HC Deb 18 July 1963 vol 681 cc743-67

4.10 p.m.

Mr. Cledwyn Hughes (Anglesey)

I beg to move, in page 2, line 14, to leave out "the".

The Chairman

With this Amendment I think that it would be convenient also to discuss the Amendments Nos. 141 to 153 and the Amendment to Clause 12, page 13, line 30.

Mr. Hughes

All these Amendments, in my name and the names of my hon. Friends, are designed to the same end. That end is the setting up of a water resources board for Wales along the lines of the Board now proposed in the Bill as it stands for England and Wales jointly. We debated this question at some length at our first sitting in Standing Committee on 2nd May. I do not propose, therefore, to speak at great length, because the arguments were fully deployed in Committee.

I thought that at that time my hon. Friends and I made a good case and that we had persuaded the Minister of the justice of our cause. He then spoke, as reported in column 34 of the Official Report of the Standing Committee, of: putting into the Bill something of a possible relationship between the Water Resources Board and the Welsh Water Advisory Committee."—[Official Report, Standing Committee F. 2nd May, 1963; c. 34.] We then withdrew our Amendments.

In the event, the Minister has done nothing, and, if the Bill goes through as it is we in Wales will be governed under the provisions of Clause 12 by a joint board for England and Wales, a board of eight members, one of whom will be a Welshman.

To summarise briefly the arguments in favour of these Amendments, the first, and I think strongest, argument is that Wales is a country with ample water resources. Water is one of our national assets and over the years it has been taken from Wales to meet the needs of great industrial centres of population. I do not believe that the great majority of Welsh people resent that in any way. We understand that we have a surplus of water and, all things being equal, we are not averse to water being taken over the Border to meet the requirements of others. But unfortunately, things have not been equal. Without regard for national planning, without adequate consultation, against the wishes of the overwhelming majority of hon. Members from Wales, and in fact of public opinion, through the machinery of Private Bills water has been taken in enormous quantities from Wales.

4.15 p.m.

To be quite fair, we must recognise that the powers now vested in the river authorities under the provisions of this Bill—for example, the introduction of the licensing system and the power to construct reservoirs—removes some of our grievances. The Bill contains safeguards for Wales, as for other parts of the country—for the Lake District, for example. Nevertheless, the feeling is strongly held in Wales that we should have a board, responsible, of course, to the Minister, to plan our own resources, a board which must be consulted about the best use of water resources of Wales.

If the Minister says that Wales cannot be considered as a unit—I think that this is one of the arguments he used when speaking on this matter in Committee—I should point out to him that in its Report the Welsh Water Advisory Committee did consider Wales as a unit. The Advisory Committee was requested by the Minister's predecessor to look at the water resources of Wales. It conducted an hydrological survey and published a report, which is known to the Minister and to hon. Members. It was a first-class report. It dealt with Wales as an hydrological unit, dividing Wales into a number of zones.

In its deailed survey, the Welsh Water Advisory Committee considered Wales as a country. The Minister will probably say that we are flying in the face of the facts of geography, that geography is against us because the Severn flows from Wales into England and the Wye flows from Wales into England. Of course that is so; this is a fact we cannot contest, but this kind of thing happens all over the world. It does not happen merely between Wales and England. The Danube flows through the Iron Curtain and a number of countries. If the Minister speaks of administrative difficulties which arise primarily because certain river authorities are in both England and Wales, one must accept at once that there is superficial merit in the argument.

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

River boards, not river authorities.

Mr. Hughes

I agree, there are river boards through whose areas the border between England and Wales runs. There is some merit in the argument, but if one probes deeply one finds that the argument in favour of setting up a Welsh board is strong because the areas of these authorities which overlap both countries have the strength of representation mostly on the English side of the Border. I am surprised that the Minister and his advisers, who have had since Easter to consider this matter and it was raised on Second Reading, have not been able to devise some machinery which could have overcome these administrative obstacles.

There was recently published a report by the Scottish Water Advisory Committee. In that report there was a recommendation that a water development council should be set up for Scotland. I have no doubt that that recommendation will be accepted by the Government. If there is a will there is a way in these administrative matters. We need a board in Wales with which the Water Resources Board could consult on planning and conservation and to which the river authorities of Wales could go for guidance.

That would go some way towards meeting us even if the Minister could not see his way to setting up the board for which they are asking, a board with the same powers as the joint board. If he could have set up an authority which would stand somewhere between the Welsh Advisory Committee and the Water Resources Board and be available for consultation, that would have gone a long way to meet our request.

We may be told by the Minister that everything will work out in practice, but I would remind the Minister of the old maxim that not only must justice be done but justice must: manifestly appear to be done, and in this matter of the Welsh board we feel that the Minister has let us clown. After all, he is Minister for Welsh Affairs, and when his office was created we were told by the Prime Minister that one of his functions would be to listen to the pulse of Wales and to be informed of public opinion in Wales and to advise the Cabinet about what that public opinion is. Now public opinion in Wales has, for a very long time, been in favour of setting up a Welsh water board.

In Standing Committee we argued these things moderately and reasonably, but, unfortunately, the Minister has failed to meet our requests. I hope that, even at this late stage, for the Bill has to go yet again to another place, possibly there may be opportunity for second thoughts. I cannot believe that it is not possible for a body to be set up in Wales which will look at Wales as a whole, which can consult the Water Resources Board, and which will be in touch with the river authorities in Wales. This is what we need. This is what we are asking for.

I may say that the Opposition, in principle, agree with this proposal that there should be a board for Wales. If this is not done now this will certainly be done some time in the future. I am sorry that the opportunity is not being taken now, when the machinery being set up under the Bill is starting its work.

Mr. Tudor Watkins (Brecon and Radnor)

I also am very disappointed that the Minister has not put down an Amendment to meet this case, which was argued in Standing Committee very reasonably, when I thought that he would at least consider the question that there should be an advisory committee. But the Minister has not given us any Amendment at all about it.

Sir K. Joseph

Of course, the Bill does not alter the fact that the Welsh Advisory Water Committee does exist at the moment. It is not stopped by the Bill in any way.

Mr. S. O. Davies (Merthyr Tydvil)

But will not the recommendations or the requests of the Advisory Committee be completely overruled by the seven to one majority over Wales?

Sir K. Joseph

The hon. Member for Brecon and Radnor (Mr. Watkins) is talking of an advisory committee under the Water Resources Board.

Mr. Watkins

I am not talking of the committee which has made a hydro-logical survey. I was hoping the Minister would have an advisory committee to be given the same powers as the Water Resources Board. That is what we had in mind in Standing Committee. We reluctantly accepted, then, the advice given to us, and withdrew our Amendment. I am sorry that the Minister has not helped us since. In Standing Committee, the Bill had a favourable reception, and the Standing Committee was a happy Committee; but now the Minister has come out of it the worse in the sense that he is the Minister for Welsh Affairs and as such should be concerned with Welsh affairs, and in this case he has done nothing for them.

The right hon. Gentleman put forward the difficulty that the rivers Dee, Severn and Wye were rivers flowing through English counties, but that is not an insuperable difficulty and it could be overcome very well. Did he consider that there should be joint consultation between the Welsh board and the English Water Resources Board on matters affecting those river basins? There could be coordination in planning between them. Does the Minister think that there should not be joint consultation?

I am most anxious that there should be a water resources board for Wales, and I hope very much that hon. Members, Welsh Members, in particular, will support the proposition. The majority of the Welsh Members are in favour of it. This is the remarkable thing, that despite the fact that the majority of the 36 Members for Wales are in favour of having this Welsh water resources board, at the end of this discussion we shall be defeated by the English people in Parliament.

As the Member for Brecon and Radnor I am particularly concerned about the inroads made upon Welsh interests in the last few weeks. The Water Resources Board for England and Wales will not be able to deal with these questions. The first that my constituents knew about inroads to be made was when they read about them in the local Press. It is a ridiculous situation when not even the Member for Parliament for the area, or the chairman of the local planning committee, has a word said to them about them.

With all respect to the board for England and Wales I must say that it will not be the proper body to consider Welsh interests. We need a Welsh board. I am not an expert on the geography of the river basins, but we have here an expert, my hon. Friend the Member for Wrexham (Mr. Idwal Jones), who has written a book on the geography of Wales, and who is very willing to give the Minister advice in that direction.

I cannot understand why our proposal should be turned down altogether. We, the Labour Party in Wales, stand for a Welsh water board to meet the situation. We would have been very glad to welcome the advisory committee the Minister so quickly jumped up about, but I am not concerned with that. I am concerned that we should have people from Wales who intimately know these problems and who can deal with them and with the inroads which have been made or which will be made into Wales and the sort of row we have had in the Principality.

I should have thought all Welshmen would have been interested in this proposal, but there are no Liberal or Conservative Members here. Are they interested? Anyway, I hope that my colleagues here will make a very vigorous protest to this Minister about this proposal. In Standing Committee, we understood that he would do something about this, but nothing has been done.

4.30 p.m.

Lady Megan Lloyd George (Carmarthen)

I support very strongly this Amendment moved by my hon. Friend the Member for Anglesey (Mr. C. Hughes). I would remind the Minister, if he needs reminding—I am sure that he does not—that this is a matter upon which Welsh public opinion is extremely sensitive. In fact, the Minister is treading on very dangerous ground. We have had a very unfortunate and unhappy past in regard to this matter.

The Minister said in the Standing Committee that the real issue, subject to the national interest, was that the people who live in an area whence water might be taken should have a strong say in the disposal of that water. That is an admirable principle, upon which all hon. Members on this side of the Committee will agree, but how does the Minister carry that principle out in the Bill? He does not carry it out at all. What, in the provisions of the Bill, constitutes a strong say for Wales? It provides for Wales one member out of eight on the England and Wales Water Resources Board. Seven to one. Those are heavy odds even for a Welshman, and that is saying quite something.

I should like the Minister to consider the contingencies which may arise and which may have to be brought before the Water Resources Board. Suppose there was disagreement, which may well take place, between the English and the Welsh representatives on a very important matter. We have had unfortunate experiences and Tryweryn is the most important of all. That was an example of the autocratic overriding of Welsh interests and the views of all Welsh Members.

I can quite understand that the licensing provisions under the Bill assist in providing some sort of safeguard, and we welcome this safeguard. But if disagreement arises and is brought before the board, there will be a seven-to-one English majority. I do not know whether the Minister calls that a strong say, but, certainly, we do not. Imagine disagreement between one Welsh county and another. This also is possible. At this moment, there are discussions—I put it no higher than that—between Carmarthenshire and West Glamorgan about the provision of urgently-needed water resources. This scheme involves the flooding of valleys, farms and valuable agricultural land. I hope that these difficulties will be resolved between the local authorities concerned, but in the end the Minister will have to decide between these two administrations.

The Minister has spoken about administrative difficulties. I would have thought that his task would have been made very much easier if, when he has to face such difficulties as these he had advice straight from a Welsh water resources board which would know the circumstances and the conditions, which would have far greater opportunities of contacting Welsh local opinion, and which would know the terrain and be able to visit it, and so on—things which the seven English members would probably have no opportunity to do. I would have thought that if he got advice straight from the dragon's mouth, so to speak, it would have been a great advantage to the Minister in an administrative sense.

One of the points the Minister has advanced in this matter of the common rivers between England and Wales, particularly with regard to the Severn, the Dee and the Wye. It is a remarkable thing that just because these rivers flow to a certain extent between England and Wales there should be seven English Members and only one Welsh member. I fail to follow the argument of the right hon. Gentleman in that respect. After all, these are among the most important rivers which serve Wales, and are only a very minimal part of the rivers which serve England. I would have thought that that was not an argument which would stand up to scrutiny. The Minister intervened in the speech of my hon. Friend and said "What about the Welsh Water Advisory Committee?" He said that it was still there. What does he mean to do about it?

If the right hon. Gentleman is putting this to us as an alternative to the proposition of my hon. Friend the Member for Anglesey, we ought to know a great deal more about the powers that he proposes to give it. Does he propose to consult it? Does he propose to use that committee? Does he propose to give it a new status, haying regard to the provisions of the Bill? We on this side have a very great respect for that committee. It has done a remarkable job of work. But we cannot see why, if the Minister is offering this as a concession, he cannot make this a statutory body under the Bill. It seems to me that it is making nonsense of it to suggest that this is a concession which would be satisfactory to hon. Members on this side.

We realise that water is an enormously important natural resource in Wales. As my hon. Friend said, we do not wish in this matter to be selfish at all. We realise that we have resources over and above our own needs and demands, and we are ready to co-operate and provide resources for English cities and English needs. But we feel that the first priority—I think that this is a perfectly rational priority and a reasonable point of view—should be for Wales and the needs of Wales, and that we should have first call upon our own water resources. We believe that unless we have a Welsh water board statutorily constituted under the Bill we shall not secure that in future.

Mr. Goronwy Roberts (Caernarvon)

I should like to support my hon. Friends on two points which they made. First, that there is no reluctance in Wales to provide water for the rest of the United Kingdom. I am quite sure that the Welsh people would wish that there should be an equitable and orderly distribution of the undoubted surplus which at present, and for the foreseeable future, the Principality enjoys.

The second is the intense feeling in Wales about the way in which water is abstracted from the Principality to serve the needs of the cities of the plains. Water is one of our few natural resources, and we have an abundance of it. The hydrological survey, to which reference has already been made, states that at least 2,000 million gallons a day are surplus to all foreseeable requirements in Wales. We want to get rid of it, because it can be a nuisance unless it is collected and distributed for proper purposes.

Our point is that the collation, augmentation and distribution of Welsh water should be in such a way that it benefits both Wales and England. Up to now the procedure followed has not done that. What has happened? As my hon. Friend the Member for Brecon and Radnor (Mr. Watkins) so rightly said, the large cities in England have literally bulldozed their way into Welsh valleys, uprooting entire communities and submerging large acreages of valuable land, without proper consultation and, indeed, without proper compensation to the people concerned.

Tryweryn was a dreadful example of this sort of dictation which was practised on a community in the very cultural and geographical heart of Wales. Our memories of what happened in Tryweryn die very hard indeed. One would have thought that the Government would have learnt from the example of what happened and is happening in Tryweryn and would have written into the Bill a provision whereby they, the board and the Minister would be properly advised as to the position in Wales hydrologically and psychologically.

The Minister will get all the water he wants from Wales if he first wins the good will of the Welsh people, but if he does not get the good will of our people, he may not get all the water he wants. It is still problematical—I put it no higher than that—whether the Tryweryn scheme will come to full fruition or not. Some of us warned the Government at the time the Bill was going through the House against the wishes of the overwhelming majority of Welsh Members of Parliament that there might be serious difficulty about promulgating the Bill. Today we see that there is this difficulty.

Our position is that we cannot accept that the difficulty before the Minister is one of technicality and administration. During the debates in the Standing Committee the right hon. Gentleman said that one cannot divide a river if it flows from Wales to England. But the Government divide the rivers on the Scottish border. If an objection to the proposal for a separate Welsh board is that one cannot divide a river at the point between the two countries, why is it that when the Tweed, Glen, Liddel and Esk rise in Scotland and find their estuaries in England there is evidently no technical or administrative difficulty?

The difficulty is political. It is the Government's attitude to Wales. That is what lies at the root of this unwillingness to recognise the Principality as the country and nation that it is, and their desire to treat it, as often as they can get away with it, as a kind of milch cow to serve the interests of the larger conurbations of England.

If it is true that it is impossible technically lo stop the operation of the Water Resources Board proposed by the Bill at the Welsh border, why is it possible to stop its operation at the Scottish border, and, indeed, to introduce this afternoon on the Notice Paper a separate provision for consultation between the English Water Resources Board and the appropriate Scottish water authorities? If the Minister can introduce a Clause this afternoon to enable the Water Resources Board in cases of difficulty of overlapping between Scotland and England to consult on such matters with the appropriate Scottish water authorities, why cannot he do the same thing in regard to problems of overlap between Wales and England?

When we take over and sit on the Government side of the House, we shall do this for Wales. We have adopted the principle that Welsh water resources shall be organised by a Welsh authority so that not only are Welsh needs properly satisfied but the exportable surplus is made available to other parts of the United Kingdom, and made available with the approval and co-operation of the Welsh people.

4.45 p.m.

Sir K. Joseph

I apologise to hon. Members who may still wish to speak. I am merely intervening to put the Government's point of view on this important group of Amendments. Nothing would please a Minister for Welsh Affairs more than to be able to come to the Committee and make a concession which would please all hon. Members from Welsh constituencies. Therefore, my strong preference would have been to find some way, as I undertook to try to do in the Standing Committee, which would enable the desire of hon. Members who have already spoken to be achieved.

But I said that I would do this only if it could be done without making nonsense, and I am sure that Welsh self-respect is far too strong to wish the Government to devise, as it were, an ineffective mechanism simply to be able to claim that there is a special instrument for Welsh water devised parallel to or within the Water Resources Board that covers England and Wales. It is because I have not been able to find a really effective way of doing what hon. Members want that there is nothing on the Notice Paper.

The difference between the two points of view is based to some extent—to a large extent, I believe—on a misunderstanding. The Water Resources Board, which is at the heart of the whole Bill, a board which will review, survey and advise upon the new function of conservation over the whole of England and Wales, is a technical body. It is not a psychological body, as the hon. Member for Caernarvon (Mr. G. Roberts) suggested.

Mr. G. Roberts

I referred to it as being both a hydrological and psychological body.

Sir K. Joseph

I take the hon. Gentleman's point In a striking phrase, he said that he wanted a solution at once hydro-logical and psychological.

Mr. Roberts

That would prevent schemes of this sort resulting in the imprisonment of young Welsh men who feel deeply about the manner in which Welsh water resources are abstracted for English use.

Sir K. Joseph

No. It is because I fully weigh the significance of the word "psychological" that I will explain why the Amendments on the Notice Paper in the name of the hon. Member for Anglesey (Mr. C. Hughes) and his hon. Friends would not meet the case of a solution which would be at once hydrological and psychological. I hope that the hon. Gentleman will allow me to develop the argument.

The Water Resources Board is very largely to give technical advice. It is scarcely an executive body at all. It has power to give directions about gauging schemes and certain research; but all the rest of its power flows from its right to give advice to the Minister, whereupon the Minister may, if river authorities prove unco-operative, use his directing power. The Water Resources Board is, therefore, a technical body, and I hope that hon. Members will bear that strongly in mind.

As a technical body, the Water Resources Board will include at least one Welsh member. There may be other men or women who happen to command one of the special knowledges or the expertise which will be required on the Board who may well be Welsh. That may well happen; but there will any way be a minimum of one Welsh member. To the extent that I am making the case that the Board is a technical board, that Welsh member is not in him self or herself the final safeguard for Welsh interests. Nobody is pretending that that is so. Here, then, is the Board that at the moment covers all the water resources of England and Wales. Hon. Members on all sides are agreed—

Mr. James Griffiths (Llanelly)

Why is this not so in respect of Scotland?

Sir K. Joseph

I am coming to that. I shall not burke any of the arguments.

Hon. Members all recognise that the people of England and Wales share the river basins of the Dee, the Wye and the Severn. That is an intractable geo graphical and physical fact. Therefore, if the Board's job is to give technical advice, it must be able to give technical advice over the whole sweep of England and Wales, because England and Wales share some of the water resources of the combined area.

The right hon. Member for Llanelly (Mr. J. Griffiths) very properly asks me why this is not true of Scotland. The fact is that the water links between England and Scotland are only small stretches of relatively small rivers, except for the Tweed, which is totally excluded by the Bill from the area of any river authority. In other words, there is, in fact, very nearly a severance in water terms—very nearly, not precisely—between England and Scotland, whereas between England and Wales there is a large common area served by the same rivers and the same river basins.

Either the hon. Member for Brecon and Radnor (Mr. Watkins) or the hon. Member for Anglesey leant heavily in his speech on the hydrological report of the Welsh Advisory Water Committee. But, in fact, to make hydrological sense of Wales, the Committee had to divide Wales arbitrarily into five units, which covered less or more than Wales, in order to find coherent water areas. It is not true that Wales is a hydrological unit on its own. This leaves us, there- fore, with the problem to which I paid, as hon. Members would wish me to, the very greatest heed.

It is the psychological, the political problem. Here, it is important to reflect again that the Water Resources Board will be a technical and not, broadly, an executive body. The executive decisions will not be taken by the Board, be it for England and Wales together or for England alone or Wales alone. Those decisions will be taken by the river authorities in the first place and, in reserve, by the Minister.

It is the decisions which are so important psychologically. Psychology and politics do not enter into technical advice. That advice is what the Water Resources Board will have to mobilise, but the decisions taken on it will be highly psychological and political.

Mr. G. Roberts

But is it not the case that the Water Resources Board will have the right to direct and, indeed, compel the river authorities to get on with certain jobs?

Sir K. Joseph

No. The hon. Member is taking an unwarrantable short cut. A river authority which has been given advice will be required to report on what it intends to do and on the progress of its programme to the Water Resources Board, but the Board will have to invoke the Minister's power of direction for any order given to a river authority. I am grateful to the hon. Member for giving me the opportunity to make that plain.

So it is the river authorities—which, in Wales, will be completely local bodies, although I agree that there will be some with joint representation from both sides of the border—and the Minister who will have to take decisions on the technical advice of the Water Resources Board. Of course, it is true that the decisions will deeply affect the citizens of each area concerned. Of course, it is also true that hon. Members are seriously concerned about the impact of particular works on the cultural way of life, the society and the traditions of any particular area.

But their views on this should not be expressed to the Water Resources Board, be it Welsh, or English and Welsh, because it will be a technical body. Those views must be expressed to the river authorities or to the Minister and it is for them to take these views into account. A river authority will receive or take advice from the Board. It will make up its mind whether or not it wishes to follow that advice. Suppose that it decides to ignore that advice for a particular water development. It would be a very strange Minister who would overrule the river authority by using his directing power without seriously taking into account local feelings which he might be outraging.

Mr. J. Griffiths

I follow the right hon. Gentleman's argument. On the whole, this is a good Bill. But psychology enters into this aspect. He has spoken of a Minister rejecting advice. Is he not aware that a good deal of the anxiety in Wales is because the present Home Secretary, when he was Minister of Housing and Local Government, did go against the voice of the majority of hon. Members representing Wales on the Tryweryn issue?

Sir K. Joseph

Be that as it may, the point I am seeking to make is that approval will be needed before the Minister's directing power can be used to overrule a river authority, whether there is a Welsh board or not, because, under the way of Government we have, it is the Minister in this House who makes the decisions, be he advised by an English and Welsh board or by a Welsh board only.

I am making a logical argument. I have said that if a river authority refuses to take technically sound advice because of local reactions, it would be a strange Minister who would use his directing power and ignore local feelings. That would be true whether there were a Welsh board or not. The technical advice would have been given. Surely we can all accept that a Welsh board set up to give technical advice would give it.

It is not the duty of a board under the Bill to give psychological or political advice. [Interruption.] I hope that hon. Members will allow me to finish my argument. But if a river authority decides to accept technical advice and to make a development or to project a development that will offend local feelings, then it cannot go ahead on its own without ministerial approval. It will need that approval for necessary compulsory pur- chase orders or for loan sanctions, or whatever it may be. Anything on a substantial scale will have to have ministerial approval.

Once again, before a decision is finally taken, local opinion will have its proper part to play and will be taken into account. Hon. Members must recognise that, whether there is a Welsh board or an English and Welsh board, it is ultimately the Minister—the Government—who will have to take the decision. The Water Resources Board will give technical advice, and technical advice only.

There is still the question of what part will be played by the Welsh Advisory Water Committee. In the White Paper, the Government undertook that as soon as the Water Resources Board was set up discussion would take place to consider relations between the two bodies. That undertaking will be fulfilled. But I must, sadly, tell the Committee that, having looked at the technical duties of the Board it does not seem to me to make sense, bearing in mind that the three large river basins are common to both England and Wales, to set up a parallel body which would have, by some complicated and laborious method of coordination, to cover ground common to both. Nor would it be sense to set up a sub-committee of the Board to be in charge of Welsh water technical advice which, on important matters, would have to go by two stages—to the sub-committee and then to the main committee of the Board. This would not be a sensible mechanism.

It seems that the only honest thing to do is to remind the House that the Board will be a technical board with technical functions and that the final decisions will be taken either by the river authorities—which will, as far as practical, be largely Welsh for Wales—or by the Minister whether there is a Welsh board or not.

I hope that I have explained why I have not put an amendment into the Bill on this matter. I cannot expect hon. Members to agree at once with what I have done, but I hope that they will recognise that there are serious technical arguments which they must overcome, and I hope that they will also recognise in particular that the Board will be a technical body and not a psychological or political organisation. All the psychological and political decisions, even if these Amendments were accepted, would still have to be taken by the river authorities and the Minister.

5.0 p.m.

Mr. S. O. Davies

My right hon. and hon. Friends have expressed the voice of Wales on this problem. I am sorry that the right hon. Gentleman has been almost cruel to the sentiments expressed in this debate for those sentiments are overwhelmingly those of the Welsh people. I rise only to emphasise that aspect of the problem.

The right hon. Gentleman referred to technical advice. We have heard the word "technical" without end this after-noon. He should realise that other problems and advice on other aspects will come to him. The problem is not wholly technical. He has been the Minister for Wales long enough to know the feeling which has been generated and the sense of unity and community and nationhood which still exists in Wales and which he must not ignore.

I am confident of one thing—I say this not in the form of a threat, but as a statement of fact—that we have had this experience far too often in our country and the Minister will regret his obstinate attitude towards these Amendments. The case for them has been overwhelming. He will wake up to the fact that this is not merely a geographical or technical or even hydrological problem. It is also a human problem and we resent the callous indifference adopted by our so-called Minister for Wales and the Government of which he is just the pathetic instrument he has shown himself to be this afternoon. I am disgusted by his attitude.

Mr. J. Idwal Jones (Wrexham)

I listened to the Minister with great interest, but I was not convinced. I emphasise that we support a Welsh water board not for the use of water exclusively for Wales, but for the economic and geographical development of water supplies for England as well.

I think that the right hon. Gentleman's argument was based on the fact that three of the longest rivers which rise in Wales, the Dee, the Severn and the Wye, enter English territory, and that consequently a Welsh water board is a difficult technical proposition. So the question is often asked whether these rivers are Welsh rivers. I do not wish to emphasise this point unduly, but in geography we usually give names to geographical features according to their points of origin. For example, when winds come from the south-west, they are called south-westerlies and because the trade winds come from the north-east, they are called the North-East Trades. I would be on logical ground if I said that because the rivers Dee, Severn and Wye come from Wales, they are Welsh rivers.

Mr. Geoffrey Wilson (Truro)

Is the hon. Member saying that the Rhine is Swiss?

Mr. Jones

I said that I would not press the argument very far, but no one could deny that these rivers, whether they flow into English territory or not, are integral features of the geography of Wales. There is an Irish song which has the refrain: Where the mountains of Mourne sweep down to the sea". I would say that geographically the boundary between England and Wales broadly follows the lines where the mountains of Wales sweep down into the plains of England, the plains of Cheshire, Shropshire and Herefordshire. When the Welsh rivers, the Dee and the Severn and the Wye, enter the English plains, they are then deep, meandering rivers. These are not the areas where reservoirs are likely to be built. When Liverpool and Birmingham want water, they do not go to the English plains for water supplies. They go to the upper reaches of the so-called English rivers in the Welsh hills. The Tryweryn,Vyrnwy and Elan Valley schemes are typical examples.

Impounding water can and should perform two functions. It should guarantee a supply of water to centres of population by means of reservoirs and piped supplies; but, of equal importance, the reservoirs can control the flow of water in the rivers. That in its turn can do two things, and the Tryweryn scheme is an example. It can guarantee a supply of water in the rivers to supply cities, and it can obviate flooding of valleys and English pastures in the lowlands of Cheshire, Shropshire and Hereford.

The point that I am trying to make is that all these schemes to control the flow of water in the rivers and to form reservoirs and so on will be undertaken on the Welsh side of the border. Consequently, it is fair to say that that is a strong argument for a Welsh water board as being the only board competent to undertake this task.

The Minister has argued that rivers flow and are in this respect unlike trees, which grow. It is true that a Welsh water board could not stop the flow of rivers. They would still flow, but they would flow to better advantage. The Minister said that there were technical difficulties, but I am not convinced that such difficulties stand in the way of this project which is so dear to the heart of Welsh Members. We find so many people hiding behind so-called technical difficulties. If a petrol pipeline can be laid from Ellesmere Port under the English Channel to France in wartime, I see no reason for accepting the technical difficulties in this case.

We are not asking the House to hand over this authority to a foreign Power. This is not a case of Switzerland handing something over to Germany. This is a case of a part of Britain, a Principality in Britain, undertaking the task of organizing the water supplies not only for Wales, but for Wales and England generally. The present task is to generate and create goodwill on this matter, and the best way to do so is to accept the Amendments in all good faith.

Mr. James Griffiths (Llanelly)

I am very sorry that the Minister is not prepared to accept the Amendments, and I am even more sorry that he has found it impossible—although I do not understand why—to do what in Standing Committee he suggested he might do about this matter. He said that he was sorry that my hon. Friend the Member for Anglesey (Mr. C. Hughes) had rejected his proposal that we might consider putting into the Bill something of a possible relationship between the Water Resources Board and the Welsh Advisory Water Committee."—[OFFICIAL Report. Standing Committee F, 2nd May, 1963; c. 34.] There may be technical difficulties, but I ask him now to consider the matter again. He said that Scotland was outside because less water came to England from Scotland than from Wales. This is not a matter of principle; it is a matter of gallons.

If we are to take this on a national basis, why not take in Scotland as well as Wales? The answer is that Scotland is left out because this is a political issue. The message which the right hon. Gentleman is giving to Wales is that if the Welsh people want a separate Welsh Board they must emulate Scotland. They must have their own Lord Advocate and have their own legal system. The right hon. Gentleman does not sit for a Welsh constituency, but his colleagues will have to consider carefully the implications of what the Minister is doing under this Bill.

We in Wales are blessed with ample water supplies, and we do not take a selfish view about them. We do not regard our water as being for our use only. We do not take the view that nobody else should benefit from our supplies but we are concerned to ensure that our legitimate interests are considered.

Leaving cut the technical aspects of the situation, and looking to the future, I say to my friends in West Glamorgan who are coming to my native county for water that they can have all the water they want without damaging any village or community or running counter to any local sentiments, but it will cost a little more to get it. There is an alternative scheme in Carmarthenshire, but it costs more in terms of money. The scheme referred to the Minister will cost more in terms of human sentiment in West Wales, in Carmarthenshire, in Pembroke shire, in Cardiganshire and in Mid-Wales.

The right hon. Gentleman came to the Eisteddfod lust year, and I hope that he will come this year. He knows the areas which are to be impounded. This is not a question of acres. It is a question of deeply rooted communities, and it is important that the Committee should realise that these communities are the last bulwark of our language and culture.

Sir K. Joseph

The right hon. Gentleman speaks with great authority. Surely he is making my case for me? He is saying that there are alternative methods of getting water. A Water Resources Board, be it English and Welsh, or Welsh only, would set out alternative methods. It would not decide which to use. That decision would be taken by the relevant river authority and, if necessary, by the Minister. It would not be taken by the Water Resources Board.

Mr. Griffiths

I accept that and I do not want to exaggerate the point. My party has proposals which go far beyond those contained in the Bill. Our proposals deal not only with the technical aspects of the problem, but with the whole question of the supply of water. We do not object to giving water to Birmingham and Liverpool. They will come to us because they have money, but the water they take will run through villages which are getting their supplies by the method that was used way back in 1840 and we consider this to be a stupid way of handling our water supplies.

I agree that the purpose of the Bill is to make sure that the resources of England and Wales are used sensibly, but we must distribute the water sensibly too. It is not sensible that water should flow perhaps even from England to Wales, through villages so that the towns get it while the villages do not.

I hope that my hon. Friends will press this matter to a Division. Technically the Minister may have the best of the argument, but as Minister for Welsh Affairs he must know that it would be better for him to overcome all these technical difficulties, and they certainly can be overcome. It would be better, for once, is this modern society of ours, to pay some small regard to human feeling and sentiment, which we consider are worth preserving.

5.15 p.m.

Mr. Cledwyn Hughes (Anglesey)

I am grateful to my right hon. Friend the Member for Llanelly (Mr. J. Griffiths) for what he has just said. He, more than any single living Welshman, speaks for the people of Wales, and I am sure that the Minister will be in no doubt about the feelings of Welsh Members and Welsh people on this matter.

The right hon. Gentleman based his argument purely on the fact that the Water Resources Board is a technical body. It is a technical body, and it will give advice to the Minister on technical matters, but that technical advice will have profound psychological implications. Perhaps I might put one example to the Committee. A river authority in Wales may decide against an application. The Water Resources Board may decide in favour of it and so advise the Minister under the provisions of subsection (2,e) which lays down that one of its functions is to encourage and assist river authorities in the formulation of such plans as the Board think necessary for augmenting water resources in a river authority area by transferring water from another river authority area. In other words, one of the functions of the Board is to advise the Minister on whether water should be transferred from one area to another.

With whom will the Minister agree? Will he agree with the Water Resources Board which is to consist of seven Englishmen and one Welshman, or with the river authority in Wales? This is the core of the problem. If, in Wales, we had a Board which the Welsh people knew had been consulted, they would feel satisfied that their interests had been properly taken into account by a body of Welshmen. This is the psychology of the whole problem, and if the Minister does not understand this, I am disappointed in him.

The right hon. Gentleman said that the Government did not want to set up an ineffective mechanism. We have never thought that his office was am effective mechanism. We have always argued in favour of a Minister with executive authority, which we would consider to be an effective body, but we put up with an office which we hold to be an ineffective mechanism.

It would be better if the Minister were to think again about this. He must not reduce this to a matter of argument and polemics. He must consider whether he can do something to help the people of Wales. I am certain that beneath the right hon. Gentleman's undoubtedly able argument there is a deep feeling of sympathy for the Welsh people. This is his opportunity to show it. The arguments put forward by the right hon. Gentleman are not good enough. There is an overwhelming case for the setting up of a Welsh board, dictated by the deep feelings of the great majority of the Welsh people, and I believe that the Government should bow to their desires. If they do not, it will be further proof that the Government have no interest in the Principality.

Question put, That "the" stand part of the Clause: —

The Committee divided: Ayes 195, Noes 161.

Division No. 167.] AYES [5.19 p.m.
Aitken, Sir William Hall, John (Wycombe) Page, John (Harrow, West)
Allason, James Hamilton, Michael (Wellingborough) Pannell, Norman (Kirkdate)
Arbuthnot, John Harris, Reader (Heston) Partridge, E.
Atkins, Humphrey Harrison, Brian (Maldon) Pearson, Frank (Clitheroe)
Awdry, Daniel (Chippenham) Harrison, Col. Sir Harwood (Eye) Peel, John
Barber, Anthony Harvey, Sir Arthur Vere (Macolesf'd) Percival, Ian
Barlow, Sir John Harvey, John (Walthamstow, E.) Peyton, John
Batsford, Brian Harvie Anderson, Miss Pickthorn, Sir Kenneth
Baxter, Sir Beverley (Southgate) Hay, John Pike, Miss Mervyn
Bell, Ronald Heald, Rt. Hon. Sir Lionel Pilkington, Sir Richard
Bennett, F. M. (Torquay) Henderson, John (Cathcart) Pitt, Dame Edith
Berkeley, Humphry Hendry, Forbes Pott, Percivall
Biffen, John Hill, J. E. B. (S. Norfolk) Powell, Rt. Hon. J. Enoch
Biggs-Davison, John Hirst, Geoffrey Price, David (Eastleigh)
Bingham, R. M. Hocking, Philip N. Prior, J. M. L.
Birch, Rt. Hon. Nigel Holland, Philip Prior-Palmer, Brig. Sir Otho
Bishop, F. P. Hollingworth, John Proudfoot, Wilfred
Black, Sir Cyril Hope, Rt. Hon. Lord John Pym, Francis
Bossom, Hon. Clive Hornsby-Smith, Rt. Hon. Dame P. Quennell, Miss J. M.
Bourne-Arton, A. Howard, Hon. G. R. (St. Ives) Radmayne, Rt. Hon. Martin
Box, Donald Hughes Hallett, Vice-Admiral John Renton, Rt. Hon. David
Boyle, Rt. Hon. Sir Edward Hughes-Young, Michael Ridley, Hon. Nicholas
Bromley-Davenport, Lt.-Col. Sir Walter Iremonger, T. L. Ridsdale, Julian
Brooke, Rt. Hon. Henry Irvine, Bryant Godman (Rye) Rippon, Rt. Hon. Geoffrey
Brown, Alan (Tottenham) James, David Robinson, Rt. Hn. Sir R. (B'pool,S.)
Buck, Antony Jenkins, Robert (Dulwich) Robson Brown, Sir William
Bullard, Denys Johnson, Dr, Donald (Carlisle) Russell, Ronald
Campbell, Gordon (Moray & Nairn) Johnson, Eric (Blackley) Sharples, Richard
Cary, Sir Robert Joseph, Rt. Hon. Sir Keith Skeet, T. H. H.
Chichester-Clark, R. Kerr, Sir Hamilton Smith, Dudley (Br'ntf'd & Chiswick)
Clark, Henry (Antrim, N.) Kimball, Marcus Smyth, Rt. Hon. Brig. Sir John
Clark, William (Nottingham, S.) Kirk, Peter Stevens, Geoffrey
Cleaver, Leonard Lagden, Godfrey Steward, Harold (Stockport, S.)
Cole, Norman Leavey, J. A. Stodart, J. A.
Cordeaux, Lt.-Col. J. K. Legge-Bourke, Sir Harry Studholme, Sir Henry
Corfield, F. V. Lilley, F. J. P. Tapsell, Peter
Costain, A. P. Linstead, Sir Hugh Taylor, Sir Charles (Eastbourne)
Craddock, Sir Beresford (Spelthorne Litchfield, Capt. John Temple, John M.
Crawley, Aldan Longbottom, Charles Thatcher, Mrs. Margaret
Curran, Charles Longden, Gilbert Thomas, Sir Leslie (Canterbury)
Dalkeith, Earl of Loveys, Walter H. Thomas, Peter (Conway)
Dance, James Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh Thompson, Sir Kenneth (Walton)
d'Avigdor-Gotdsmid, Sir Henry McAdden, Sir Stephen Thompson, Sir Richard (Croydon, S.)
Deedes, Rt. Hon. W. F. MacArthur, Ian Thornton-Kemsley, Sir Colin
Digby, Simon Wingfield McLaren, Martin Touche, Rt. Hon. Sir Gordon
Donaldson, Cmdr. C. E. M. McLaughlin, Mrs. Patricia Turner, Colin
du Cann, Edward Maclay, Rt. Hon. John Turton, Rt. Hon. R. H.
Duncan, Sir James Maclean, Sir Fitzroy (Bute&N.Ayrs) Tweedsmuir, Lady
Eden, Sir John Macleod, Rt. Hn. Iain (Enfield, W.) Vane, W. M. F.
Elliott, R.W.(Newc'tle-upon-Tyne, N.) McMaster, Stanley R. Vickers, Miss Joan
Emery, Peter Maddan, Martin Vosper, Rt. Hon. Dennis
Emmet, Hon. Mrs. Evelyn Marshall, Sir Douglas Walder, David
Errington, Sir Eric Mathew, Robert (Honiton) Walker-Smith, Rt. Hon. Sir Derek
Erroll, Rt. Hon. F. J. Matthews, Gordon (Meriden) Wall, Patrick
Farr, John Mawby, Ray Ward, Dame Irene
Fell, Anthony Maxwell-Hyslop, R. J. Williams, Dudley (Exeter)
Finlay, Graeme Maydon, Lt.-Cmdr. S. L. C. Williams, Paul (Sunderland, S.)
Fletcher-Cooke, Charles Mills, Stratton Wilson, Geoffrey (Truro)
Freeth, Denzil More, Jasper (Ludlow) Wise, A. R.
Gammans, Lady Morgan, William Wolrige-Gordon, Patrick
Glover, Sir Douglas Mott-Radclyffe, Sir Charles Woodhouse, C. M.
Glyn, Sir Richard (Dorset, N.) Neave, Airey Woodnutt, Mark
Goodhew, Victor Nicholson, Sir Godfrey Worsley, Marcus
Gresham-Cooke, R. Orr, Capt. L. P. S.
Grosvenor, Lord Robert Osborn, John (Hallam) TELLERS FOR THE AYES:
Gurden, Harold Page, Graham (Crosby) Mr. Ian Fraser and
Mr. Hugh Rees.
Abse, Leo Brockway, A. Fenner Crosland, Anthony
Barnett, Guy Broughton, Dr. A. D. D. Cullen, Mrs. Alice
Bence, Cyril Butler, Herbert (Hackney, C.) Dalyell, Tam
Bennett, J. (Glasgow, Bridgeton) Butler, Mrs. Joyce (Wood Green) Darling, George
Benson, Sir George Callaghan, James Davies, G. Elfed (Rhondda, E.)
Blackburn, F. Castle, Mrs. Barbara Davies, Harold (Leek)
Bottomley, Rt. Hon. A. G. Chapman, Donald Davies, S. O. (Merthyr)
Bowden, Rt. Hn. H.W.(Leics. S.W.) Cliffe, Michael Deer, George
Boyden, James Craddock, George (Bradford, S.) Dempsey, James
Dodds, Norman Jones, Elwyn (West Ham, S.) Rhodes, H.
Driberg, Tom Jones, J. Idwal (Wrexham) Roberts, Goronwy (Caernarvon)
Duffy, A. E. P. (Colne Valley) Kelley, Richard Robertson, John (Paisley)
Ede, Rt. Hon. C. Kenyon, Clifford Robinson, Kenneth (St. Pancras, N.)
Edwards, Robert (Bilston) Key, Rt. Hon. C. W. Rodgers, W. T. (Stockton)
Edwards, Walter (Stepney King, Dr. Horace Rogers, G. H. R. (Kensington, K.)
Evans, Albert Ledger, Ron Ross, William
Fernyhough, E. Lee, Mles Jennie (Cannock) Royle, Charles (Salford, West)
Fletcher, Eric Lewis, Arthur (West Ham, N.) Shinwell, Rt. Hon. E.
Foley, Maurice Lipton, Marcus Silhin, John
Foot, Dingle (Ipswich) Lubbok, Erie Silverman, Sydney (Nelson)
Foot, Michael (Ebbw Vale) McBride, N. Skeffington, Arthur
Fraser, Thomas (Hamilton) McCann, John Small, William
Galpern, Sir Myer MacColl, James Smith, Ellis (Stoke, S.)
George,LadyMeganLloyd(Crmrthn) McInnes, James Sorensen, R. W.
Ginsburg, David McKay, John (Wallsend) Soskice, Rt. Hon. Sir Frank
Cordon Walter, Rt. Hon. P. C. Mackie, John (Enfield, East) Spriggs, Leslie
Gourlay, Harry McLeavy, Frank Steele, Thomas
Greenwood, Anthony MacMillan, Malcolm (Western Isles) Stewart, Michael (Fulham)
Griffiths, Rt. Hon. James (Llanelly) MacPhersan, Malcolm (Stirling) Stonehouse, John
Hamilton, William (West Fife) Mallalieu, E. L. (Brigg) Stross,Dr.Barnett(Stoke-on-Trent,C.)
Hannan, William Mallalieu, J.P.W. (Huddersfield, E.) Swingler, Stephen
Harper, Joseph Manuel, Archie Taveme, D.
Hayman, F. H. Mapp, Charles Thomas, George (Cardiff, W.)
Healey, Denis Marsh, Richard Thomas, Iorwerth (Rhondda, W.)
Henderson,Rt.Hn.Arthur(RwlyRegis) Mendelson, J. J. Thompson, Dr. Alan (Dunfermline)
Herbison, Miss Margaret Millan, Bruce Thornton, Ernest
Hilton, A. V. Milne, Edward Tomney, Frank
Holman, Percy Mitchison, G. R. Wade, Donald
Holt, Arthur Moody, A. S. Wainwright, Edwin
Houghton, Douglas Moyle, Arthur Warbey, William
Howell, Charles A. (Perry Barr) Mulley, Frederick Watkins, Tudor
Howell, Denis (Small Heath) Noel-Baker, Francis (Swindon) Walls, William (Walsall, N.)
Hoy, James H. Noel-Baker,Rt.Hn.Philip(Derby,S.) Whitlock, William
Hughes, Cledwyn (Anglesey) O'Malley, B. K, Wilkins, W. A.
Hughes, Emrys (S. Ayrshire) Oram, A. E. Willey, Frederick
Hughes, Hector (Aberdeen, N.) Pannell, Charles (Leeds, W.) Williams, D. J. (Neath)
Hunter, A. E. Pargiter, G. A. Williams, W. R. (Openshaw)
Hynd, John (Attercliffe) Pavitt, Laurence Williams, W. T. (Warrington)
Irvine, A. J. (Edge Hill) Prentice, B. E. Willis, E. G. (Edinburgh, E.)
Irving, Sydney (Dartford) Price, J. T. (Westhoughton) Wilson, Rt. Hon. Harold (Huyton)
Janner, Sir Barnett Proctor, W. T. Woof, Robert
Jay, Rt. Hon. Douglas Pursey, Cmdr. Harry Yates, Victor (Ladywood)
Johnson, Carol (Lewisham, S.) Randall, Harry TELLERS FOR THE NOES:
Jones, Dan (Burnley) Redhead, E. C. Mr. Lawson and Mr. Ifor Danes.

Clause ordered to stand part of the Bill.