitch in our history when a separate Ministry should be established to deal with it. There have been objections from fishermen, including sea fishermen, that there is no separate Ministry for fisheries, and I think that there may be a case, if this work is to be done well, for the establishment of another Ministry to deal with it, because as the population grows and is moving from one area to another there is need for a scientific, constructive and objective view into the problem of supplying water.

The purpose of the Bill, without going into details, is to provide for the establishment of river authorities and for a Water Resources Board. The first thing that the Bill does is to enlarge the responsibility of the Minister of Housing and Local Government. I believe that that Ministry is now so overloaded with work that it is wrong to enlarge its responsibility—this is no reflection on the Minister and his officials—and that there may be a case for a separate Ministry to deal with this problem, because the water issue is one of the most important facing us today.

The 1945 Water Act which was brought in during the first period of the Labour Government made the Ministry of Housing and Local Government responsible for a national policy relating to water and enabled the regrouping of water authorities. This we welcomed. We need not argue today whether they are too many or too few, but in Committee we can go more deeply into this. As I said when the Minister was kind enough to give way to me earlier this afternoon, I do not see, despite the Amendments in another place, that the Water Resources Board has any other capacity except an advisory one. From the roundabout machinery which seems to be notched into the Bill, it appears that the Water Resources Board can collect scientific data and advice but that very little executive action can take place as a result of the findings of the Board. I hope that in Committee or at a later stage we can get an assurance that the Water Resources Board will be made stonger and more powerful and be entitled to act.

As already pointed out in two speeches, the question of water cannot be separated from the vast problem of water pollution. One of the saddest things when travelling by car or train in England is to see the rivers and streams polluted and no one taking what I would call dynamic action about it. Even as far back as 1842—I think even before the Richmond Commission—we had in vestigation of water resources and water pollution. That was at the height of the Industrial Revolution. But very little has been done to satisfy the people of this country that the Government and the local authorities are trying wholeheartedly, if I may invent a word, to prevent the depolution of the rivers. There is still too much of it in this beautiful little country of ours. I do not see anything in this Bill that is concise and constructive concerning the problem of river pollution. I am not satisfied that enough has been done under the River Boards Act, 1948, which we were pleased to have, in the matter of drainage pollution and fisheries. I hope that this Bill will have real punch in it and that something will be done, because there is a growing demand for water, as the Proudman sub-committee pointed out in the White Paper. We have had another example of this mentioned in both Houses. It is the matter of amenities and their protection, dealt with in Clause 96. Are we looking at the ecological balance so far as new reservoirs and water works are put forward by the authorities? As my hon. Friend in answer to the Minister pointed out, sometimes we flood a valley with people and leave another valley which is supposed to have peculiar flora and fauna unflooded.

The first objective should be to see that human beings get a clean and decent water supply. But we must also have the right to protect our food supplies, and often farming areas are wiped away when private authorities or others have put forward the plea to build hugh reservoirs. These works move away much of our rich and fertile villages and valleys, because many of these reservoirs have to be at the bottom of valleys where there are great catchment areas. We should make sure that there is a real need for that type of reservoir.

I am glad to see in the Bill—it came after discussion and after being pointed out by Members in another place; the Minister did not mention it this afternoon—that efforts are now being made for winning fresh water from sea water. In many parts of the world, more and more the scientific process of getting fresh water from sea water is becoming cheaper.

There is a small community which exists almost completely on fresh water that is won from the sea by the scientific process which is now well known in this country and all over the world. Believe it or not, we may reach this pitch in the south-east of England because south of the Oölite ridge, roughly from the Wash to Bristol, people are packing themselves like sardines into this area, into the dry part of the country as far as rainfall is concerned. Factories, towns and villages are growing larger. Floods are increasing because these artificially constructed watersheds are often throwing too much water into the drains per hour which cannot be dealt with properly, at any rate as far as complete control is concerned. In such areas there may be a case for investigation by the Water Resources Board into winning fresh water from sea water.

It is as long ago as the 1860s that Mr. Rance, an engineer, produced a magnificent analysis of all the watersheds and rivers of England. He worked out the rainfall and our water supplies and resources. Mr. Rance said at that time that too little was being done to organise and to unify the plentiful water supply available. I was glad to hear one of my hon. Friend's say that if we want a proper unification of the water supplies of Britain it would be ridiculous to leave out the Welsh hillsides or the Scottish Highlands.

It is absolutely necessary to have an intelligent and constructive water resources plan which would include Scotland as well as Wales, because, ultimately, major piping schemes will be needed in order to supply the industrial areas of the south of Scotland and the industrial areas of England either from Scotland or from the Welsh areas. Local jealousies are not such that either the Welsh or the Scots would be foolish enough to want to damage the national economy by resisting a constructive plan to meet the need for water in this island.

Nine-tenths of the rainfall in England disappears and finds it way back into the sea. One inch of rainfall means that 14⅓ million gallons of water fall on a square mile. That figure was computed many years ago. Nine-tenths of that water is still wasted today as it was a century ago. What are we really doing to conserve much of this water which is allowed to run away? What are we doing to estimate and calculate the future needs of our growing industries? New types of industries, agriculture and even the mining industry, which employs wet cutting in order to keep down the dust and to combat pneumoconiosis, are today using more water than ever before. In our homes, because of our higher standards in sanitation—never mind Dr. Beeching saying that the British people are dirty; they are cleaner today than they were when he was a child—more and more water is needed.

This is a very wise and constructive Bill and there are very few party objections to it. However, there is a limit to the burdens which young industries can bear. They must know where they stand in relation to the proposed charges. I must declare an interest here. I have a vast dyeworks, a very famous copper works and also a very big paper mill in my constituency, all using millions of gallons of water a day. Very soon these concerns will want to make their calculations and costings. They will want to know exactly where they stand as far as the charges are concerned.

Looking through the Bill, it is clear that very soon we shall have to make this information available to the various users of water in industry so as to ensure that we do not put a brake on the expansion so badly needed in British industry. By that, I do not mean that we should not expect industrialists to pay their fair share, but we must be careful that in this sudden enthusiasm to get unification in the control of our water resources we do not penalise them at this difficult competitive period in British industry. I was very glad to hear the Minister, when he was kind enough to give way to me, assure the House that where the term "interest of agriculture" was used, it was also intended that horticulture should be included. That is now on the record and I hope that in Committee the word "horticulture" will be inserted in any appropriate places in the Bill to make that quite clear.

There is something which is not in the Bill, and what I am going to say now may sound a gnawing note. But we are in a new age. Some of the greatest pollution today in many parts of Europe is the pollution about which we keep quiet. I am referring to radioactive effluent which is one of the most difficult polluting factors to control. We have had examples in Holland of such effluent getting into the ditches, and we have also had examples of it getting into the Irish Sea. I do not want to scare anybody, but anyone studying the matter will know that radioactive pollution, if not controlled, can be extremely dangerous. But this new type of pollution is not mentioned at all in the Bill. Because of its nature, I believe that it should get special and separate mention. It is a matter on which the Water Resources Board should be instructed to get the most up-to-date information.

I will now introduce another note. I should not want to bring my geiger counter into the House today, but I know full well that if I were to take it to some of our great reservoirs—this is quite a serious point—I should find that vast amounts of water at certain heights above sea level are polluted. The pollution varies very much indeed. No one can know for certain what amount of radioactive pollution will affect different people. To give a common example, one man may be able to drink ten pints of beer and he quite all right while another man may only chink two pints and not be all right. In the same way, one man may be able to take x amount of radioactive pollution without harm whereas another man taking a much smaller amount may be harmed. The world seems to take no notice of the expansion of atomic pollution or the use of radioactive substances in many parts of industry, yet radioactivity is growing. All this is a matter of detail and information, and we should start collecting it constructively. The information could then be handed down. I will give one example of pollution.

It may seem strange, but it is a scientific fact that no one in the world knows what the natural radioactivity was before 1945. All the great measures which check radioactivity in water and the atmosphere have been made since the first nuclear explosion. Here, therefore, is the necessity to accumulate information for future use and the Water Resources Board will have one of the most important parts to play.

On both sides of the House, we are grateful that this job is being done. The nature of the Bill is such that a lot of constructive work will be needed in Committee. While we accept the Bill, that does not mean that some of us are not very critical of certain sections. But the criticism is not carping and it is not necessarily party political. We hope to make out of this Bill a really constructive feature for the good of Britain in the future.

All the work outlined by the Bill may take fifty or sixty or even one hundred years to come to complete fruition. But there can be no planning of industry; horticulture or agriculture without a constructive approach to water resources. I hope that this Bill will be the beginning of that, and I welcome its introduction.

5.42 p.m.

Sir Richard Nugent (Guildford)

I want to add my word of welcome to those echoed on both sides of the House. The hon. Member for Leek (Mr. Harold Davies) made an attractive speech and I want to tell him, in dealing with radioactivity in water, that the Thames, on which he largely subsists while living in London—about two-thirds of London's water comes from the Thames—is regularly tested for radioactivity.

Thames Conservancy was faced with one of the earliest problems of radioactivity effluent from Harwell. The purification system then installed was so good that effluent from Harwell has less radioactivity in it than the water coming down the Thames before it gets to Harwell. The hon. Gentleman made a fair point when he said that no one knows what radioactivity there was in water before nuclear weapons. But regular counts are being taken in the Thames and they have given us some information about what variation there is when there has been a number of major explosions of nuclear weapons in the air, and the rise of radioactivity has not, I am glad to say, been very significant. In any event, we are continuing to watch this matter closely and I agree with him that it is extremely important.

We badly need this Bill. The need for a national water conservation policy has been pressing upon us and, as was said by the hon. Member for Anglesey (Mr. C. Hughes), the summer of 1959 brought us very close to the danger line. I warmly congratulate my right hon. Friend on being the Minister to bring in the Bill.

I would particularly thank him for the remarks about the kind of order he proposes to introduce under Clause 120 for the Thames Conservancy. As chairman of Thames Conservancy, I have felt a grave anxiety on the future financing of the navigation, which has a peculiar structure with which I need to trouble the House. Obviously, the Thames is one of the great natural pleasure grounds of our people, especially for the south of England and London, and anything that endangers that would be a matter of great anxiety. But I think that he has allayed my anxieties by the arrangements he has outlined.

I want, also, to say a word of welcome on behalf of the River Boards Association, for which I have the privilege to speak. It is glad to see these new and important functions are going to it and that it intends to measure up to them. The Bill places the responsibility squarely on the shoulders of the river boards which will become river authorities. They will have responsibility for conserving and managing the nation's water supply, plus the new Water Resources Board, which has some executive functions.

I agree with the hon. Member for Leek that the Board is, finally, an advisory and co-ordinating body. It seems to me that the effectiveness of the Board will depend entirely on my right hon. Friend. That, of course, includes his Department as well. I believe that it will be necessary for him to create a special section in his Department where there will be continuity, especially of the senior civil servants concerned, although this is not the normal practice inside major Government Departments, where officials necessarily tend to move around. Unless there were continuity in this Department, however, I think that it would be impossible for the Water Resources Board to function effectively. For myself, I see it having a very valuable function indeed, and I believe that if my right hon. Friend gives it a fair wind, and the backing it needs, it has a very valuable task to perform.

The new river authorities will succeed the existing river boards brought into being by the 1948 Act, and will also have the function of water conservation. This means that all the river functions are brought together under one authority—land drainage, flood prevention, prevention of pollution, fisheries, navigation where it exists, and now water conservation as well. I am sure that that is right.

No arguments have been adduced today on behalf of water undertakings, which have had some doubts about this. I am sure that the logic is that some authority should be responsible for all functions connected with rivers because, inevitably, they are so completely interlocking, and unless some authority does deal with them all there is bound to be serious confusion and public conflict.

The water undertakings have expressed anxiety because, in the future, when the river authorities come into being, they will normally be dependent on the authorities for increases in their water supply, whereas at present they would normally come to Parliament with a private Bill. Therefore, to some extent, but only to a limited extent, the river authorities will become, as it were, wholesalers of water and water undertakings will become retailers. This is a big change and I think that in another place Ministers were right to recognise that there is a special responsibility to water undertakings. This was done in Clause 98—a new Cause—which recognises the importance of domestic supplies.

The benefit that will come out of this new arrangement is security of supply, which is progressively being whittled away by the present rather ad hoc approach made by the undertakings and abstractors helping themselves to water as and, when they like without regard to what might happen to other people. The new river beds, that is, the existing river beds reconstituted, so to speak, will welcome this major responsibility. They realise that it is a very big responsibility for them and especially for those with the smaller resources, but they welcome it as a challenge and I am confident that they will measure up to it.

The hon. Member for Anglesey made a fair point about the need for more trained water engineers. They will certainly be necessary and I hope that my right hon. Friend will have this need in mind.

The River Thames will have a valuable part to play in this picture. As I mentioned, the river already provides about two thirds of Londoners' water through the good offices of the Metropolitan Water Board. In addition, it provides about 160 million gallons a day for 3½ million people who live in the Thames Valley. It provides 273 million gallons a day for Londoners and now, as part of an earlier transfer scheme, about 20 million gallons a day is flowing through an underground tunnel to Essex to help out that dry area.

The River Thames is already fairly well loaded up with the needs of those who live in London and on its banks, and, in addition, there is the growing problem of irrigation. Goodness knows how much that may take. I could not agree more with those, including my right hon. Friend who quoted Dr. Proudman, who had said that this irrigation demand could in future grow to something exceeding total domestic demands for water. It is, therefore, quite clear that the day has come when we must bring it under control.

In conjunction with the Metropolitan Water Board, the Thames Conservancy has made some estimates of what will be needed in future. We reckon that in the next twenty years we shall need for London an extra one third over what is now required, which will put up the demand by about 90 million gallons a day. We reckon that by the turn of the century the needs of London will have risen by about 50 per cent. over what is used today; and goodness knows how much more Essex will want, because its natural resources are not large. We reckon that in the Thames Valley we shall probably be all right because, although there will be additional requirements because the present 3½ million population of the Thames Valley will have increased, largely this is water which flows back to the river from many effluents up and down the banks of the Thames.

All that increases the problems of the Thames Conservancy in keeping the river pure. At present, between 100 million and 150 million gallons of effluent daily are poured into the Thames so that the water is used very economically because it is used over and over again. This throws a great burden on the river authorities who have to keep a constant check on these effluents—from industry and local authorities and farms, and so on, which run into many thousands along the river—if the effluent is to be kept to a reasonable standard.

We are having to require a higher standard than we had. There is no alternative, because as the volume of effluent grows there is the problem of insufficient dilution, especially in some of the tributaries, if we are to keep the measure of purification we require. Generally, there has been an improvement in the quality of water in the River Thames in the last few years and I hope that we shall be able to continue that improvement, although there is a very heavy burden on local authorities in their continuous struggle to improve their purification works and their sewage works.

The Metropolitan Water Board already has three large storage reservoirs for London and has plans for two more at Wraysbury and Datchet, but even then it will not be able to meet the increases which I have indicated. We of the Thames Conservancy have been thinking about how this need can be met. It has already been said that about nine-tenths of our rainfall flows down the rivers and out to sea and so is lost. The way in which we can most easily have a conservation policy is by impounding some of the heavy winter rainfalls so that the large regulative reservoirs can be released in the period of the summer low flow to supplement the natural flow. This is the easiest way but, as the hon. Member for Leek has said, it does not always delight the amenity of the local people who have to have large floods of water in the hills and mountains.

For the River Thames, there are no hills or mountains where we can easily impound water and make large natural reservoirs. I recollect that when I first joined the Thames Conservancy, in 1946 or 1947, there was a scheme to darn the Enborne Valley, in Berkshire. A very large area had to be flooded to make the necessary reservoir for the ground has only a gentle gradient. The reaction of local opinion was very powerful and I recollect that the reaction in the House was powerful. The result was that the scheme was dropped. This experience, not the first for the Thames Conservancy, has been very much in its mind in thinking about how to meet the growing needs for water for London and those who live in the Thames Valley. Fortunately, we have a second string to our bow.

Over about half the Thames catchment area the geological formation is either limestone or chalk—water bearing. Over this huge area there is a kind of underground reservoir, technically an aquifier. Preliminary surveys have already been made to discover what is the volume of water which we could safely take out of this huge underground reservoir, or series of reservoirs, to supplement the natural flow. From the preliminary reports it appears that we can get between 100 million and 200 million gallons a day to supplement the low flow in the summer. The plan would be to install a series of small pumping stations which would pump direct to the tributaries and thus augment the natural flow. I believe that we have a very good prospect of meeting the needs of Londoners in this way and also of avoiding giving offence to amenity. This important work could be done comparatively cheaply and, I hope, satisfactorily to everyone.

The Bill gives just the additional powers and resources which we need to carry out this work satisfactorily. The Thames is one example of how this will be done. Each river authority will have a different way to meet different problems and in many cases there will be transfers from one area to another. The problem largely is to bring water from the high rainfall areas of low population in the west of the country to the areas of low rainfall and high population in the East, and especially the South-East. I am sure that in this work the Thames will play a very big part.

I warmly congratulate my right hon. Friend. I can see that we shall have an interesting time in Committee—I have already found one or two improvements which I could suggest. However, I warmly commend the Bill to the House and feel sure that it will have a Second Reading.

5.59 p.m.

Commander Harry Pursey (Kingston upon Hull, East)

I am sure that the right hon. Member for Guildford (Sir R. Nugent) will excuse me if I do not follow him in dealing with the Thames, although I have lived on it for twenty-five years, and, as the right hon. Gentleman knows, once accompanied him when he made his annual trip up the river. I am, therefore, not unconversant with the Thames, but my problem tonight is to deal with the River Humber, the City of Hull, part of which I represent, and east Yorkshire.

I rise to protest against the shotgun marriage which the Minister, with this Bill, is proposing in the amalgamation of the Hull and East Yorkshire River Board with the Yorkshire Ouse River Board. The Minister has been able to achieve, simply by a Schedule in the Bill, what could not be achieved under the River Boards Act, 1948. The proposal then was to have one river board for Yorkshire, but the public local inquiry procedure was available, the proposal was successfully opposed, and the present two boards were established.

Now the Minister argues that what was right in 1950 is wrong in 1963. It may be said that after about 12 days' discussion in another place there is little new to be said about the Bill and that the Government have made up their minds to steamroller it through this House. That may be so, but it remains to be seen what happens in Committee; and there have been definite indications from both sides of the House that the Bill will not go through its Committee stage on the nod.

The principle of the conservation of water is accepted, and it is agreed that some amalgamation of the present river boards should take place. The Government have decided to reduce the number of boards from 32 to 26. Some contestants argue that there should be fewer still, and some argue that there should be more. The problem is where to draw the line.

The Government's plan, as set 'out in the First Schedule, produces some strange anomalies. If one draws a line from the Humber—with which, as I said, I am concerned—to North Wales, there are to be only four large areas to the north of that line, but 22 to the south, including some comparatively small ones. All eight of the present boards to the north are affected by amalgamation, but as far as I can see only four to the south are affected, and the strangest thing of all is that in Wales, where there is a multiplicity of small boards and, obviously, further amalgamations could have taken place, none is scheduled.

Thus, Wales, in addition to having a surfeit of water, will have a surfeit of authorities, and, when available, a surfeit of these rather rare birds, the hydrologists. The four new northern authorities will cover a quarter of England and Wales, so that on that basis there should be only 16 authorities and not 22. Alternatively, there should be more of these new river authorities.

These four authorities have areas varying from 3.3 million to 1.1 million acres and rateable values of from £64 million to £24 million. On the other hand, in the south of England and Wales, omitting the Isle of Wight, there are to be such small areas as four with only 665,000 to 430,000 acres and five with rateable values as low as £5.6 million to only £1.8 million.

The Minister's three criteria to justify the new amalgamations are: first, fairly few large units—but he has not achieved that all over the country; secondly, specialist staff, including a hydrologist, that rare bird, and sufficient conservation work to do; thirdly, sufficient income to carry on the conservation work.

The East Yorkshire River Board covers an area of 527,000 acres compared with boards in the South with areas of 548,000 and even 485,000 and 430,000 acres which are to remain independent. The Board has a rateable value of £5.6 million, while in the South there are four which are to remain independent with rateable values of £5.6 million—the same as the East Yorkshire Board—£5.1 million, £4.4 million, and £2.8 million. There is even one with a rateable value as low as £1.8 million, which is less than one-third the rateable value of the East Yorkshire Board.

There is, therefore, no question but that if these low rateable value boards can pay for conservation work, an independent East Yorkshire Board could do so, also. Thus, there is no decisive case for the amalgamation of the East Yorkshire Board with the Yorkshire Ouse River Board from the point of view of size and certainly no case for it from the point of view of income. So much for East Yorkshire.

What is the position of the marriage partner? The Ouse River Board is the second largest in the country, so there is no real reason why another board should be added to it. If amalgamated with the East Yorkshire Board, the total area will be over 3.3 million acres, or nearly 17 per cent. more than that of any other authority, and just under one-eleventh of the whole of England and Wales. In other words, it will be twice the average area of the 22 new authorities, and on this basis there should, therefore, be only 11 authorities.

It is germane to note that in another place the Government refused to accept an Amendment for the amalgamation of four of the small Southern boards. The Government's argument, which I summarise, was: … this Amendment really goes too far … As half of the enormous area is in Wales … that could lead to great complications of representation."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, House of Lords, 20th December, 1962; Vol. 245, c. 1301.] Strange though it may sound, this "enormous area" is 3.4 million acres, or practically the same as the 3.3 million acres for the new Yorkshire authority. Why does not the same argument apply to Yorkshire as for Wales?

The argument used against East Yorkshire was: It would be a unit of half the size that is in general thought likely should be the minimum set-up for water conservation purposes."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, House of Lords, 18th December, 1962; Vol. 245, c, 1112.] The Government cannot have the argument both ways, because one makes nonsense of the other, and what about the "great complications of representation" for the same sized area in East Yorkshire and Hull?

Turning to the second criterion, that of staff and work, the Government have two arguments, which, again, conflict. The Minister claims that there must be sufficient conservation work to justify a specialist staff, including a hydrologist, otherwise the area should be absorbed, and, at the same time, admits that there is a shortage of such staff, especially hydrologists. Surely the answer is to send the first hydrologists—these rare birds—who become available to the backward areas, where there are water shortages and where there is an urgent demand for water, and for high-powered research and large-scale developments, with reservoirs, aqueducts, and so on.

Surely we do not require a Dr. Beeching, at £24,000 per annum, for each of the 22 new authorities. In addition to field marshals there must be work for sergeant majors, and even for sergeants and corporals—and perhaps for privates. There is no black magic in water research, any more than there is in rum in the Navy. There may still be work for water diviners, with their little bent hazel twigs. The East Yorkshire Board is much further advanced in hydrological work than are many other boards. There is no shortage of water there, and no immediate need for large-scale, high-powered research and major developments with reservoirs and aqueducts.

In those circumstances, why should we not train our existing staff and, for that matter, the staff of the Ministry, and other authorities, for the new conservation work. Surely technical men who have dealt with hydrology for years can be upgraded. They will be of more practical value than a young man who has just collected a degree or two in a university and does not know his thumb from his elbow. Moreover, technical case history will be built up and become available to all areas. At headquarters, the Water Resources Board can provide technical assistance on special occasions. I submit that the shortage of hydrologists has been largely over-rated as an argument for amalgamation.

I now pass to the thorny question of adequate and equitable representation of East Yorkshire and Hull on the new authority, which will consist of between 20 and 30 members. This is a matter of grave concern both to the Riding and the city. The Ministers concerned will appoint representatives for drainage, fishing and pollution, but neither will appoint representatives for sea inundation and navigation in respect of the River Hull. At present, the Riding and Hull have a total of 12, four and eight members respectively. In future, however, they will probably have only two each. This will represent a cut by half and three-quarters respectively.

In addition to its other duties, particularly connected with low-lying drainage, the East Yorkshire Board has a special flood prevention problem of tidal inundation from 190 miles of the River Humber, the whole of the River Hull, and also the sea defences from Spurn Point to Flamborough Head, and nearly to Filey. Is representation to be provided for this large-scale sea flood prevention problem which will be added to the other problems of the Yorkshire Ouse Board?

What will be the position of the County Borough of Hull, with its special features and problems, if this amalgamation is carried through? Hull is the third port and the eighth city in the country, and it is the largest population centre in the east Yorkshire area. It has two special features which will be affected by the Bill, namely its waterworks and the problem of flooding from the sea. The waterworks is one of the largest and most up-to-date in the country and the corporation has the statutory responsibility of supplying an area, inside and outside the city, of nearly 300 square miles.

The city's flooding problem arises from the serious risk of tidal inundation from both the River Humber and the River Hull, because a large part of the city lies below the level of high water spring tides, and is kept free from flooding only by river defences. The corporation pays the largest precept in the area, and will continue to do so—a fact which must not be lost sight of when its defences are considered. The corporation is also the navigation authority for the River Hull.

In the light of these factors, the question arises: what representation will Hull have on the new river authority, consisting of between 21 and 31 members? At present, its representation consists of eight city council elected members, but on the new authority it will have only two or, perhaps, three—or only a quarter of its present number, the same as Sheffield, Leeds and Bradford.

Just picture such a combination of people, 50 miles away in Leeds, discussing the problems of Hull water supply and flood prevention, instead of discussing it in Beverley, only a few miles away, or even in Hull. Will extra representation be provided in respect of this flood prevention problem, or will this important question be left to inland landlubbers, 50 miles away, high and dry in the centre of England?

Mr. J. H. Osborn

Will you agree that the West Riding and Hull have similar problems? Are you aware that Sheffield is taking water from your area as a result of an agreement between the local authorities?

Commander Pursey

I do not see that the hon. Member has any argument with me on that point. I am putting the case for Hull. If he has a case to put for Sheffield, all well and good. It does not follow that because town X is taking water from area Y it must be included in that river authority. If that were the case we would have only one authority for the whole of England. I am prepared to give way to the hon. Member again if I have misunderstood him, or if he has another point to make.

Mr. J. H. Osborn

Do not you agree that there is a problem here——

Mr. Speaker

Order. The hon. Member must conform to our practices. Observations must be addressed to the Chair, and other hon. Members must be referred to in the third person. or by periphrasis.

Mr. Osborn

Does not the hon. Member agree that there is need for cooperation and co-ordination in this wider area? Does not he agree that if we pursued his argument to its logical conclusion, instead of 26 authorities we might wind up with hundreds?

Commander Pursey

The hon. Gentle-many is completely at sea. His trouble is that he is not web-footed. He does not understand the specific problem which arises when one compares a coastal area and an inland area which is normally high and dry. To get co-operation between two river authorities it is not necessary to combine them. The hon. Gentleman has given an admirable illustration of the co-ordination between two river authorities. If time permitted, and this were a pleasant Sunday afternoon debate, I could use practically all his arguments to support my case, so I am not in anger with him at all.

Under Clause 6(5) of the Bill, additional members may be appointed to the authority in special circumstances and so I wish now to stake a claim for one member from the Hull Water Committee to represent the water undertaking and one from the Hull Works Committee to deal with the prevention of flooding from tidal inundation. I also ask for consideration of representation in connection with the special problem arising from the navigation of the River Hull.

In a local inquiry on the question of possible amalgamation, counsel could argue the pros and cons for hours. We are limited by time. I have attempted to deal with some of the general points and arguments, particularly those affect- ing my own area of east Yorkshire and Hull. I may have done so in a somewhat haphazard fashion, so I will briefly sum-up. The Yorkshire Ouse Board has at present the second largest area, and did not require the addition of another area. It will become a large, monolithic organisation, lacking intimate knowledge by its representatives, and special knowledge and interest. For example, it will be dealing in the future with sea defences which may be 80 or perhaps 100 miles away.

On the other hand, the Hull and East Yorkshire Board could well have remained independent considering that there are several smaller boards in the south of England, and in Wales, which have much smaller acreages, rateable values and incomes. This Board has performed its present duties efficiently. What new work could it not do? We do not know what new work in east Yorkshire is required by the Minister. It may not be an area where large-scale research is immediately necessary, and one of these rare birds, a hydrologist, may not be operating there for many years to come. The area is one where, certainly for a start—because of its comparatively advanced water supply system and drainage scheme—staff of less importance than a "field marshal" may be trained to provide the necessary services.

I have already dealt with the arguments relating to area and income, so I will not repeat them. I consider that, under the provisions in the Bill, East Yorkshire, and particularly Hull, has been sold down the River Humber and into the North Sea by this Tory Government and their Ministers and by Tory representatives in another place as well as in this House. The area is represented in this House by the Minister of Power, who could have made some impact on his ministerial colleagues. It is also represented by the hon. Members for Howden (Mr. Bryan), Haltemprice (Mr. Wall) and Kingston upon Hull, North (Mr. Coulson). I would have expected these hon. Members to have voiced their views on Second Reading.

The Bill will seriously affect their constituents, and I would have expected them to voice their views in no uncertain fashion, and not to have left it to one Labour Member representing a Hull constituency. So far, I have failed to see any of them in the Chamber. I did not expect to have to warn them that I intended to refer to them. I thought that we should debate the pros and cons relating to the different views concerning East Yorkshire and Hull. I assumed that the hon. Members would be present to represent the interests of their constituents.

Mr. Denys Bullard (King's Lynn)

I think it only fair to the hon. Members to whom reference has been made to say that my hon. Friend the Member for Kingston upon Hull, North (Mr. Coulson) has been present in the Chamber although he is not present at this moment.

Commander Pursey

I should have thought that at least the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, North would have done me the courtesy, if not the honour, of being present to hear what I said, so that if he intended to take part in the debate he would have known what I said. The intervention of the hon. Member for King's Lynn (Mr. Bullard) does not nonplus me at all. It does not hold water—it does not hold rum and salt water. The hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, North is not present.

The people of Hull are very much aware that the Tory representation of the city area and outside plays no part in any argument for improving the unemployment situation, or the development of the City. But the people had every right to expect that their representatives in another place as well as in this House would have made use of the same information regarding this Bill as that with which I have been briefed in order to strike a blow for the East Riding and Hull.

6.27 p.m.

Mr. W. M. F. Vane (Westmorland)

I am glad of the chance to speak in this debate and I am interested in speaking after the hon. and gallant Member for Kingston upon Hull, East (Commander Pursey). There was a short chapter in my life when I came to the House nearly every Monday and Thursday to answer three Questions placed on the Order Paper about flooding in Hull. The pleasant duty of answering the hon. and gallant Gentleman is not mine this afternoon. But I will say that I agree with him in general terms over one point——

Sir K. Joseph

I am grateful to my hon. Friend the Member for Westmorland (Mr. Vane) for allowing me to spoil the beginning of his speech. I had not realised that the hon. and gallant Member for Kingston upon Hull, East (Commander Pursey) was resuming his seat so soon. I cannot allow his unbridled attack on my right hon. and hon. Friends to pass unnoticed. I have received a deputation on the issue which the hon. and gallant Gentleman raised in his speech, and my hon. Friend has received a deputation which consisted largely of hon. Friends of mine from this side of the House. There has been no lack of vigorous representation from my right hon. and hon. Friends of the point of view which the hon. and gallant Gentleman read out to the House. I think that it was quite improper of the hon. and gallant Gentleman to present such a thoroughly distorted picture.

Mr. Vane rose——

Commander Pursey

If I may be allowed to make a brief reply to that——

Hon. Members


Mr. Vane rose——

Commander Pursey

The hon. Member is entirely wrong. It consisted of two Labour Members and one Conservative. They should be here tonight.

Mr. Speaker

Order. The hon. and gallant Member must behave himself, or else he will have to go away.

Mr. Vane

I wonder whether I could begin again. The only member of my family who represented Hull in this House had his head cut off. I do not know whether that had anything to do with Hull, or for provoking his fellow Members.

I agree with the hon. and gallant Member, in general terms, in saying that I could not see quite what guided my right hon. Friend in this policy of amalgamation of the different river board areas. In some parts of England, in Cornwall, for example, and in Wales, as has been mentioned in this debate, areas have been left virtually undisturbed while in others, in the north of England, there has been a general doubling up.

I have two special reasons for speaking in this debate. The first is that water is very important in the northwest of England, where my constituency is, and in the wider area of the Lake District. Amenity has already been mentioned in reference to Clause 93, but all too briefly I thought, and all too briefly actually in the Bill. Amenity is not just the preservation of a particular bird or wild flower, but is something hard to define which applies to some degree to all all our constituencies. It is an interest which nearly always goes under when there is any conflict with something which can be expressed in terms of £ s. d.

The beauty of the Lake District depends on water as much as on any other factor. I claim that no other part of England or Wales has anything to compare with it. We are not selfish, we are a water exporting area. We do not expect much in return, unlike the Persian Gulf sheikhs with their oil. Perhaps we have been slow. What we want is a fair balance between the interests of those who want water and areas where it is in surplus. We do not want to see such surplus areas—this is not a constituency point—at the mercy of consuming interests. In the past, it has seemed that some of the bigger cities have thought that all they had to do to get what they wanted was to promote a Bill in Parliament and keep their own interests firmly in view, but not the interests of others.

The Bill introduces new procedures and, if not the complete answer, new safeguards which we all welcome. Although I never saw the draft of any part of the Bill, I have been very conscious of its preparation. When I was serving in the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, I had a great deal to do with the Land Drainage Bill, which, in a sense, was a companion to this Bill. I learned by heart a few sentences about conservation which I thought safe replies to hon. Members in the Standing Committee who were persistently asking what we were doing about conservation and when a Bill on this subject could be expected. Although I did not always know the answers, I kept the questioners reasonably quiet, and I hope that my right hon. Friend is grateful.

I am glad that a decision was made to use the river board system rather than the alternative plan of scrapping it in favour of much larger areas with smaller controlling executive boards. This sort of case can be argued both ways. We probably shall hear it argued both ways before we complete the debate this evening. I am sure that it is necessary to maintain the valuable local contacts which have been evolved. It is not easy today, within the smaller areas, to reconcile the conflicting interests if approached in a remote or bureaucratic frame of mind, but it would be even more difficult if the larger areas were substituted.

I am not a fisherman, but I believe that the fishing interests feel that there is a danger of their receiving less than their due under the new arrangements. They say that the Bill looks at a river just as a stream of water, and overlooks that there may be living things in and around it. The Freshwater Biological Association, whose opinions we all respect, feels this, too, and thinks that there is a danger that we in this House by thinking so much about the quantity of water might neglect the great importance of quality.

The Water Resources Board will, I hope, be staffed with able men, more than just safe committee men. I am very glad that my right hon. Friend the Minister has retained full Ministerial responsibility and that the Government are not shuffling off responsibility to the shoulders of this Board. None the less, we want to see able men on the Board, I suggest that at least one should be a man of outstanding technical knowledge. I hope that the Board will be able to employ enough expert staff to help the smaller river authorities with technical surveys. Even if there were enough technical men in the country today—which I think we all know is not the case—it would be absurd for all the smaller authorities to have to try to build up technical staffs of their own. I am sure the economic and practical way is for the Water Resources Board to make the best use of available staff by having them in their own employ and making them available in such areas where their services are most important.

The Bill generally marks a very big step forward, but, as the hon. Member for Anglesey (Mr. C. Hughes) mentioned, I think it strange that the area with the largest reserves of water in the island and the smallest claims on it, Scotland—England, Wales and Scotland are parts of the same island—should have been left out. I hope that it is not too late to repair that omission. The words "England and Wales" appear in the Money Resolution. Is it possible for my right hon. Friend to move a manuscript Amendment for those words to be left out of the Money Resolution this evening so that the question may remain open? We could then consider later whether there should be one Bill instead of two.

Presumably, this Bill will be followed later by a Scottish Bill. Except for the Glasgow area, there are no large consuming interests in Scotland compared with those of industrial England. There are very large areas, particularly in the south of Scotland, where there is water in plenty and the conservation problems are not so difficult as in England. I should have thought that those areas ought to be considered, together with the Lake District and the Cheviot Hills, when we are considering additional supplies for Tyneside, Lancashire and, maybe, in the next generation, even industrial areas beyond.

Since that point has already been mentioned by two hon. Members, I hope that the House will accept that it is one of general importance and not just a matter of an hon. Member from the North reviving Border feelings. I should not like it to be thought of in that light. Those Scottish resources should be considered here and now. Many subjects are admittedly very difficult to include in one Bill to be applicable to both England and Scotland. Sometimes there are historical and constitutional reasons why it would be quite wrong for us to try to do that. On the other hand, this surely does not apply in the case of water. A separate Bill which would make a separate claim on the valuable time of Parliament to achieve something on the same lines as we are envisaging in this English Bill, could not easily be justified.

I should like hon. Members to bear in mind also that the existing arrangements for the distribution of water across the Border are, frankly, inefficient. To the best of my knowledge water does not now cross the Border at all in any quantity. There may be a few trickles between very small local authorities, but there is no serious supply from one side to the other even though some Scottish local authorities would like to supply English districts because it would be of advantage to them as well as to the English districts to do so.

My right hon. Friend will correct me if I am wrong, but I think that one of the reasons for this stupidity is that it is difficult to establish a claim for grant aid for capital works on one side of the Border if the water is to be consumed on the other side. I hope that by the time we have finished with this Bill we shall clear up some of these frontier difficulties which have no place in the present age.

Finally, I want to refer to the First Schedule and the same sort of point as that to which the hon. and gallant Member for Kingston upon Hull, East spoke. Although I do not go into the same detail, I hope that hon. Members will not think that I do not have very deep feelings on the matter. I imagine that the doubling up of different river areas have been proposed for different reasons and I hope that, later, we shall be told what the reasons for this step are.

In general, I think it would be wrong to exclude all idea of amalgamation and all changes of boundaries. I must say, however, that I am reluctant to encourage the Ministry of Housing and Local Government in this work of amalgamation, because when it considers the problems of smaller local authorities in England, its motto always seems to be, "The bigger the better"—and it is not necessarily the bigger authorities which serve the interests of local people best.

Bearing in mind Manchester's Private Bill, which was presented to Parliament last year, a great many people will not be happy with the last item in Schedule 1, which is the proposal to create one authority whose area will stretch from the Scottish Border to Wigan—one area in which the consumer interest of the mid-Lancashire towns is bound to be the dominant factor.

I am not being personal in this. I am sure that the local authority representatives of these towns are no less useful and no less honourable than any others in the north-west area. Nonetheless, the House must recognise that there can be only a conflict of interests in an area of this kind, in which the northern half consists of the Lake District National Park, which is predominantly rural, and the southern half—and some miles away, too—consists of a closely knit group of industrial towns.

I am not saying that the old inter-river board boundary dividing the Cumberland and Lancashire River Boards is necessarily the best for the future, but I am saying that what is in the Bill is undoubtedly worse. The Government have already had second thoughts, because the proposal in the Bill is a substantial departure from the proposal which they outlined in their original White Paper. But I fear that their second thoughts are not for the better. Surely, together, we can find something which is generally acceptable both to Lancashire and the Lake District—and to all the different local authorities which, needless to say, do not all take the same view. Why should they? Nor is this not a party point in any sense.

In the Lake District we do not want to take a parochial view of this matter. We are a large area—parts of three counties, forming the finest National Park—and I would suggest a separate hydrometrical area—I think that that is the word, and if my right hon. Friend looks at a technical map—he will see it deserves to be treated separately.

A year ago, in a memorable debate in another place, Lord Birkett, who died very shortly after defending the beauties of the Lake District in that debate, described this district as "so small, so lovely, yet so vulnerable". Today, we are considering proposals in a Bill which ignore all this, which ignore that expression of view in another place and which ignore the wishes of many people—not only those who live in the area, but those who live far beyond and who treasure the lovely things which this country has to offer and which today are all too often at hazard from shortsightedness and carelessness.

I appeal to my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary, who, I know, has rural instincts deeply bred in him and rural interests at heart, to think again and to try to make a better plan for the north-west of England in order to ensure not only that those who need the water shall not want—this is most important—but also to ensure that the control of the water resources in the Lake District, an incomparable National Park, shall remain predominantly in local hands.

6.45 p.m.

Mr. Carol Johnson (Lewisham, South)

This is a Bill which every right hon. and hon. Member who has spoken so far has welcomed, but which everyone has said he would like to improve. Having regard to the very extended consideration which was given to the Measure in another place, and the even greater consideration which may well be be given to it in this House, it appears that the conservation of water resources is not such a simple, dull or uncontroversial matter as some people imagine, but is one Which generates and merits a great deal of interest. There is a great deal to be said about it, and a great deal has, in fact, already been said this afternoon.

There are three matters which I wish to raise this afternoon, the first about the membership of the Water Resources Board. I should like to pursue a point to which the Minister made passing reference—one of such importance that I feel that he will not mind if I emphasise it now in the hope that when the Parliamentary Secretary replies he will cover it more fully than did the right hon. Gentleman when he moved the Second Reading. It relates to the representation of what may loosely be called amenity interests on the Board.

The Parliamentary Secretary will not need reminding that the size of the Board as originally proposed was a membership of seven and that this was increased to eight to allow an additional appointment, in connection with which words were used in another place which might be taken to mean that the additional appointment would be that of an amenity member. In view of the express provisions of Clauses 96 and 97, which deal with the preservation of amenities and regard being paid to land of special natural interest, it would not be inappropriate, perhaps, for such an appointment to be made, particularly in view of the fact that other interests are referred to in many parts of the Bill and are specifically represented on the river authorities.

I can, however, see that in respect of the Water Resources Board there is a risk that if the Minister specifies one member particularly as representing amenities this might call for similar representation of other specific interests. Though this is true, it is equally true that nothing which was said in this connection in another place and nothing which may be said in this House would necessarily bind any Minister for the future when he makes appointments to the Board. Nevertheless, as there is such a great deal of interest in this matter, I hope that the Parliamentary Secretary will be able to give an assurance in terms which will make it clear that in practice, if not within the strict letter of the law, amenity interests will be represented on the Board.

Another type of representation to which I want to refer is that of navigation interests on the river authorities. There are provisions in Clause 6, which relate to the constitution of the river authorities, which provide specifically for the representation of interests—land drainage, fisheries, agriculture, industry and the like. That is right and proper. But, having regard to the wide range of interests mentioned in this way, is it not equally arguable that as navigational interests are concerned with the actions of practically all the river authorities set out in Schedule 1, they, too, should be represented in this way and in this Clause? It is true that under Clause 8 an additional member can be appointed to a river authority in certain special circumstances which are referred to in the Clause—that is, where the authority has exceptionally important functions relating to navigation or where the performance of its functions will affect to an exceptional extent the functions of a navigation authority", though these provisions, I believe, are a mere replacement of a Section of the River Boards Act, 1948. Having regard to the general pattern of the Bill, these factors are surely relevant only to the appointment of additional representation of navigational interests in special cases, over and above those which ought in the normal and natural way to be covered in Clause 6, as, indeed, are all the other appropriate interests.

I am informed that in some cases there has been friction between river boards and navigational interests. This may possibly be due to lack of effective representation on the river boards. Although I do not expect the Minister to give a reply on that today, I would ask him to consider whether the efficiency of these river authorities might not be improved if navigational interests were represented under Clause 6.

My last point relates to access to water-gathering grounds. We know, and it is quite clear from what the right hon. Gentleman said, that there will be a greatly increased demand for water which, in turn, will inevitably lead to more and more areas being acquired as gathering grounds. Bearing in mind the estimates of future demand, it is likely that larger and larger areas will become catchment areas. Because of their very nature, these areas are likely also to be subjects of great interest to those who appreciate the beauty of natural scenery and want to have reasonable access to the remoter parts of these islands. I think that the Minister will agree that their claims must equally be taken into account.

I was pleased to note that both at the beginning and end of the right hon. Gentleman's speech he referred specifically to the necessity of providing in these areas facilities for, to use his own words, "the more leisured population" that we hope will come with rising standards of life in this country. That being so, I hope that he will agree that it should either be written into the Bill or established as a practice that the Water Resources Board will regard it as one of its functions to consider this aspect, and take whatever action it can to allow maximum public access to these gathering grounds, while ensuring the reasonable purity of the water.

The Minister will be aware that in the past there has been a great difference of opinion on possible pollution from public access. Different water authorities have taken different views and have followed different policies but, with the growth of technical and practical information, this risk is now seen to be minimal, and it is only fair to say that the more progressive and public-spirited authorities do allow reasonable access, subject to reasonable restrictions.

Now that we are attempting to establish a policy for the future for all the interests concerned in the conservation of water, it is desirable to ensure that this favourable practice should become the common form. Perhaps the Parliamentary Secretary will tell us that it is the purpose and the intention of the Bill that the maximum amount of access to gathering grounds will be allowed, consistent with the maintenance of the purity of our water supply.

6.55 p.m.

Sir Cyril Osborne (Louth)

I have been asked by my constituents to give a cautious welcome to the Bill, and I want to express two opposite points a view on certain aspects that they question.

Before I do that, however, perhaps I may be allowed to ask the Minister two questions on what he has said today. He said that we have an adequate rainfall, but that, unfortunately, we use only 10 per cent. of it, and that 90 per cent. goes to waste. Is it not possible to increase that 10 per cent. to, say, 15 per cent.? That extra 5 per cent. of the total amount sent down from the heavens would solve our problems. That is one way to look at it.

Secondly, why was Scotland excluded from the Bill, since that country is our best source of water supply? I support the plea made by my hon. Friend the Member for Westmorland (Mr. Vane) that, even now, Scotland might be included in what is, as far as I can see, an excellent Bill.

We, as a nation, have taken water for granted. It is only when one lives in waterless countries that one realises how valuable is this national asset. I remember hearing a water expert talk many years ago on the future problems of water supply. He said that water was our most valuable raw material—even more valuable than coal. At the time, that seemed to me to be rather an exaggerataion, but I have since learned a lot, and I think that what he then said will prove true.

What we do not realise is that as the population grows—it is estimated that in a couple of decades it will be 60 million people—and as industries, especially the chemical industries, want vast and increasing quantities of water, and as we clear away the slums and domestic requirements grow, the demands for water will, if we are not careful, grow greater than the supply. We might, at a pinch, do without coal, but we certainly cannot do without water, and since the Bill represents a national attempt to preserve, conserve and use property this great national asset, I give it a cautious but warm welcome.

In north Lincolnshire, we have a very fine supply of water from the wolds. Until recently, it was largely running to waste but, since 1945, thanks largely to the good work of the Grimsby Rural District Council, there have been attracted to the Humber Bank many huge chemical plants, each of which uses many millions of gallons of water every day. Their number is growing, and many more are planned. They have been attracted to this area by this wonderful supply of good water, and by the availability of the River Humber to get rid of the water when they have finished with it.

That is all very fine, but the farmers in my constituency and elsewhere in north Lincolnshire say—and I should like my hon. Friend to try to meet this point—that since these great new chemical plants have been erected, taking vast quantities of water daily, the natural springs that the farmers have used for generations have tended to dry up, and that the wells which they and their forefathers have used from time immemorial have dried up.

They say, and it is reasonable, that if the water that they have used for agricultural purposes over all the years really is being dried up because of the enormous demands from the new industrial plant, and is to be replaced, they should not be asked to pay high rates for a new supply that merely replaces the water which, they feel, has been stolen from them. They may be wrong, but it is their view, and they feel very keenly about it.

Agricultural use is, perhaps, a minor matter from the point of view of total consumption, but it is very important to the farmers. If they have lost the natural supplies of water they have always used for their agricultural purposes, I hope that they will not have to pay too much to have those supplies replaced.

On the other hand, the industrial users of water in north Lincolnshire have some criticisms to make of the Bill which I should like to put to my hon. Friend the Joint Parliamentary Secretary. I should be grateful if he could say something about them. First, in their opinion, the 27 area boards proposed are too numerous. They say that 14 would be sufficient, for reasons which I will give.

They quote to me, arid I pass this on to my hon. Friend, a paper read to the Institution of Civil Engineers on 30th October, 1962, which states: For conservation to be effective each River Authority must be large enough to employ competent full-time technical staff on conservation work. The question posed by experience in electricity supply is whether this will be achieved if there are 27 separate River Authorities. I should like my hon. Friend to reply to that.

At the conference where that paper was read, Dr. Buchan, of the Geological Survey, said: … if it is expected that the rising demand for water will in the foreseeable future catch up with the readily available supply,"— This is the fear that should haunt us— then an over-riding grouping now into a few large units to make certain that in future both surface and underground resources are integrated and fully developed to the best advantage has much to recommend it. I should like to hear my hon. Friend's comments on that point, as well.

My friends among industrial users point out that it is proposed that these authorities should have a membership of 21 minimum with a maximum of 31 and that a minimum of 11 members are to be elected from local government with 16 as a maximum. But my right hon. Friend said that the Minister has powers to add to the number of members if necessary. He will have a mass meeting if he is not careful. The best committee is a committee of one. [An HON. MEMBER: "Two."] Yes, or two, with one away sick. A committee of 31 would not get through the business.

We do not want a committee which is turned into a debating society. We want a committee of men who know what they are talking about and who can come to sound decisions. This is not a matter of having every corner of a vast area represented. We are not dealing with party politics but with a practical national issue and we want competent people to handle it. I beg my right hon. Friend to pursue the idea that a river authority will work with a membership of 31. I ask him to see that the number is reduced.

The crux of the complaint of this industrial group is based on the point that while at present industry produces about 2,000 million gallons of water a day from its own resources and the water boards produce about the same amount, the industrial users pay the water boards for about one-third of the water which the boards produce. The industrial users, therefore, will be taking about 65 per cent. of the total amount of water produced. Under the Bill, they will be paying about 65 per cent. of the income of the new authority. Their complaint is that the Minister has the power to appoint 10 members to the Board, only one of whom would come from industry. It seems quite unfair and unreasonable that those who pay 65 per cent. of the revenue should have only one representative out of 31. The industrialists say that they ought to have more representation.

The Minister is to appoint the industrial member, according to the terms of the Bill. These industrialists want to know on what basis the Minister will appoint him and on whose recommendation. Surely it would not be unreasonable that in a board of 31, with 16 members from the local administrative areas, the remainder should represent the people who have to maintain the set-up.

The other serious complaint which these industrialists make is that the Minister of Agriculture has power to appoint one member to represent drainage, one to represent fisheries and one to represent agriculture. This is fine, and I welcome it, but the Minister is to appoint only one representative from industry. While the other three have the right to go to the Ministry of Agriculture for support in any complaints they make, the President of the Board of Trade, who represents industry, has no part at all in this set-up.

Industrialists have no parent Minister or Department where they can lodge their complaints. Since both the Minister of Housing and Local Government and the Minister of Agriculture are concerned, as is also in some way the Minister of Transport, should not the President of the Board of Trade have some power over policy so that the industrialists who have to find the money might have a fair say in deciding what happens to that money?

The Proudman sub-committee makes quite clear, in page 107 of its Report, that it regards 10 to 15 as the ideal number for membership of committees. Why has my right hon. Friend gone aganst that recommendation when he has accepted nearly every other recommendation in the Report? Why has he doubled or trebled the recommended number?

On Clause 19, the industrial users feel that the powers of consultation are too narrow and that there is no opportunity for them to make adequate representations to the Minister. On Part IV of the Bill, they complain very strongly that the Bill takes away any common law right to use water privately. On Clause 104, they say that there can be appeals either to the Minister or to a tribunal and they ask who in that case will be the boss. Ought there not to be an appeal to one person or body only and not to two?

Having made these reservations and asked questions on behalf of my farmer and industrialist constituents, to which I should like to have a reply, I welcome the Bill and will support it. Water must be considered not from a narrow constituency point of view, but also from the national point of view, and I am sure that in the end the Bill will do a great deal of good for the nation.

7.10 p.m.

Mr. John Temple (City of Chester)

I should like to add my congratulations to those which already have been given to my right hon. Friends the Minister of Housing and Local Government and the Minister of Agriculture. A massive amount of preparatory work has gone into this Measure and we are indebted to the Proudman sub-committee for their report and the Government for producing such a lucid White Paper.

This is a tremendous administrative Measure, but any such Measure if it is to be successful must take cognisance of the human side as well as of the tremendously complex administrative machine which has been created. I should like to deal in the first place with the human side, the fact that people count and that human beings will have to control the machine. It is of immense importance that we should have on the various boards the right types of individuals who will take an intelligent interest in all aspects of this control mechanism for water supply which is now being created. We must be under no illusions. Water is about the most complex medium that anyone can seek to control, as will be agreed by anyone who knows about the actions of water, its capillary action in travelling up a wall and causing damp rot in the building; then there is the example of the dry watercourse which when the rains suddenly fall, becomes a raging torrent. That is the sort of matter that my right hon. Friend is seeking to control through the administrative mechanism which he is proposing. He hopes to control vast forces of nature, which in this instance are represented by the power of water.

I said that I intended to deal first with the human side of this Bill. The main responsibility will devolve on the river authorities. As my hon. Friend the Member for Louth (Sir C. Osborne) has said, they will consist of from 21 to 31 representatives, but, as he wisely said, the main responsibility will probably devolve upon one person, that one person being the chairman of the river authority. I am sorry that my right hon. Friend the Member for Guildford (Sir R. Nugent) has now left the Chamber, because he happens to be the chairman of the Thames Conservancy. I should like to tell him and all other chairmen of river boards that gone will be the easy, carefree days which they have been enjoying when their functions consisted of controlling pollution, fisheries and land drainage. I am afraid that the day is dawning when the chairman of a river authority will have a very different function; his will be an immense responsibility. He will have the task of deciding, not only in his own river authority area but possibly in another area, the site where a beauty spot may be submerged in order to provide water for a spray irrigator in another area or water for a large county borough far away. That responsibility will devolve mainly upon one man, the chairman of the particular river authority.

Such a chairman will have to be a man of foresight. He will have to be forceful as well, and in addition he will need to be almost a political genius. Successive Governments have failed to resolve the problem where to site these impounding reservoirs. I am afraid that we shall have to look to volunteers to undertake a responsibility which will be far greater than the responsibility which now devolves on chairmen of regional hospital boards. One can imagine a person being dedicated to the hospital service, but it is more difficult to imagine a person being dedicated to the deployment of water resources. So I believe there is a case for a paid chairman, and possibly even a nominated chairman, on a river authority. I believe it might be as well for my right hon. Friend to consider keeping default powers so that he could appoint a chairman to a river authority, and that chairman should be paid in the same way as some of the chairmen of our statutory undertakings are paid at present.

In considering the membership of a river authority of which my hon. Friend the Member for Louth has spoken, certainly the predominance will be of local authority representatives. But my hon. Friend was wrong on one point. The local authorities will be finding the money in its entirety for what I would call the old functions, and it will only be in respect of new functions that the water charges account will be responsible for finding finance.

Where shall we find the chairman of a river authority? Is he to be one of the local authority representatives? From my experience of local authorities, any member of a local authority who is as well qualified as this chairman will have to be will be required by his own local authority to be chairman of one of that local authority's committees. It will be very difficult for such a man to give almost full-time service to the river authority whilst performing his duties on the local authority at the same time.

Are we going to look to representatives from industry, agriculture and from the statutory water undertakings to be chairmen of the river authorities? Those persons will have to be responsible for speaking on behalf of their own specific interests. It seems unlikely, therefore, that any of those representatives will wish to be chairman of a river authority. I believe, therefore, that we shall be faced with a human problem of getting the right representatives to take over this very difficult task as chairmen of river authorities.

May I make another plea on the human side? This again impinges on what my hon. Friend the Member for Louth said about industrial representation. I am sure it will be my right hon. Friend's intention to get the very best industrial representation on the river authority, but by reason of the fact that such an industrialist would be a prominent person he may have to leave the country for a period, perhaps for months on end, for a sales tour in a foreign country. Would it not be wise to take power in this Bill to appoint alternative members so that if the member representing industry were not available for a meeting the other member could attend the meeting? Otherwise the case for industry might go by default.

I deploy that argument even further, and I say that there is a case for alternative representation of many of the other interests, especially if there is only one representative of a certain industry or section of the community on any particular river authority.

Sir C. Osborne

I do not want my hon. Friend to seduce my right hon. Friend the Minister into giving an alternative member to industry. Out of 31 members, I want at least half a dozen from industry.

Mr. Temple

Even though my hon. Friend wants at least half a dozen, it would be better to have one at the meeting rather than none at all. I am sure that I carry him with me to that extent.

I have a strong feeling that we are reaching the limit in what we are asking of the voluntary worker. In many instances that limit has been exceeded. In the case of the chairmanship of regional hospital boards, which are somewhat analogous to the responsibilities which will devolve upon chairmen of river authorities, I believe we may be already asking too much. Either we shall get representatives who are too old and have retired from business, or representatives who may not be of the calibre required to perform this task.

May I refer briefly to another aspect of the administrative side of this Measure? Without doubt, the administrative side is founded upon Clause 19 and the acceptance of the determination of minimum acceptable flows. If I wanted confirmation of that statement, I would only have to refer to Lord Hastings' speech in another place on 12th December when he put the matter succinctly. Speaking on behalf of the Government, he said: After all, the Minister, the Water Resources Board and the river authorities themselves have to produce their minimum flows for all river basins before they can operate anything effectively under this Bill. It is the basis of the whole national water policy…"—[OFFICIAL REPORT. House of Lords, 12th December, 1962; Vol. 245, c. 728.] Speaking on behalf of the Government in another place, Lord Hastings was quite categorical. He accepted that the determination of minimum acceptable flows was the starting point for the control mechanism under which the whole of the Bill will operate.

My right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Chertsey (Sir L. Heald), in a very powerful speech this afternoon, put the case for the retention of the common law rights with regard to abstraction, at least in the interim period until there has been a determination of the minimum acceptable flows. I endorse what my right hon. and learned Friend said. He spoke extremely well, and I add only one or two practical observations with regard to the determination of minimum acceptable flow.

I believe that it will be extraordinarily difficult to determine these minimum acceptable flows. Are we to determine the minimum main river flow first, and then work outwards to all the tributaries, say that each tributary must produce a certain minimum acceptable flow and then add them all together and see if that gives the main river minimum acceptable flow, or are we to go round all the tributaries of the main river basin first, determine the minimum acceptable flows of the tributaries, and say that the total of these will be the main river acceptable flow? It will be a most intractable problem. I hope that my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary will comment on this matter when he replies.

I do not believe that the system of minimum acceptable flows applicable to a whole river basin has ever been tried. I know that it is fundamental to the Bill as conceived by the Ministry, but I have doubts about whether the system will be workable. My right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Chertsey was quite right when he reminded us that the standards of purity laid down in the Prevention of Pollution Act, 1951, never operated. More than ten years after- wards, it fell to me, in fact, to produce a Bill under which an entirely different mechanism was proposed in order to control the pollution of our rivers.

If that brain-child of the Ministry in 1951 never worked—it was expected, of course, that it would—it may well be that this brain-child of the Ministry will not work. Certainly, it may not work for a considerable number of years. Therefore, I reinforce what my right hon. and learned Friend said. In the Interim, in the interests of all concerned, not just fishermen, it is vital that the common law rights should be retained.

Now, a further practical comment on the administrative side of the Bill. I noticed that my right hon. Friend, when he referred in his speech to periodical surveys of water resources by the river authorities, said that his objective was to build up a water resources balance sheet. That is an estimable objective, but I remind my right hon. Friend that under the Bill there will be periodical surveys of the water resources of the individual river authority areas. In the light of what happened with regard to development plans in the London area, when all the development plans were reviewed at different periods and one could never get a complete picture of the whole plan for London at one moment of time, I suggest quite definitely that these periodical surveys of water resources should be undertaken at one time, at quinquennial or septennial intervals—I mind not which. If my right hon. Friend is to have his water resources balance sheet, and if it is to mean anything as part of a national survey, these periodical reviews must be coincidental. I hope that he will pay close attention to this point.

Now, finance. Earlier in the debate, my right hon. Friend the Minister intervened to say something about the financing of all these hydrometric schemes, etc., in the interim period before the water charges account comes fully into operation. Speaking on behalf of the Association of Municipal Corporations, I can say that the Association is very disturbed about the very rapid increases in river board precepts. It is concerned also that the, 4d. precept is retained in the Bill because, under the new valuation lists which became effective in April this year, this river board precept will be worth almost three times what it was just before the Bill was introduced. We are thus giving the river authorities power to increase their revenues by almost 300 per cont. before the local authority representatives have any individual power themselves to call a halt to river authority expenditure.

The Association of Municipal Corporations is generous with regard to the interim period. It says that it is not unduly concerned, and the interim period may be five or eight years, but I myself believe that there will be considerable extra cost to the local authorities in promoting all these hydrometric schemes, albeit there will be something coming in from the water charges account. I believe, further, that the operating costs of the river authorities will be very much greater than the costs of the river boards and, therefore, the cost falling upon ratepayers will increase extremely rapidly.

I do not regard this precept as a very good form of finance, because it is under extremely indirect ratepayer control. I entirely support what my right hon. Friend has done in making the precepting authorities the counties and the county boroughs, but I must say, nevertheless, that the ratepayer control which can be exerted is very remote indeed.

Now, a few words on behalf of the Federation of British Industries, with which I have had consultations. The Federation is greatly concerned about the costs which will fall upon British industry. I know that it is concerned about the cost of the impounding reservoirs which are to be constructed. My right hon. Friend said a word or two about flood regulating reservoirs. I wish that he had said more, because I believe that, if the whole cost of flood regulating reservoirs is to fall upon the water charges account, this will be quite unfair. One hopes that the flood regulating reservoirs will be constructed—they are a definite recommendation of the Proudman subcommittee—and it seems reasonable that there should be Exchequer power to contribute to these very necessary impounding works which will be for the general good of the nation rather than for the good of British industry and the organisations which will be paying for water.

Again, I consider that industry should be consulted on the determination of minimum acceptable flows. At present, there is no provision for such consultation, and I believe that there should be provision for very much more general consultation with British industry.

Now, just one local matter which I have been asked to raise, namely, my right hon. Friend's proposal to amalgamate the Cheshire River Board with the Mersey River Board. This is causing considerable concern locally. The Cheshire River Board has made abundantly clear to me that its financial position is sound and that it wants to retain its individuality. It has very little affinity of interest with south-west Lancashire, south-west Lancashire being predominantly industrial while the Cheshire River Board area is predominantly agricultural. The Cheshire River Board has, in fact, a very fine record for financial stability. I hope that the plea implicit in what I have said, which is supported by the Cheshire County Council, the Chester City Council and the Cheshire branch of the National Farmers' Union, will not go unheeded, and I look forward to an opportunity to refer to this matter again in Committee.

I said that I would speak for a few minutes about the human side and add a little about the administrative side. In order to derive maximum benefit from the Bill, we shall have to do our very best to encourage the right human material to take part in the administration of this huge water conservation Act of Parliament, as it will become. I hope very much that the Water Resources Board and the river authorities will have a first-class voluntary and professional administrative staff. They are set to tackle a tremendous problem in the control of our nation's water. I wish them well, and I regard this administrative Measure proposed by my right hon. Friend as a very satisfactory start for a national water conservation policy.

7.29 p.m.

Mr. George Darling (Sheffield, Hillsborough)

Those of us who have been concerned about the problem of water supplies from an industrial point of view recognise that this is a very difficult and complicated but generally welcomed Bill. I agree with the hon. Member for the City of Chester (Mr. Temple). In the administration of water resources under the Bill, the task will be so difficult and vast that it cannot be left to, so to speak, spare-time operators.

I am particularly concerned with the fact that if we have a Government vigorous enough to pursue the National Economic Development Council's policy of a 4 per cent. increase in industrial production every year—and, frankly, I think that that is too low for the security and prosperity of this country—the increasing demand for water will be very great, particularly in industrial areas like Sheffield, where the steel works consume an enormous amount of water for every ton of steel which they produce.

Unless we ensure that the water supplies are adequate, we may, in certain circumstances—for instance, in periods of prolonged drought during a summer—cause industrial difficulties and the holding up of industrial production because there is not sufficient water for industry. I agree with the hon. Member for the City of Chester that the costs of impounding water on the vast scale which will be required by industrial development must be carefully considered. It may be that, in the end, we will face a burden of cost which has not been contemplated within the terms of the Bill.

Most of the points which we wish to raise on the Bill must inevitably be Committee points, because this is a very technical Bill and the general discussion on it has already taken place. But, in addition to the point that I have made about ensuring that water supplies are adequate for our industrial purposes, I have one constituency point that I should like to make, because, in a sense, apart from making sure that our water resources are adequate, by the Bill we are trying to modernise the way that we get the water to industry. In some of the older industrial areas the methods of getting water to industry are so old-fashioned and out of date that they are causing considerable concern to the people who live by the artificial streams which have been made for this purpose.

I have one such stream in my constituency, and the point that I wish to make about it concerns the cost of deal- ing with it. Some of the old-fashioned steel works in the Sheffield area obtained their water in the past by taking a supply from one of the five rivers which run through Sheffield along an artificial water course into a reservoir by the side of the works instead of pumping it directly from the river into the reservoir. These artificial streams have become open drains and rat infested, and in periods of heavy rain they cause a great deal of flooding and the people who live beside them frequently have their homes flooded.

This presents a grave problem to the local authority, and I believe that all of us in the House would wish that in a case of this kind the industries concerned should be asked to use more modern methods of pumping water into reservoirs instead of relying on open drains to feed them with water. We would have some sympathy with the local authorities which had to deal with this problem. Some new method of helping local authorities in this situation should be devised.

It is no accident that not only steel works but other industries have been placed on the banks of rivers and streams from which the water which they needed could be supplied. Because of the old-fashioned way that the water has been taken to the works in the past, we have a difficult social problem to face today. The history of it is well understood. The difficulties which have to be faced are modern difficulties, and I hope that, not necessarily during the course of this debate but in Committee, the Minister will deal with this problem and will give some hope to local authorities that they will not be called upon to pay the whole cost of getting rid of these open sewers which were built to provide industry with water and which are no longer needed for that purpose, but are kept going merely because to fill them up and to make the works concerned take their water from a new source will involve someone in expenditure.

We maintain these open sewers merely because this question of expenditure has not been properly sorted out. Small though it may be in relation to the whole scope of the Bill, I hope that this matter will be considered in Committee.

7.35 p.m.

Mr. Denys Bullard (King's Lynn)

I should like to add my voice to those of hon. Members who have expressed a general welcome to the Bill and also to make a few points particularly with regard to the agricultural aspects of it.

I represent a constituency which is interesting from the point of view of water conservation. Half of it is marsh land which is at or only just above sea level and which depends on drainage works and pumping for getting rid of its surface water. Half of it is some of the driest land in England on which irrigation is increasing every year. In between these two areas is the town of King's Lynn, which is rapidly expanding and whose need for water is increasing. Very often it is bound under present circumstances to look to the driest area of agricultural land for the water which it requires for its industrial purposes. I therefore think that it is very wise of my right hon. Friend to make provisions in this Bill so that these different water needs—getting rid of water and obtaining water—are co-ordinated in some way, as they will be under the new river authorities.

One of my doubts about the future working of the Bill is whether there is enough basic scientific knowledge available to base surveys upon and to form the basis for further action. I know that a great deal of hydrological work is being done by my right hon. Friend's Department and by the river boards and that a great deal of this work has been done in the Great Ouse catchment area particularly. But I do not know to what extent this is an exact science. I think that it is far from being an exact science.

I hope that the training and bringing on of a sufficient number of really well-qualified scientists and engineers will be regarded as one of the chief and early functions of the river authorities. I suppose that the Water Resources Board will have some responsibility for this work of training, but I believe that the primary work will have to be done in the field. I see quite a time elapsing before there is a sufficient number of people who are really qualified to do this important work.

I am a little concerned about the existing functions of the river boards after these have been transferred to the new river authorities. I know that all the existing staffs will be available for the continuation of the work of land drainage and matters to do with pollution and particularly with flood prevention, but I am wondering whether these matters will become relatively less important in the general functions of the new river authorities than they have been in the past. They will continue to be very important. I think particularly of flood prevention.

A tremendous amount of work has been done in connection with flood prevention in the Great Ouse area. We have a new river which has cost a lot of money chiefly to the taxpayer and also to the local authorities, and I should like to pay tribute to the great work which has been done by the Great Ouse board in this respect. But much remains to be done and I am wondering whether, with the river authorities' enlarged functions, and I admit necessarily enlarged functions, less attention and drive will be applied to these matters by members of the board than has been possible in the past when their functions were more limited. This applies also particularly in the estuaries. In the estuary of the Great Ouse, there are tremendous problems connected with the shifting and the silting of the channel. I should like to see a great deal of research done in this direction. It falls primarily to the river board to do this work. Not only does it affect the efficiency of the river in getting rid of land drainage water, but the question of navigation and the ports around the Wash are very much affected.

I hope, therefore, that there will not be a great switch of emphasis away from the existing functions of the river boards towards the new functions. I hope that the old functions will not be in any way submerged or diminished by the new responsibilities which are added to these authorities.

As to the agricultural matters, which are primarily Committee points, although I know that great improvement has been made in the Bill in Clause 61 with regard to the charging for water for spray irrigation in agriculture and horticulture, it is still far from clear how the charges are to be made. I understand that they will be in two parts, with a basic charge based upon the estimated extraction and a further element of the charge based upon the amount consumed. This is certainly much fairer than the original proposal in the Bill as first drafted and presented to Parliament, when there was only one basis of charge. There is, however, still a great deal of vagueness about this matter, and I hope that during the passage of the Bill we will have a good deal more information.

In particular, it seems that the charge should have special reference to the benefit, or lack of it, which the extractor receives from work of conservation carried out by the river authority. If the river authority is actually taking water away from a man's land, it seems hard that he should have to pay an additional charge to have it brought back.

There is also the question of charges where water levels have been lowered in existing wells. This is a widespread experience in my constituency, where not only has the water level in a number of wells been reduced primarily, it is thought, as a result of the tremendous extraction of water from the chalk and other strata, but many wells have been dried up altogether. It is a rather tough imposition to impose a charge which does not refer to what has gone on in the past and to the way in which the wells have been affected.

My final point concerns the £1 licence fee for the small agricultural extractions of underground water. I recognise that these add up to a considerable amount of water in total, and I know that according to the amount there is to be no charge for these wells. Even so, the charge of a £1 licence fee for these small wells which are used for agricultural purposes is, I consider, an unnecessary item in the Bill. I hope that we will not have a lot of people registering all the minor wells and being charged the £1 fee. The water is not very much for small agricultural purposes, for the watering of cattle or other livestock. There is a hole in the ground and somebody gets the water out of it, and it seems rough to ask those on whose land the wells are situated to pay a £1 registration fee to keep themselves on the right side of the law. There are likely to be a good number of evasions. I sincerely hone that in the later stages of the Bill this item will be omitted.

With these reservations, I consider that the broad purposes of the Bill are excel- lent, and I hope that it will have a successful passage through the House.

7.46 p.m.

Mr. Walter H. Loveys (Chichester)

My hon. Friend the Member for King's Lynn (Mr. Bullard) will, I am sure, forgive me if I do not follow him on the several interesting points which he has made in his speech, since this is an enormous Bill and I wish to detain the House for only a few minutes and to refer simply to one small part of the Bill.

When ally form of legislation concerning water is discussed in the House of Commons, I always remember an hon. Friend of mine jumping up with great enthusiasm and declaring, I think, during the passage of the Land Drainage Bill, 1959, that water was the burning question of the day. Water can hardly be described as a burning question, but the Bill, lengthy, important and complicated as it is, is a vital piece of legislation to ensure that the water affairs of the whole country are put upon a more comprehensive and national basis and will be managed by a central authority, the Water Resources Board.

It is fitting that the Bill should come from another place, because, as was mentioned earlier by the hon. Member for Anglesey (Mr. C. Hughes), great enthusiasm is always engendered in another place by anything to do with water. Indeed, their Lordships took, I believe, 13 days to discuss and improve the Bill. In the short speech which I intend to make, it is not my intention to wade through the 129 Clauses of the Bill, but simply to draw attention to what I consider to be a serious anomaly in an otherwise excellent Bill.

In that part of Clause 3 which deals with proposed amalgamations of certain river boards as mentioned in the First Schedule, there are, it seems to me, definite signs that the Government have been carried away, perhaps, by their own enthusiasm for what they regard as the advantages of these large take-over bids, with little regard for the feelings and local and technical knowledge and experience of those who run the existing river boards so efficiently and who genuinely regard some of the proposed amalgamations as liable, in some cases, to cause considerable increases in the burden to many ratepayers with no increase in efficiency.

Clause 10 provides for public inquiries to be held concerning amalgamations that may take place after the Bill becomes law. In view of the feeling of experienced people concerning the Bill, I should have thought it only equitable that there should also be provision for public inquiries to be held in the cases where amalgamations are proposed in the Bill.

The actual amalgamations that I have particularly in mind, because I have had sent to me details and comments concerning them, is the amalgamation of the West and East Sussex River Boards. It is true that a joint delegation from these boards met the highest ranking officials at both the Ministry of Housing and Local Government and the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, and later had a meeting with my right hon. Friend the Minister of Housing and Local Government. The delegation felt that it did not receive any satisfaction from these meetings, and I rather fear that it came away with the impression that my right hon. Friend had his mind already made up in no uncertain manner before the meeting and had refused to budge an inch.

I find it difficult to understand why, in view of the strong feelings of the river boards, no public inquiry should be allowed, especially when my right hon. Friend is often so generous in allowing public inquiries on planning matters in other things of considerably less importance than those in the Bill.

Why do these two river boards not wish to amalgamate? I make no apology for drawing attention to what some hon. Members may feel is too local a matter for a Second Reading debate, as it is two large counties that are involved and they are mentioned in the Bill. So far as I know, other counties are in a similar position. We have heard of one or two earlier in the debate.

Their objections can be divided roughly into two parts. One is that each area comprises units completely different in character, and the other is that it is estimated that an extra £50,000 per annum would fall on the ratepayers in the two counties involved for administrative services provided for under the Bill over and above what the administrative cost would be if the two areas were allowed to run separately within the framework of their existing organisations. This is happening in an area where there have been savage increases in rates under the recent Rating and Revaluation Bill.

If I may refer to the first objection, each area is quite large enough at present to provide enough water conservation work to justify employment of additional full-time technical staff. The combined area, with a coastline of 80 miles and six individual catchment areas, and with the large urban conurbation of Brighton and Hove right in the centre, falls naturally into two units. The present set-up seems ideal, and the administration of one area would, it is considered, be wasteful, especially for officers who would spend a good deal of time in traversing such an elongated, long and comparatively narrow area as proposed in the Bill.

There are many other points in this objection which have been brought to my attention by the West Sussex River Board, but I will not weary the House by elaborating them in this debate. They are really Committee points. Not the least of them that must be taken into account in the interests of efficiency is the real loss that amalgamation between these two large counties would cause to local interests and the loss of knowledge of members of the boards.

The other objection, relating to the increased cost of £50,000 a year, is, I would emphasise, over and above the cost of conservation which has to be self-supporting under the Bill. I feel that there has been some misunderstanding between the Ministry and the river boards over this fact. The extra money to be found by ratepayers is based on most detailed calculations by officers of the existing authorities to decide simply the staff, building, transport, and other requirements which will be necessary for one authority to deal with precisely the same functions as could be dealt with within the framework of the existing two organisations.

I hope that even now, although the Bill has gone through all its stages in another place, my right hon. Friend will have one more look at the widespread amalgamations which are proposed in the First Schedule, bearing in mind that the new river boards are intended to be local and representative authorities serving a specialised interest, and that he will take full account of local feeling and allow public inquiries to take place where the feeling is particularly strong.

7.57 p.m.

Mr. John H. Osborn (Sheffield, Hallam)

I shall endeavour to make my contribution a short one. I wish to explain that on the subject of water I am no expert, especially compared with the hon. Member for the City of Chester (Mr. Temple) and one or two other hon. Members who have spoken with considerable authority and experience. I have discussed the recent White Papers and this Bill with many interested parties, particularly those in my city who want to know what is involved. Those most affected still do not know what it is all about. The Bill, therefore, is one which I shall not claim to comment on with authority; instead I will proceed by way of asking questions so that I can clarify points which have been put to me by many in my constituency.

I should like to confine my remarks to four subjects: first, general and technical; second, administratively, mainly dealing with this Bill; third, I should like to bring out a few constituency points, particularly as they have been raised by the hon. Member for Sheffield, Hillsborough (Mr. Darling) in a neighbouring constituency to mine; and fourthly, I should like to refer to one or two general points concerning industry.

But first, I should like to congratulate my right hon. Friend the Minister for bringing in the Bill. There are many who would give it a lukewarm welcome as a Measure which is necessary and whereby we can make the best use of our water resources. Some reference has been made to the fact that 90 per cent. of our water goes to the sea and the sooner we do something about it the better. Last night I was driving through my constituency and a factor which brought this point home to me was that there are many notices advising domestic users, particularly gardeners, not to use hose pipes. The same applied in Chesterfield when I came here this morning. The point is that we have had six weeks' continuous rain and while the reservoirs have filled in an area close to the Pennines with good supplies and high rainfall the ordinary man in the street is still short of water.

On that count alone they will welcome the Bill.

Dealing with the practical definition, I should like to point out that in the White Paper Cmnd. 1693 of April, 1962, "water conservation" was defined as … the preservation, control and development of water resources (both surface and ground) whether by storage, including natural ground storage, prevention of pollution, or other means, or as to ensure that adequate and reliable supplies of water are made available for all purposes in the most suitable and economical way whilst safeguarding legitimate interests. The Proudman Report states that closely linked up with this are land drainage and carrying out of flood control measures. I ask a question here on which perhaps the Parliamentary Secretary could enlighten me. In Clause 4 there is no emphasis on this being part of the responsibility of the river authorities. Perhaps this could be clarified later on.

Let me now deal with some technical points. We have discussed rainfall, and rainfall is, I think, the major factor. Seasonal rainfall, I have been told, is not subject to large fluctuations. The average in the summer for the whole of the country is not much less than in the winter, but there would appear to be 40 per cent. variation between years. Another factor which does not seem to have been emphasised in the debate is evaporation losses and the fact that they are increasing in this country as elsewhere in the world. What do we know about this in particular? At one time, hundreds of years ago, this country was covered by forest. Since then, because of the growth in agriculture and our urban development, there has been an increase in run-off. The rain has become of a more torrential type and we have been subject to more soil erosion. This can be confirmed by noting the silting up of many of our lakes.

I have been given some data about the Thames. There is a greater tendency for it to run dry in the summer and for excessive floods in the winter. The average daily flow is 1,300 million gallons, but there is a 70 million gallon a day variation on this compared with several years ago. Water conservation includes such things as the planting of trees, the type of tree, where they should be planted and the type of crops to be used. Will ail this be part of the advisory work given to the Water Resources Board?

I read with interest the reference in the report of a symposium held by the Institution of Civil Engineers last October to the Natural Resources Technical Committee which reported in 1962 that irrigation reduces unit costs in agriculture. The areas that will obviously gain by this are the South and the East where rainfall is less than 35 ins. per annum.

We have had reference in the debate already to the fact that approximately 130,000 acres are now under irrigation and that by 1980 the figure could go up to 500,000. But irrigation water need not be the same quality as that provided by statutory water authorities. The point of interest here is quality required. Industry looks for a sources of supply which can produce, or can be made to produce, water of the right quality at the lowest price. These sources may be sea water, brackish water rivers, estuaries or lakes. Some of the dyed stuff factories in Yorkshire find that even a change in supply from one statutory authority to another can affect the quality of the water needed for their products, whereas much wider variations in quality can be used by industry elsewhere.

The hon. Member for Anglesey (Mr. C. Hughes) referred to loss of rights, and I interrupted him. When some of our bigger industries, such as steel works, were laid down, the availability of limestone and fuel in the form of coal may have been the most important raw materials. But invariably the availability of water has been one of the rights and assets of these factories. Now these rights are in question and many industries are concerned about their loss.

I want to stress here that there are two major water requirements. The first is for water mainly supplied by statutory authorities—domestic water—and the other is water fit for some of the bulkier industries. Last year I served on the Standing Committee which considered the Transport Act, and there we debated waterways. The availability of water for industry was discussed and it was pointed out that some of the water came from canals..

I have studied with interest the comments on the concept of a contour canal to form part of a national water grid. One suggestion is that it should be at an altitude of 310 feet. Some years ago Mr. Pownall wrote an article in the Engineer on this. Such a canal would serve two purposes. It would convey water to where it was needed, whether the need was agricultural or industrial, or because of high population density. In the latter case after suitable filtering, the water could be used by a statutory authority. It could also provide a basis for water transport.

I turn now to the administrative aspect. Will enough power rest with the Water Resources Board? Will it be in a position to discuss with the Waterways Board the viability or practicability of such a project? In Clause 12 there is a reference to the power of the Water Resources Board as such. This has been referred to by many others.

I should like to go on now to get some explanation of Clause 34, which deals with certain aspects of the powers the water authorities will have. One essential is that the water rights conferred on the water authorities by Ministerial order should be preserved for them by statute. As far as I can see, the water authorities must have the right to continue to maintain part of their existing waterworks and to utilise them to full capacity in the interests of public water supplies. Furthermore, the water authorities ought not to be obliged to pay for water rights which Parliament has already conferred upon them. How will the Bill affect that?

But the point which concerns me most—and I intervened earlier to point out this fact—is that various authorities have come together in Yorkshire. They have been taking water from the Derwent near Hull to Sheffield. We have held discussions on the amalgamation of certain river boards and I think that we are discussing further amalgamations now through this Bill. I am concerned that there should still be satisfactory means whereby one statutory undertaking will be able to negotiate with others for some joint method of supply. Those who have worked the Derwent scheme, which I have seen under construction, have asked me what will be the full impact of this Bill in the future. I have not been able yet to hive them a full reply.

Who is to have the initiative for new sources of water supply schemes? Will it be the water authorities? Will their responsibility be to give supplies to all comers, particularly as it also involves building waterworks? Presumably it will be the water authorities who will in future carry out many of the new works for water supplies, and they will go to the river authorities for the water they require to meet their statutory obligations.

The Bill also proposes that the water authorities shall have the duty of water conservation. But it does not indicate satisfactorily that the river authorities should have the statutory duty to allow the water authorities to take the water they require. This will need adequate communication between the new river authorities, the statutory authorities and, to a certain extent, the local authorities. That brings in the whole question of human problems which has been raised by my hon. Friend the Member for the City of Chester and which is of concern to many local authorities.

There has been long discussion about how much water industry is using. One estimate I have had is 2,000 million gallons a day. If that is correct it is 65 per cent. of our total requirements. Industry therefore must be adequately represented on the Board, and I agree with the point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Louth (Sir C. Osborne) that there should be provision for alternates, because, as he said, one of the difficulties is to ensure regular industrial representation on committees such as this.

As my third point, I want to deal with the more practical issues, because the impact of the Bill and the fact that there has been a limitation of compensation water on the River Don has brought this Bill to the attention of many at this stage instead of after its passing. There is the River Don Mill Owners' Association. Many firms, including my own company, are interested in the Don as a source of water for industrial use.

The culverts which the hon. Member for Hillsborough mentioned have been in existence for a long time and many of them have been completely covered over. The arrangements for extracting water from these rivers depends on a large number of pumps. If water for a certain process is required the pump is switched on and, as the approximate capacity of the pump is known, by keeping a log it is possible to gauge the likely annual consumption.

What is to happen in future? Some firms have several entry points from the river to their factories. Will it now be necessary for there to be a meter on each pump? In many of the processes in Sheffield factories, especially cooling and heat treatment processes, the water is used for quenching or cooling a furnace and is then returned to the river, perhaps at a slightly higher temperature—perhaps as much as 10° F. higher—but the normal flow of the river provides cooling and the cooled water is then used by another factory.

What will be the future basis for charging industry for river water used like that? Will the charge be on the basis of net usage, or some arbitrary figure? I can see no reference to net usage in Clause 56. Will meters have to be installed and, if so, who will pay for them? The hon. Member for Hillsborough suggested that local authorities would not want to pay. Industry certainly would not. Industry would regard it as just one more charge which legislation had placed upon it. Charges arising from Government measures affect final selling prices, especially in markets overseas.

The specific industrial points which I wish to mention include the need for a cheap and plentiful supply of water. There is undoubtedly a need for a licensing system and it must embrace all substantial extractions, present and future, if the Bill's purposes are to be achieved. So far as I can see, the third largest group of extractors—agriculture—is to have any quantities of water it cares to take from rivers and streams, for purposes other than spraying and irrigation, without licences or payment. It appears that all industry's water rights are to be abrogated without compensation while in other cases licences will be granted by the river authorities for a quantity entirely at the latter's discretion.

Certain safeguards are required. The House has already discussed Clause 19 and minimum flow and the responsibility of the river authorities for ensuring adequate supplies of water at all times. There should be reasonable facilities for establishing entitlement to licence for appropriate need and, where existing rights are affected, compensation other than monetary in the form of irrevocable licences of right for the loss of that existing right. The licences of right should be given so that the new source of supply is for the same volume of water as has been used.

I want finally to refer to charges. I am glad that the Minister gave certain assurances. Water is used in many ways and comes from many sources, as I have said. There is brackish water and salt water and water from the river estuaries. The type of water will govern the charge. There is some reluctance by users to accept the need for this charge, but there must be a charge if the river authorities are to be responsible, as I hope they will, for providing that minimum rate of flow of water which is so necessary. It will cost money to provide the necessary compensation reservoirs and if the user is to have that guarantee, there must be a readiness to pay for it.

I agree that many of the matters which I have raised are Committee points of detail, but they are questions which have to be answered, although I appreciate that it would be difficult to answer them in the winding-up speech tonight. People using water want to know what the Bill is about. I thank the House for accepting the way in which I have presented these points. I have endeavoured to raise them as they have been presented to me. In spite of these queries, the Bill is to be welcomed and I look forward to supporting the Minister, whom I congratulate for introducing the Bill tonight.

8.15 p.m.

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

This is a very important Bill and it should not pass without a Member from Cornwall saying something about it. Hon. Members will know that I have taken an interest in water Bills over the years. Therefore, what I have to say tonight will be short, but there are one or two things which I ought to emphasise.

The Bill is to set up river authorities and a Water Resources Board. I do not know how far the Bill will affect Cornwall for better or worse, because the Cornwall River Board is very competent and has done an excellent job over the years. The authorities are to be able to control the abstraction and impounding of water and to protect and to safeguard the proper use of inland waters and water in underground strata. We have a lot of water in underground strata in Cornwall because most of the county is of granite, as the House knows.

There is also a good deal of non-potable water stored in old and disused mines. It is true that if mining should develop to any great extent many of those old mines would have to be pumped out. My constituency and the town of Camborne-Redruth in which I live are a development district and are seeking new industries and I hope that the powers that be, including the Minister of Housing and Local Government, will note that there are vast resources of underground non-potable water available for industrial purposes in the district and that one Government Department already makes use of it.

Clause 96 of the Bill provides for the preservation of amenity. The Minister will know that over the years I have been greatly concerned about the abstraction and impounding of water in our National Parks. I am glad that the new authorities are carefully to examine our national resources of water and, even if the cost is a little greater, will make sure that not all our National Parks are turned into training grounds for the military and the impounding of water for use by water authorities.

I ask the Minister to consider Taw Marsh, in the Dartmoor National Park. A few years ago, the North Devon River Board was given power by Act of Parliament to extract water from the marsh. I believe that the Board is now proposing to come to the House with another Bill to provide for further water to be taken from Dartmoor because the Taw Marsh yield was inadequate. This ought to have been carefully examined by a competent national authority before power was given to the North Devon Water Board to take water from Taw Marsh, and I hope that never again will such a mistake occur.

Clause 97 provides for the Nature Conservancy to make recommendations regarding places of special national interest to the appropriate water authorities, and I am glad that that safeguard is included in the Bill.

This morning I received a memorandum from the China Clay Association about various Amendments which, the Association thinks, ought to be included in the Bill. I am not tonight expressing an opinion on whether these Amendments are right and proper, or whether they should be rejected, but I hope that during the passage of the Bill in Committee they will be given proper consideration.

8.21 p.m.

Mr. R, J. Maxwell-Hyslop (Tiverton)

Water is put to a number of uses in manufacturing industry in particular, and I should like to mention a few. First, water is used by manufacturing industry as a component of some product which is sold to some sections of the community. Two good examples of this are beer and whisky, both of which, surprisingly enough, are largely water. Secondly, water is used as a source of power either in the old form, the water wheel supplying power for the traditional mill, or in more up-to-date terms, to drive a turbine. Thirdly, it is used as a medium of power in the form of steam. Here, of course, there is a dramatic distinction between the use of water and the consumption of it, as a high proportion of the steam is condensed and recirculated.

Fourthly, it is used as a coolant at some stage in the process of manufacture, either to cool objects in the course of manufacture, or to enable the condensers of the boilers to condense the steam in them. Fifthly, water is used as a washing medium, for instance in the paper industry, in the textile industry, in the china clay industry, and perhaps most obvious of all, in the laundry industry.

Sixthly, water is used as part of the actual manufacturing process. The paper industry is an example of this, as indeed are certain forms of textile industry, including the dyeing industry. A seventh, and perhaps rather surprising, use of water is as a means of transporting some medium which is dissolved in it. I am not referring to barges travelling on canals. I am thinking particularly of china clay which is conveniently moved in bulk from one point to another while in suspension in water flowing under the influence of gravity.

My object in outlining a few of the uses to which water is put in manufacturing industry of one kind or another is to draw to the attention of the House the inferences flowing from them. One is that a person with experience of using water in one form of industry will not be either familiar with, or competent to give technical advice on, the industrial use of water in other contexts, and since the representative of manufacturing industry on the to-be-constituted river authorities is to be limited to one, I think that my right hon Friend will find some difficulty in finding one person of the necessary calibre and breadth of knowledge and experience.

Secondly, I wish to focus attention on the different things that can happen to water once it has gone into an industrial undertaking. It can be evaporated and released into the atmosphere, in which case it is, in a manner of speaking, gone with the wind. It can be wholly or partially absorbed into the product, in which case it is wholly or partially resold to the community. It may be polluted in such a manner that it can subsequently be purified before its return to the river. I have used pollution in the mechanical or chemical sense. It can, of course, have its oxygen removed, and if its oxygen is not replaced it will, among other things, cause fish to die in the river and have sundry other thoroughly undesirable manifestations.

It may, as my hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield, Hallam (Mr. J. H. Osborn) said, be returned to the river at a higher temperature than that at which it was taken into the plant. This may or may not matter, according to the circumstances. Those more learned than I am in chemistry will doubtless correct me if I am wrong, but I believe that the amount of oxygen which is present in water is likely to decrease if the temperature is elevated to a high degree, but I may of course be off beam on this.

There are a number of different conditions in which all or part of the water extracted by manufacturing industry may be returned to the water course at a point lower down than that from which it was extracted, so that in setting the charges for the use of water it is very important that a rational basis should be found for distinguishing between somebody who takes water, uses it, and returns it in the same condition as it was extracted and in the same quantity, and somebody who resells that water or makes it less valuable to the community before returning it.

We run into difficulties from the point of view of the water take-off points and this £5 licence. Let us consider as an example the china clay industry. Basically this industry digs a hole in the ground and removes the over-burden. It then digs down into the granite gravel which contains the kaolin, the china clay, and having sunk a shaft it uses water to wash down the sand and the china clay in solution from the sides of the hole which has been dug. It then pumps the china clay in solution in the water up to settling tanks, and the water is then returned to carry out the same process again.

It could be contended that if a person necessarily has to dig a hole in the ground to carry on his livelihood, and necessarily has to pump water out of it, he should not be charged for pumping water out of the ground which he did not want there in the first place. I am not suggesting that in this case he does not want the water there. Of course he does, because it is part of the process for extracting china clay, but it is not really taking water away from anywhere. To a large extent, and except in so far as the water is used for conveying the china clay in solution possibly down to settling tanks many miles from the china clay pit, the water is recirculated, and it is surely ludicrous that if water is extracted by 100 small pipes from 100 small pipe entries it should incur a charge of £500 a year, whereas if it is extracted by one large pipe in one place it should attract a charge of £5 a year.

This is the sort of absurdity which could follow from the Bill, and which, in Committee, we must make sure does not follow from it, because we do not want to legislate ourselves into the same position as our predecessors did when they invented the ridiculous horsepower tax, which resulted in the building of engines with an almost infinitely long stroke. Manufacturers were concerned only with minimising the diameters of the bores. That piece of legislative lack of thought resulted in extremely bad engineering practice being engendered and perpetuated. We do not want the Bill, in its final form, to encourage or render more profitable thoroughly bad or less efficient manufacturing processes.

The china clay industry exports approximately £8½ million worth of china clay a year. This means that 70 per cent. of its output is exported to a very competitive market. This export market is to a considerable extent a fluctuating one, and anything which imposes upon our industry costs which are not imposed upon its foreign competitors may have a very deleterious effect upon it. Incidentally, as a topical point, it may therefore have a deleterious effect upon the railway lines which are intended to be kept open only because the heavy mineral traffic on them renders them profitable. I cannot help interjecting that irrelevant but valuable—I think—comment.

I now turn to a domestic interest of the Tiverton division. China clay is not one of its interests. Approximately 1,000 people in the division are employed in the paper industry. The House will already have been appraised of the fact that approximately one-third of all the water put to manufacturing industrial uses in this country is used by the paper manufacturing and processing industry. My right hon. Friend will therefore appreciate that the Bill is a source of great concern to the industry. It is also of interest that the industry often finds itself in areas which, without it, would be areas of high unemployment, or areas where there are not many alternative sources of employment. This fact must be borne in mind by my right hon. Friend.

At the moment the industry is suffering from severe competition from foreign firms which are close to the source of the basic raw material—in many cases wood pulp—and it is already hard-pressed by changes in import duties owing to the development of E.F.T.A. It is therefore of particular importance that the industry should not suddenly, or even gradually find itself faced with increasing costs due to no lack of pre-vision or investment on its part—increasing costs which its foreign competitors do not have to face.

I want to elaborate a variation of this point. Let us suppose that we have two firms, one of which has constructed at the cost of major capital expenditure a large reservoir to supply its own water needs, and another firm which has not done so. If my reading of the Bill is correct, the firm which has expended much of its capital in this way will derive no benefit from it; it will still have to pay a charge, although it might be a lesser charge, for the water which it extracts from its own reservoir, whereas its competitor, within a few miles, which has been content merely to draw water from the river, while also having to pay a charge, will not have invested a substantial amount of capital in securing its own interests.

Unless my reading of the Bill has been too cursory it would appear that it contains no provision for the compensation of those firms which have invested a significant proportion of their capital assets in plant for collecting and treating water. Natural justice dictates that investment of this kind should not be overlooked, especially when assessing the charges between different firms which put water to the same use, in the manufacturing sense, but have not made the same contribution to the collection of that water.

I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for King's Lynn (Mr. Bullard), who explained very succinctly how the Bill affects agriculture. In that industry, too, water is used for a number of processes. It is used for cooling—particularly milk cooling; for washing—particularly bottle washing and the washing of milk churns, for the cleaning out of yards and buildings, besides being used for irrigation. Many of these aspects have been dealt with by recent legislation, which has not affected other industry in the same way. There will doubtless be points which those of us who have the good fortune to serve on the Standing Committee will wish to investigate.

With those reservations I welcome my right hon. Friend's action in introducing the Bill. Anybody who has read the Proudman Report must accept the necessity for legislation which will enable the problem of water conservation and use to be tackled before it becomes chronic. Nevertheless, necessary as this legislation is, I plead with my right hon. Friend not to allow it to create an additional item of cost to the users. This is a critical point, because many of those users are facing severe competition from overseas. To burden them not only with taxation on the fuel they consume—a burden which their overseas competitors do not have to bear—but also, for what, for want of a better word, I may call a tax on the water of which they make use, may prove to be the straw which breaks the camel's back.

Mr. Hayman

Will the hon. Member say whether or not he expects industrialists to be relieved of a proper charge for water usage and that part of that charge should be passed on to the ordinary householder?

Mr. Maxwell-Hyslop

I am grateful to the hon. Member for inviting me to clarify that point. I endeavoured to draw a distinction between making use of water and extracting it permanently from the system. Where firms or individuals make use of water which returns to a water course of whatsoever kind in an acceptable form, I see no very good reason why they should pay taxation for so doing. Where they sell that water in another form it is only right and proper that in some way they should pay for the water they are reselling. Between those two extremes there are, of course, infinite gradations, but that is the manner in which I approach the problem.

8.38 p.m.

Mr. Robert Cooke (Bristol, West)

I wish to intervene very briefly in the debate. I have not been present during most of the time and I shall not take up much time. I have, however, an intimate personal problem in that the River Piddle, in Dorset, runs through my grounds and that river, so far as I know, is not controlled by anyone except those above my grounds. At times they think that they can take all the water and at other times they think that they can allow me to have it all. That can be embarrassing. The level over my weir can be as little as ½ in. in normal times and as much as 8 in. when everyone above my land opens sluices.

I hope that the Bill will do something to control some smaller parts of smaller rivers over which, at present, no one seems to have control. All sorts of operations are being expanded. In Dorset, there are water-cress establishments. There is nothing to prevent the owner of a water-cress bed from doubling the size of the bed and thereby taking away very much more water, often at a time when it is most embarrassing to people lower down the river. On the other hand, he may decide to drain the beds and allow a great deal of water to go through.

I hope that control will be placed on some of the smaller rivers which, at present, seem to be controlled by no one. For that reason, I welcome the Bill. I hope that we shall hear something from the Minister about this problem when he replies to the debate.

8.40 p.m.

Mr. Michael Stewart (Fulham)

Hon. Members have touched on almost every aspect of this very complicated Bill in this debate and have discussed almost every one of the multitudinous interests with which the Bill is concerned. I never guessed, at the beginning, that we should actually get to water-cress. I could have foreseen the question of china clay and most of the other interests which have come into the debate being raised, but that point illustrates how many different kinds of people and different interests can be concerned in this matter.

It would be a waste of time, in the concluding speech from this side of the House, for me merely to try to recapitulate all the specialist points which have been made. I propose to focus attention on the main administrative structure which the Bill seeks to provide. If I understand it correctly, there are three elements in that structure—the river authorities, the Water Resources Board and the Minister.

The new river authorities, armed partly with the new function of conservation and what goes with it and partly with the functions which they will inherit from the old river boards concerned with drainage, fisheries, navigation and pollution, will be the real executives of the structure.

It is they who will make decisions about minimum flow, about charges, about who shall have a licence and who shall not; it is they who, in the actual physical sense, will erect any works which are to be erected. They are the executive arm of the whole structure. The Water Resources Board we see in a rather gentler rôle, concerned—if I understand rightly—only with the new functions of the river authorities, and concerned with them in a way which is expressed in the words which appear from place to place in the Bill, with supervising, advising, encouraging, recommending and, of course, conducting research.

The third element of the structure is the Minister himself, who can always make the structure work in whatever way he wants by his power to give directions, whether to the Water Resources Board or the river authorities. When I first began to study this matter, I inclined to the view of those who said that we ought to make the Water Resources Board a more powerful body. I think that I now see a possible answer which can be made to that view. It is that the person who, presumably, is powerful in theory and ought to be powerful in practice, is the Minister. Such control, direction and unifying of the policy of river authorities as there is, is something for which the Minister, under the Bill, is responsible.

The Water Resources Board has the job of seeing that he is provided with the advice and information which will enable him to carry out that duty intelligently and to the national satisfaction. It would have been possible to have had a Bill which created a water resources board as a sort of semi-independent corporation ruling over the river authorities. I am not sure that, on the whole, on reflection, that would have been better than what we have here, where it is, in effect, the Minister's job to drive home to the river authorities the national aspect of the duty which they are carrying out.

Perhaps that is the answer to the very natural anxiety which was expressed by my hon. Friend the Member for Leek (Mr. Harold Davies) earlier in the debate. I think, by the way, that the Parliamentary Secretary is aware that my hon. Friend the Member for Leek is unexpectedly and unfortunately prevented from being with us at present. He would have liked to have been here now.

If I am right in answering the criticism of those who feel that the Water Resources Board itself ought to have been a stronger executive body, and if it is the whole intention of the Bill to put any central power which there is in the hands of the Minister, with the Board to advise him, it follows that the Board has to be composed of persons of such quality that it can give very high-powered expert advice to the Minister. Although the Minister will be constitutionally responsible to the House and to the country for what happens, it is no disrespect to any Minister to say that he cannot simply spin, like a spider's web out of his own body or mind, an effective policy for water. To do that he must have a board which can give him first-class advice.

The Minister's responsibility will be what the politician's responsibility always is—to listen to expert advice; to see that he understands it as well as any layman can understand it, and if it is explained to him in unintelligible language, to insist on it being translated into English until he does understand it; and then to apply his best judgment to it, to stand by his judgment and to hope that it will turn out all right.

That is the process which is essentially the politician's job. But it cannot be done properly unless the people who advise him are people with a very clear vision of what they are doing. As I read the Bill, the Water Resources Board seems to have a quiet, modest function of advising, recommending, supervising—"encouraging" is the word used in one subsection.

Mr. Maxwell-Hyslop

It must be a misprint.

Mr. Stewart

No. I was pleased to see that homely word in the Bill.

The Board cannot perform these functions unless it has in its own mind a coherent idea of what it thinks the national policy about water should be. For example, the river authorities do the job on the spot of deciding what they think is a minimum acceptable flow, but it is a matter on which the Water Resources Board could give them advice and could make recommendations. The Water Resources Board can, presumably, go to the Minister if it thinks that the river authorities are being neglectful of advice given by the Board to them.

To discharge that function properly the Board has to weigh up in its own mind what it thinks are the facts which ought to govern minimum acceptable flow. They are set out very briefly in Clause 19(5). It will be the Board's job to clothe that short subsection with reality, and to have such a picture in its own mind of what is wanted that, when, it looks at the proposals in practice of each river authority, it is capable of criticising them and saying whether they are consistent with the national interest.

A number of hon. Members have referred to this aspect of the matter. My hon. Friend the Member for Lewisham, South (Mr. C. Johnson) stressed the importance of amenity. Amenity may well be quite as much a national as a local question. There may be a region of great natural beauty which is not merely the possession of the people in the area and of the particular river authority which is responsible for that area. It is part of the national heritage.

It is not inconceivable that the river board may be a little too much concerned with the interests of local water users and not be giving sufficient weight to amenity considerations that are of national importance. That is the kind of thing which, presumably, the Water Resources Board has to be prepared to watch. It must, therefore, itself have very clear ideas of how we can reconcile the interests of amenity in each particular part of the country with the other essential needs that must be met.

More serious, and more difficult, is the question of the transfer of water resources from the area of one river board to that of another. It is in performance of this function, I think, that the river boards are perhaps likely to be a bit slow in operation and here, particularly, the Board will have to be ready with advice to the Minister.

My hon. Friend the Member for Anglesey (Mr. C. Hughes) pointed out that we have wet Wales and dry East and South-East, and that more and more it will be a problem of how to get the water from the one place to the other. That means thinking out national water policy on quite spectacular lines. The Water Resources Board must have personnel capable of that degree of technical knowledge and of imagination.

A good many other comments have illustrated this point. The right hon. and learned Member for Chertsey (Sir L. Heald) mentioned the importance of trying to conserve the balance of nature. That, again, is not something that can be done without the ability to collect a great many pieces of knowledge from a variety of different sciences, and it is a matter on which the Water Resources Board ought to be capable of giving sometimes highly specialist advice to the different river authorities.

The hon. Member for King's Lynn (Mr. Bullard) spoke of the importance of training people who will be in the service of these various authorities. Again, I should have thought that that was something to which the Water Resources Board ought to give attention. Together with the river authorities, it ought to be capable of producing some kind of national training scheme to see that water policy does not break down for lack of sufficient people able to execute policy properly.

My last point in this connection is that the river authorities inherit from the old river boards responsibilities in relation to pollution and flood prevention. If I understand the Bill correctly, because those are inherited and not new functions the Water Resources Board will have no advising, encouraging or supervising, but I am very doubtful whether that is right. I am not at all sure that, in practice, it will be possible to distinguish between conservation measures, flood prevention measures and pollution measures.

Indeed, the more I think over this the more doubtful I am that there is any point in keeping in the Bill the distinction between the new and the transferred functions even from the financial aspect. When we ask who ought to pay for the various works the river authorities will have to do, the answer may be one person in one case, one person in another, but I do not think that it will follow in justice that the question of who ought to pay, and how much, for each kind of work done by the river authorities will correlate at all with whether the work comes under the new or the inherited functions. I should rather like to see the whole of the financial arrangements looked at again.

I felt that some of the speeches we have heard, particularly from the other side of the Chamber, warning against the danger of imposing undue charges on industry, were really pointing in the direction that rather more of the cost of the work that the river authorities will have to do ought to be put on the general public by means of grants from the Exchequer.

There may well be a case for that. It seems very difficult to allocate work on flood prevention to particular beneficiaries. Some people benefit more than others, but the nation as a whole really benefits from it. I would hope, therefore, that the financial arrangements will be looked at again and that the Minister will consider whether it was sensible to preserve the distinction, for any purpose, between the new and the inherited functions of the river authorities.

Before leaving the Water Resources Board and its relations with the river authorities, I should like to ask what will happen to the Central Advisory Water Committee. My hon. and learned Friend the Member for Kettering (Mr. Mitchison), in a debate on water supplies on 4th July, 1958, referred to the rather lethargic existence which this body leads and its somewhat infrequent meetings. I think that it is still in existence and I do not think that in any Schedule or footnote in the Bill it has, as it were, gone down the plughole. Once the Water Resources Board is in operation, will there be anything for this advisory committee to do? If not, it might as well be wound up.

I should like to turn to the river authorities, the part of the whole structure which will actually do the executive work. One of the first questions is how many there ought to be. The Minister has gone for 26. The Proudman subcommittee and the hon. Member for Louth (Sir C. Osborne) were in favour of 14 or so. Almost everybody else was in favour of 26 plus one, the one being the one in their own area which was to disappear in amalgamation.

I trust that my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Kingston upon Hull, East (Commander Pursey) will not misunderstand me here. It seemed to me that his speech was of great importance in that it challenged the Minister, when the Bill is in Committee, to set out the principles on which he has decided upon some amalgamations and not on others. It seemed to me that the most important and significant part of my hon. and gallant Friend's speech was that in which he set out certain facts about the resources and the areas of the two authorities with which he was concerned and compared them with those of other authorities. My hon. and gallant Friend presented to me, as one who has not gone into the details, a quite impressive case for thinking that there does not seem to be much consistency. It is up to the Minister to prove that there is. My own predilection was for the hon. Member for Louth, because the Proudman sub-committee has made quite a case for a smaller number.

One highly expert consideration to be brought in here was raised by Dr. Buchan, in the Institution of Civil Engineers a little while ago, in a paper on conservation by the integrated use of both surface and underground waters. His argument was that it was a good thing to have in the area of the same river board supplies of both kinds so that the one could supplement the other and that that was in general, an argument for a smaller number of river boards with a larger area.

I can see that the Committee will have quite a time on this part of the Bill. When my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Kingston upon Hull, East, used the phrase "shotgun marriage" I thought for a moment that we had gone back a month or two and were still discussing the London Government Bill. That impression was strengthened as the debate went on and startlingly similar considerations seemed to be involved.

When discussing reorganisation and amalgamation of anything, there are three considerations that thrust themselves forward. One is administrative and technical efficiency, and to that enormous weight must be given, particularly in so technical a matter as this. The second consideration is the affections and loyalties of the citizens concerned. Frankly, I do not think that is a very important consideration here. I believe that people love their boroughs and feel affection for their counties, but I do not believe that the ordinary citizen is emotionally attached to the river board area in which he happens to live. The third consideration that thrusts itself forward is that of the amour propre of the actual members of the boards. That is always the one that thrusts itself forward most vigorously and it is the one to which the least attention should be paid.

I notice, by the way, that we need not be too worried one way or the other about the actual Schedule, because the powers of the Minister to alter it are quite considerable. This has to be done, if I remember correctly, under the affirmative Resolution procedure, but it can, none the less, be done. Indeed, the Bill, in some ways, despite its apparent complexity and detail, is a little like what the French would call a loi cadre—a skeleton law. There is no knowing what the Bill may turn into in a few years' time, after there have been a variety of orders.

We have yet to discover how effective the Water Resources Board will be in advising, directing, and so on, how fre- quently and with what effect the Minister will use his powers of direction to the river boards, how many river boards will be wound up and amalgamated. It is possible for us to pass this legislation this Session, and. in five years' time, as a result of a certain number of Ministerial orders, for the structure to be startlingly different from what it is at present. However, I do not complain of that—it may be essential—because we cannot really foresee the future.

I mentioned the question of how many river authorities there ought to be; secondly, how many people ought to be on them, and what sort of people. I have noticed the pleas from the benches opposite for greater representation of industry. But if I read the Bill correctly, if there is a river authority consisting of 31 members, 16 of them have got to be local authority representatives, and I do not know that one would complain of that unless one were thinking in quite different terms.

Of the remaining 15, the Minister has got to appoint at least one to represent five different interests. Theoretically, I suppose, he could appoint one for A, one far B, one for C, one for D, and 11 for E. He could shift the emphasis, and I presume he will shift it, according to where it ought to be shifted for one area of the country or another. I cannot see, therefore, that there is any great need for anxiety that any one interest would be under-represented.

What I am concerned with is that, however the interests are represented, when they are there, they will act as a coherent team. Here, I welcome, as I think we all did, the speech of the hon. Member for the City of Chester (Mr. Temple), particularly on this point. The Minister must certainly look at the question whether the chairmen of these authorities ought to be paid. It is absolutely essential that there should be someone in the river authority who is capable of giving it a lead and trying to get its members in the habit of working as a team, concerned with the proper use of water for everybody, and not regarding themselves as mere delegates from the local authority, or from industry, or from any other interest. If they do behave like that, inevitably the Water Resources Board will have to chivvy them and the Minister will have to bully them, and their independence will disappear. The price of their independence is that they should be prepared to act as a team, not merely as a collection of delegates.

The river authorities will be charged with the power of giving or withholding licences. If a licence is refused, there will be a right of appeal to the Minister. The Minister must have been delighted with that. He referred more than once in his speech to the fact that we are becoming a more leisured nation. I do not think that he, or, perhaps, even I, can be deemed to be part of the nation for this purpose. If he expects to be more leisured as a result of there being a right of appeal against a refusal of licences under the Bill, he is much mistaken.

I am making a serious point. As we know, the problem of appeals under our ordinary town and country planning legislation is already a serious one for the Minister. Here is another great burden of appeals. But I see that the Bill contains a very interesting device. Under Clause 111, the Minister may appoint a tribunal to do his work for him. I think that this will be inevitable. The volume of work added to what he already has on his plate will be such that someone will have to do it for him. It is just as well that this should be plainly recognised in the Bill and that the public should know who the person is rather than that the Minister should have to pretend that he is making a series of decisions on his personal judgment which, in fact, he could not conceivably have time to make.

It is not clear whether the Minister has any picture in his mind of which of all the various appeals which might come to him under the Bill would go to the tribunal and which would come to him for his personal decision. This is a question which, perhaps, can be considered further at a later stage. It is an important, interesting and, I think, necessary constitutional development. It may, perhaps, lead us to look again at town and country planning appeals and consider whether something similar may be necessary, appropriate and just there.

Further, on the subject of the river authorities, I take up a point made by the right hon. and learned Member for Chertsey. The right hon. and learned Gentleman made what seemed to me to be a quite devastating speech which, from one point of view, shot a cannonball straight through the Bill and left it to sink without trace. I have been trying to think the matter out as a layman, not a lawyer, hydrologist, or anything like that. This is how it appears to me.

There are various things for which one can use a river. One can use it to bathe in, to fish in, to sail on, or to row on. For those and certain other purposes, one wants the water in the river. One can use a river as a source of water for industry, for agriculture or even for the purpose of turning on a tap and having a bath, a use to which hardly any reference has been made during the debate, so busy have we been with spray irrigation and all the rest. For all these latter uses one needs to take water out of the river.

As far as I can gather, the common law approach to the matter is this. If A takes water out of a river in a way which injures the rights of B, who wants the water to be kept in it, 13 has a legal remedy against A. But, of course, this operates only for each particular case by itself. The question whether A behaved in a way which improperly infringed the rights of B is one which must be decided in each case if it is brought before the courts by the aggrieved party.

I think that this may have been a way of dealing with the matter at a time when the common law first began to be established. Can one really do things in that way when we have reached the stage of having to calculate in millions of gallons the needs of the steel industry, the chemical industry, spray irrigation and all the rest? Frankly, I do not think that we can. The right hon. and learned Gentleman gave the parallel of the common law right of a man not to be disturbed in his sleep, and he complained, in effect, that that had been infringed by the powers given to the Minister of Aviation to allow night flying. I sympathise. Some of my constituents suffer from that. But suppose that we simply left it as a matter of common law and as a result aircraft companies never knew whether they would be allowed to run a night flight without being let in for heavy damages. Could we run things like that today? I do not believe that we could for aircraft, and I do not think that we can for water. We must have some machinery for trying to assess and weigh up the comparative rights of the various people who want to use the river.

Mr. Temple

I supported my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Chertsey (Sir L. Heald) on this matter, and I have had consultations with him. I think that he made if perfectly clear in his speech that he suggested the retention of the common law rights only in the interim period until the administrative mechanism proposed in the Bill became effective. Perhaps the hon. Member will take that into consideration.

Mr. Stewart

I was coming to that point, but that is not my recollection of the speech of the right hon. and learned Member for Chertsey. I agree that he laid emphasis on the interim period, but I think that he disliked the structure proposed in the Bill.

It was the hon. Member for the City of Chester himself who put the chief emphasis on the interim period, and I would entirely agree with him. We must recognise, however, that when a country becomes more industrialised and more complicated and there are more competing interests, statutory measures have to take the place of what was previously done by common law. I think that that is inescapable. It makes it all the more important to draw statutes wisely and to administer them competently, but I do not believe that there is any escape from that general principle.

I should like to say something, but not very much, about charges. We have all had representations made to us by the National Farmers' Union. Like all hon. Members, I have been deluged with representations of all kinds ever since the Bill first appeared, but, since practically all the points drawn from those representations which I intended to make have been made in the debate, I have been forced back on to the desperate expedient of making up my own speech on what thought about the Bill. I therefore need not develop the points which have been made about charges. There is a great deal of detail to be considered in that connection, and no doubt it will be considered in Committee.

There was, however, one point in the memoranda which the National Farmers' Union sent to us which I do not think that anyone has mentioned and it rather took my fancy. The N.F.U. said that provision should be made for the granting of licences to groups of people so as to encourage the creation by those groups of reservoirs which possibly no one of them would have the resources to erect by himself. It seemed to me that that was a very sensible suggestion.

Finally, I wish to say a few words about the statutory undertaker. I have said that the ordinary person who wanted to turn on the tap and have a bath has, perhaps, received less consideration in this debate than any other user of water. The Bill had its Second Reading in another place shortly after the Manchester Bill and Ullswater episode. The noble Lord, Lord Hastings, in moving the Second Reading of this Bill, said that, although he could not promise that there would not be controversial episodes like that in future, at any rate under this Bill, if a great city wanted to do something like that and objection was taken to it, the Water Resources Board would be able to consider the scheme and, perhaps, to recommend alternatives. Frankly, I do not understand where that comes in the Bill and it is not clear to me what the position of the statutory undertaker is under the Bill. I hope that the Parliamentary Secretary will make it clear.

May I put the question as simply as I can. Suppose that at some time in future a great city wants to do something like what Manchester wanted to do concerning Ullswater. I can understand the matter up to this point. Presumably, the city authorities would have to apply for a licence to the appropriate river board, but they can do that only if they either own or have right of access to the land in question. Would they, first, have to promote a Private Bill to get access to land and then apply for the licence? Are they to be put to all the trouble and expense of a Private Bill and then, perhaps, be refused a licence at the end of it, or will it work like this: can the river authority say to Manchester, or whoever else it is, "But we ourselves are erecting the necessary works"?

Will that be how it normally goes, so that instead of the statutory undertakers, if they want to effect works of that kind, doing it themselves, the river authority will become the board that does it for them? If it is the latter, it seems to me to be much simpler and it would probably get rid of the Private Bill procedure, which would be an advantage.

Private Bill procedure is all very well for something new and exceptional, but something that will become as common as the provision for the inhabitants of great cities of water supplies drawn from long distances ought to be done under a procedure that is part and parcel of the ordinary law of the land. If, under the Bill, it is possible for the river authority to do that job instead of putting the statutory water undertaker to the trouble of a Private Bill, and then of applying for a licence, which he might not get even if he has his Bill, if it can be done by the river authority that would be a great advantage.

We approach the end of the Second Reading debate. Some of us stand on the bank while others—the Minister, my hon. Friend the Member for Anglesey and others, some willing and some unwilling passengers—are thrust into the barge "Standing Committee". The rest of us will stand on the bank and wish them bon voyage. I do not know how long a voyage it will be. The Minister has got rather into the habit of producing Bills 150 pages long. Whether this will take him a longer or a shorter time to get through than the last one that he or I debated, I cannot say.

As I have warned the Minister, he will have the same problem of the balancing of regional, national, local and, sometimes, purely sectional and personal interests. When, on the London Government Bill, he was dealing with mainly Labour-controlled authorities, he was ruthless in his determination to prefer what he regarded as the national interest to any local loyalty. I trust that the same Catonian severity will prevail in the Committee stage of the Bill and that we have at the end a Bill which, though paying proper regard to certain local interests, nevertheless recognises the problem of seeing our water resources as a national whole and of getting them properly distributed both to the different parts of the country and for all the multifarious uses.

I hope that that is the spirit in which the Bill sets out on its voyage through Committee.

9.18 p.m.

The Joint Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Housing and Local Government (Mr. F. V. Corfield)

Every speaker who has participated in the debate has welcomed the general principles of the Bill and its approach to the problem. The criticisms have been directed rather at the details. It follows, therefore, that many of them are more properly matters for Committee. That would be so in any event, if only for the fact that although the hon. Member for Fulham (Mr. M. Stewart) has been generous in the time which he has allowed to me, it would not permit me to answer the large number of points that have been raised by one hon. Member or another during the debate.

Every speaker has posed a series of different points, albeit many of them under the same general heading. Perhaps, therefore, before I revert to the speech of the hon. Member for Anglesey (Mr. C. Hughes), who opened the debate for the Opposition, I might refer, before I forget them, to one or two of the points made by the hon. Member for Fulham in his closing address.

The hon. Member for Fulham raised a point with regard to a memorandum advocating that farmers should be able to get themselves into groups for the purpose of constructing conservation works. There is nothing in the Bill that prevents this from happening. Clearly, the group, whether it be a syndicate, a trust or whatever it forms itself into, must be in a position to apply for a licence. If it is a question of surface water, clearly the group must have access to the surface water at the point of the proposed abstraction. There is nothing in the Bill, as I understand it, which prevents this happening.

The second matter to which I should like to refer at this stage was one which the hon. Gentleman raised and which my hon. Friend the Member for the City of Chester (Mr. Temple) also raised—the question of the ability to pay the chairman of the river authority. I would refer my hon. Friend and the hon. Gentleman to the Third Schedule, paragraph 25, which contains that power. The hon. Gentleman may feel that it should go further, but I am sure that if he does he would agree that is more a question for Committee.

He also raised a problem in which I know that my hon. Friend the Member for Westmorland (Mr. Vane) is interested, as to what would happen under the Bill where a great city undertaking, such as Manchester or Birmingham, now requires under a new procedure to obtain fairly large quantities of water. In the first place, such an undertaking would go to its own river authority, and clearly the initial approaches would be of a relatively informal nature to discuss requirements, plans, and so on. If water is available in the area of, so to speak, the home river authority then, of course, a licence would follow. But if, as will probably be the case with the major projects, no water is to spare, then the river authority has a duty to approach other river authorities with a view to finding from where water can be conveniently transferred. It will be the function of the Water Resources Board, which is charged with the duty of framing the national picture of supply, to be in a position to indicate which river authorities are likely to have an exportable surplus and then the transfer of the water from one river authority to another will be arranged between the two authorities, the exporting authority receiving some payment and the importing authority providing the payment. Or, of course, if it is purely for a public supply scheme it may be that the statutory undertaking itself will prefer to carry out the capital work, as indeed these undertakings do in most cases at present.

Of course, the would-be abstractor under the Bill will have to seek a licence: in doing so his application is advertised so that representations may be made, and these will be noted and taken account of by the licensing authority in reaching its decision. From the amenity point of view, there is a special provision by which, in the national park areas, the planning authorities for the parks will have to have notice of the licensing application.

As normal abstractions on any scale will involve the carrying out of substantial works and that in turn will need planning permission and probably loan sanction as well. In most cases, again, there will have to be powers—compulsory powers in many cases—to acquire the necessary land, and that too will be the subject of an order under Clause 63 or Clause 65 which will be submitted for confirmation by my right hon. Friend. Such orders will also be subject to the customary procedure of objection and public inquiry. The House will recall that in Clause 38 my right hon. Friend has power to call in particular applications, and an application giving rise to a great deal of public interest—for instance, something on the lines of the Ullswater proposal—undoubtedly would come into the category of those he would consider calling in for his own decision, in any case.

The Private Bill procedure remains, but as a parallel procedure, so to speak, simply because it is not thought right that we should limit in this Bill the access of the citizen, whether he be corporate or incorporate, to Parliament. But I would imagine that an undertaker who came forward with a private Bill, having not consulted his river authority, or having been advised that water was available elsewhere but having stuck to his own views without good reason, would not receive a very warm welcome in this House.

The hon. Member for Anglesey opened his speech by expressing the anxiety of industrialists about some of the provisions of the Bill and this was echoed and elaborated on by my hon. Friends the Members for Louth, City of Chester and Sheffield, Hallam (Mr. J. Osborn) and by the hon. Member for Leek (Mr. Harold Davies). It was suggested that industry felt itself threatened by some of the provisions, but I suggest that there must be very few industries indeed that have a common law riparian right to extract water. As I understand the common law of riparian rights, they are confined, from the point of view of consumption, to domestic purposes and the watering of stock and agricultural land. So I would think that common law rights of most industries would be hard to find.

Of course, many of the older established industries—for instance, some of the mills in Lancashire—will have ancient prescriptive rights. I suggest that these are becoming more and more a minority of industries. I think that the great majority of industrial abstractors have no better right than the hope that nobody will interfere with them. They have to exercise abstraction for a minimum of 20 years—in many cases it is up to 40 years—before they can hope to get prescriptive rights and even then there are cases where the rights can be challenged after that time.

Thus, for industry, the licensing system must represent a real advantage and asset because it will mean that those who are abstracting at the moment will have a licence by right and having got that licence they will have what the Bill describes as a "protected" interest—something which most of them do not have under the present system.

Then again, those who require a licence for future abstractions will be entitled to apply for a licence, and once they have achieved it will have a degree of protection and of guarantee of their future sources of supply which is certainly something very much stronger than they can expect at the moment.

Hon. Members on both sides expressed on behalf of industry also some anxiety as to the quantity of water which would be covered by licences of right in particular. I think the House will agree that in deciding these licensing questions the river authority must have some degree of discretion. In the Bill the authorities are enjoined to take account of a number of considerations when deciding an application for a licence, and it is for the authority to determine the quantity which it considers then appropriate. I appreciate that this form of wording has given rise to some anxiety, and I can assure the House that we are certainly willing to look at it again and to find a wording which is somewhat more acceptable.

However, as I have said, I think the House will agree that the river authority must have a degree of discretion in this matter, bearing in mind that it is enjoined to fix the quantity on the basis of evidence supplied as to the use and the amount of abstraction over the past five years. Obviously, the evidence will vary. There will be occasions on which the abstraction will have been intermittent or seasonal, but all those factors will be taken into account, always bearing in mind the effect on the flow in the river which is the authority's prime responsibility. It should also be borne in mind that the appeal procedure is open, with its public inquiry at which the industry concerned will be able to deploy all the facts, many of them peculiar to that applicant.

Fear has been expressed about the choice of the representative of industry on these authorities, and it has been said that the needs of industry are not fully understood. This fear was expressed in the plea by my hon. Friend the Member for Louth that the Board of Trade should come into this selecting procedure. One of the difficulties is to get any pattern, even within a single industry, of the use of water. My Department has recently conducted an investigation into the water requirements of the paper industry, which was specifically mentioned, and the brewing industry, both fairly large consumers of water and probably in the first half-dozen of industries in terms of water consumption. It was found—and this was about the only thing that was discovered—that there was an enormous, and in many ways inexplicable, variety in the manner in which individual firms within those industries used, conserved, and indeed wasted, water. This is the great difficulty. It would be almost impossible to find a single man, or even a relatively small body of men, who could speak authoritatively of the water requirements of any particular firm at any particular time or place.

It is inevitable that to some extent we shall have to rely on the firm and the figures it produces for this information, even if it has to do so at an inquiry which, I appreciate, industry regards as producing unnecessary delay. But if the licensing system is to mean anything, it is surely of the utmost importance that the licences should be granted for a quantity of water which can be sustained. I suggest that this is of great advantage to industry rather than the reverse.

There was mention of the problem of selecting a member as a representative of industry on the river authority. My hon. Friend the Member for Louth felt that the size of the representation for industry in proportion to the money provided by it was almost derisory. However, as the hon. Member for Fulham pointed out, there is a degree of flexibility in the balance of the members over and above those representing local authorities. I must point out to my hon. Friend that the local authority representatives are there because they represent people who are finding the money in relation to the transferred functions, whereas industry is represented as the main consumer. Although we want the proper interests of industries looked after, I doubt whether many of my hon. Friends' industrial acquaintances have many representatives of consumers on their boards for that purpose. I believe that this is a relevant matter to be borne in mind when we are deciding on the representative character of these river authorities.

I know that it is a source of some criticism by industry that the Bill contains no formal statutory injunction to my right hon. Friend to consult specific bodies representing industry as to the choice of this member, but we have felt, and this is borne out by experience in a large number of other appointments for which my right hon. Friend, or the Minister of the day, is responsible, that the fact that formal consultation takes place with formal definite bodies, whether they be the F.B.I., the chamber of trade, the chamber of commerce or anything else, and the fact that particular names at some stage or other have to be bandied about amongst a relatively large number of people, inhibits, and to some extent limits, the final selection. There tends to creep in the idea that it is Buggins' turn, and nobody has the heart to tell Buggins that he is not quite the chap for the job. I therefore suggest that it would be starting a false hare to write in consultation, though of course informal consultations will take place, as I think I am right in saying they nearly always do.

Some anxiety was displayed with regard to the question of charges. My hon. Friend the Member for Tiverton (Mr. Maxwell-Hyslop) hoped that the Bill would not in any way add to the cost of water where it was used merely for cooling or some other purpose and returned to the river without diminution in quantity. I do not think that this will be entirely possible. Quite clearly charging will be based to a large extent on the amount actually abstracted and consumed. Abstractors who use water purely for cooling and who return it will expect to pay a low figure, and similarly those who do their own conservancy works will also expect to pay a very much lower figure than those who rely entirely on capital works provided by the river authority. Nevertheless, industry's needs for water are expanding very rapidly indeed, and part of that expansion is due to the fact that almost daily more industries are coming into the field as potential water consumers.

If we adhere to my hon. Friend's suggestion we shall have very favourable terms for those who are now established, with the newcomers paying the marginal rate for the moment. I think that my hon. Friend's suggestion is a little like suggesting that all those who have telephones at the moment should have their rents frozen and pay nothing towards the capital cost of the extension of the telephone system, so that those who come afterwards pay about double, and I am not sure that this is a valid theory to apply either to telephones or to water.

The basis of the charges scheme is that, in general, the conservancy functions should be self-supporting, but I think it might help if I try to put the likely expenditure under the water conservancy head into some sort of perspective. It is fair, in discussing this, to divide the expenditure of water authorities into two broad headings. First, a broad day-to-day management heading comprising the hydrometric work, administration of the licensing system, establishment costs, relatively small improvements to existing sources of supply, installation of gauges, observation and test bore holes, and the building up of the reserve and replacement fund for which the Bill provides.

These are matters in respect of which it is extremely difficult to be in any way precise, looking to the future as we are at the moment, but according to the best estimates that we can make—and we have certain data upon which to base them—taking into account the wide differences which exist in conditions and circumstances in different river board areas, such expenditure may rise, when conservation has developed to a reasonably substantial extent, to between £65,000 and £150,000 per annum for certain river authorities.

Turning to large projects, it must be borne in mind that although the capital cost of a single project may be of a formidable order, the cost per thousand gallons of water is often extremely small. This is particularly so where an impounding scheme can be designed to make the maximum use of a catchment area. This, again, can be a great advantage to abstractors, because it follows that a proposed industrial abstractor, or even a statutory water undertaking, requiring, say, an extra 50 million gallons a day, will find it cheaper to pay a share of the cost of a reservoir capable of producing 100 million gallons a day than to provide its own smaller installation. This should be a definite advantage to industrial and other abstractors.

If I may take some specific examples, the cost of the Liverpool Corporation scheme to abstract water from the River Dee above Chester will be about £3 million—£2½ million for the main works and £500,000 for the ancillary works, such as the diversion of roads. But even at that figure the cost of the water will work out at only about 1½d. per 1,000 gallons. As the House knows, there is also the proposed reservoir at Clywedog, which is estimated to cost about £4½ million. This will enable an additional 100 million gallons a day to be taken off at various points on the River Severn. Depending upon the point of abstraction, the cost is expected to range from ½d. to 1¼d. per 1,000 gallons.

These are not costs to the consumer; costs will depend upon the distance to the source of consumption, the terrain, the amount of pumping that has to be done, and so forth. Nevertheless, I suggest that this represents a modest cost from the wholesalers' point of view, before the water is delivered into the hands of the statutory undertakers, to wit, the retailers.

The hon. Member for Anglesey said that he thought that we would not achieve the utmost from a national conservancy policy unless we sought other amalgamations of statutory water undertakers. I suggest that to some extent this is a false analogy, because the functions of these two bodies are in many ways different. The analogy of wholesaler and retailer is probably a clearer one. Nevertheless, I can assure the hon. Member that my right hon. Friend does not rely entirely upon voluntary amalgamations. Naturally, that is the way in which he prefers to proceed, but he has used, and does use, the compulsory order procedure. He may have to do so more frequently in future. We expect further substantial amalgamations in the next year or two.

Mr. Temple

Would my hon. Friend care to comment on which account he thinks that the cost of flood regulations would fall?

Mr. Corfield

As I understand it, the anti-flooding provision responsibilities are part and parcel of the present land drainage legislation and therefore they will continue to be financed, as at the moment, with a degree of Government assistance and a degree of assistance by way of precept.

I think that the hon. Member for Fulham has already answered the question of his hon. Friend the Member for Anglesey (Mr. C. Hughes) about the powers under Clause 10 to produce in the future further alterations to the areas of the proposed river authorities. As the hon. Member for Fulham said, these orders are subject to the affirmative procedure and they are, prior to that, subject to advertisement, to consultation and a statutory consideration of objections received.

The matter of the boundaries makes it convenient here to refer to the arguments of the hon. and gallant Member for Kingston upon Hull, East (Commander Pursey) and to those of my hon. Friends the Members for Westmorland and Chichester (Mr. Loveys), who spoke in support of the status quo, or at any rate something approaching it, in their own areas. I felt some sympathy for the approach of the hon. Member for Fulham. I cannot say that I feel any passionate loyalty to the Severn River Board. However that may be, I should like to refer to the vigorous and, if I may say so, the attractive defence of the Lakes by my hon. Friend the Member for Westmorland, to which I listened with every sympathy.

However, when my hon. Friend said, so effectively, that this area was so small, so beautiful and so vulnerable, and added that its interests were being ignored, I felt that he was not really making his usual objective approach to the Bill. I can assure my hon. Friend I honestly believe that a larger unit would be an advantage to the amenities of this very lovely area.

Mr. Vane

Does my hon. Friend really mean to say that there would be any advantage to the country, and not just the district, that the centre of the Lake District should be controlled by a group of industrial towns lying some way from it and which have entirely different interests?

Mr. Corfield

I do not think that is a fair assessment of the position. I was going on to say that I think the advantage in size here results from the fact that, as my hon. Friend said, this is a great water exporting area. If we are to preserve the amenities—I assure my hon. Friend that I have almost as much regard as he has for those amenities—it is absolutely essential that when projects are put forward for the abstraction of water it should be possible for a body covering the whole area to consider alternatives. I sincerely believe that there is that advantage in size.

I must leave a number of arguments for these amalgamations to the Committee stage and confine myself merely to reminding the House of the sort of considerations which have been taken into account in deciding on the units in the Schedule. I think that my hon. Friend the Member for Chichester was exaggerating a little when he accused us of being fascinated by size for the sake of size, and having a certain sympathy for large-scale takeover bids. After all, there are only six amalgamations in the Schedule and I should have thought the weight of criticism against us has been from the other side, that there should have been more. However that may be, the main factors here have been to ensure that each area has, first, enough conservation work to justify the employment of a full-time staff. Secondly, that the areas which are hydrologically homogeneous are part of a single authority, since a single authority responsible for all the water resources of a large area is better able to secure its efficient use than two or more authorities. Although I am not familiar with what is hydrologically homogeneous, I understand that this is an argument in relation to size in Sussex, in particular, and that that is an area where water resources are dependent entirely on the homogeneous strata of chalk. Thirdly, without putting water charges too high, there should be sufficient income from abstractors for the authority to cover the likely level of conservation expenditure.

Where the problem arises—and I do not deny that there is a problem—is that the conservation factors in regard to size are not the same as the fisheries, drainage and pollution factors. Here with these other functions which are of a much more local character there may be cross arguments which make it desirable in certain areas to leave rather smaller river authorities than would be the case if we were designing this pattern entirely for the purpose of conservation.

The hon. Member for Anglesey raised the matter of the responsibility or interest of the Water Resources Board in pollution and the hon. Member for Leek particularly related that to the question of radioactive waste. The latter point I think I can dismiss fairly quickly by reminding the House that there is a separate and very recent Act, the Radioactive Substances Act, 1960, by which responsibility is placed fairly on my right hon. Friend, who is assisted by a very expert staff, a staff of experts who are even rarer than hydrologists. I am sure the House will appreciate that there is some purpose in the concentration of this particular responsibility on my right hon. Friend's Department.

In regard to pollution, of course the conservation oversight of the Water Resources Board includes questions of quality, but this is not quite the same as the more detailed work of the prevention of pollution which, I think the hon. Member will agree, is generally of a more local character. It varies greatly with the type of treatment plant and the type of effluent, which in the case of industrial waste may vary very considerably.

The hon. Member referred to his desire to have a Welsh water board. I felt that he was being a little inconsistent. Having started with a slightly more international outlook and pointing out that the wet areas were in the West and must expect to export to the dry areas, he came down in favour of a national boundary which bears little relation even to the boundaries of the existing river authorities. However that may be, he had more support for the suggestion that Scotland should be included. Clearly the Scots, like the Welsh, have a great deal of water to give, but there are very considerable difficulties in regard to the application of this Bill to Scotland.

This is something which is rather greater, I am afraid, than merely altering the wording of the Financial Resolution. In the first place, there is no existing organisation in Scotland, I understand, comparable to the river boards in England. There are two what are called purification boards in the Lothians, the Tweed and the Solway. There are also the Tweed Commissioners with fishery functions, but there is no set up on to which we could, so to speak, graft the machinery of this Bill. More important, I think it is clear that at the moment there are no real economies to be obtained by seeking water supplies in Scotland for any of the English cities. There is no problem, I understand, in respect of the northern cities of Newcastle-upon-Tyne and Tees-side. The real problem in that part of the country is Manchester.

Mr. Vane

Is my hon. Friend aware that the Newcastle and Gateshead Water Board owns land right up to the Scottish boundary to the north of Northumberland and gathers water already within one inch of the border? Surely this Board might consider going further. My hon. Friend spoke about how a consuming area's river authority would apply to neighbouring areas to ask where the water resources were. How can it ask anybody in Scotland about these resources?

Mr. Corfield

I was referring to the English and Welsh set-up in the Bill, and I was going on to say that the ability to obtain water from Scotland is not likely at the moment, according to my advice, to give any particular economic advantage. In other words, there are much cheaper sources to supply areas where there is a shortage. But I certainly do not pretend, looking into the future, that the situation may not arise when Scotland should come to the aid of England and Wales in this respect.

I want to refer quickly—and I apologise to my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Chertsey for being so long before doing so—to the question of common law rights which he raised and in which he was supported by my hon. Friend the Member for the City of Chester and, in passing, by my hon. Friends the Members for Louth and Chichester. I certainly do not shut the door to his argument, but I put the contrary argument which I believe is valid—namely, that if the licensing system is to mean anything at all it surely must follow that the licence, once granted, should give a degree of protection and guarantee as to quantity. I understand that the riparian owners' exemptions which are under Clause 24(2) and 24(3) are exemptions only for the purposes of the river authorities. In other words, an action could still lie by other riparian owners if it were suggested that these exempted users were exceeding their exemption.

I apologise for covering only a very small part of the debate. I believe that the Bill can be recommended to the House with complete confidence, and I welcome the reception which the House has given it. I believe that a plentiful supply of water and its cheapness, which we have enjoyed in the past, will be preserved as far as possible in the future under the provisions of the Bill.

Question put and agreed to.

Bill accordingly read a Second time.

Bill committed to a Standing Committee pursuant to Standing Order No. 38 (Committal of Bills).