HC Deb 18 July 1963 vol 681 cc892-909
Mr. Corfield

I beg to move, in page 158, line 50, after "not" to insert: either before or after the order has been made". This Amendment is identical in terms with that to Schedule 4 and makes more precise the limitation on challenging the validity of orders in the courts. It also has the merit of being the last Amendment, and I am extremely happy to move it.

Amendment agreed to.

Order for Third Reading read.—[Queen's Consent, on behalf of the Crown, signified]

Motion made, and Question proposed, That the Bill be now read the Third time.—[Mr. Corfield.]

10.53 p.m.

Mr. C. Hughes

We have come to the end of our lengthy proceedings on this important Bill, and I should like to take this final opportunity to thank the right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Housing and Local Government, his Joint Parliamentary Secretary, and the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food for the way in which they have dealt with all the criticisms that have been laid before them, and, with one unhappy Celtic exception, tried to meet our requests for Amendments of substance. For that reason, apart from being watered clown, the Bill is better than it was when we started upon it over two months ago.

One important example of the improvements that I have in mind is the new provisions whereby the Water Resources Board has been given additional powers and the powers of the river authorities in relation to the prevention of pollution have been strengthened. There have been other important improvements in response to undertakings given to my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Small Heath (Mr. Denis Howell), my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Kingston upon Hull, East (Commander Pursey) who, unfortunately, is not in his place but has returned to the Humber, and my hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central (Dr. Stross). Hon. Members, including hon. Members opposite, who were in Standing Committee F have, if I may say so, worked extremely hard on what has been a long and very complicated Bill.

It has also taught me a great deal about the water industry and water conservation. It is the hope, I am certain, of all hon. Members that the long-term effects of this Bill will be substantial and beneficial. A national plan for water conservation and distribution is at last in sight. On behalf of the Opposition, I express the hope that the Water Resources Board and the river authorities will be successful in their formidable new task.

Many of us wish that the Water Resources Board could have had a wider range of functions and increased powers. But, even so, the Board as it will be under the Bill will have vital tasks to perform in its relationship with the Minister and the river authorities and in the collection of hydrological data. We shall be receiving reports from the Water Resources Board as we receive reports from the electricity, coal and gas industries. I hope that it will be possible, in due course, for the House to debate the annual report of the Water Resources Board.

The river authorities will have greatly extended powers and responsibilities. We are giving them exacting work of vital importance to the nation. The success or failure of the Bill ultimately depends on the river authorities. We all hope and believe that they will be equal to the task.

Upon the river authorities there will be representatives of various interests, local government, industry, agriculture, navigation, and so on, and all will advance the views of their respective concerns, but it is the wish of the House that they will work always as a team in the national interest, putting forward their own cases but, in the final analysis, placing the interests of the nation first. The more efficiently they work, the less interference they may expect from the Water Resources Board and from the Minister.

With the Bill, the river authorities enter the field of really big business. It is important for Parliament to realise this consequence of what it is doing. The construction of reservoirs and the disposal of vast quanities of water is pretty big business. If a river authority, for example, has three or four dams costing £4 million each and it is exporting between 60 and 100 million gallons of water per day at, say 1½d. or 2d. per 1,000 gallons—the notional figures given by Ministers in another place and in this House—that is a lot of money and an awful lot of water. It gives some measure of the task upon which the river authorities are embarking.

The river authorities have able and hard-working officials, and they will need many more during the next few years. We all hope that they will be able to recruit them on both the technical and scientific side and on the administrative side. Any able young man today who is interested in engineering or techno-logy and who is uncertain of his career for the future might well consider the water industry, an industry which will need many more able young men during the next quarter of a century. There will be ample scope and opportunity for them in it.

Naturally, there are still some apprehensions abroad as to the possible effects of the Bill. Industries which are dependent upon the use of large quantities of water—the textile industry, the chemical industry, the paper making industry, the hosiery and dyeing industry, for example—all feel that the new charging schemes may be injurious to them, and their views were, throughout our Committee stages, well and clearly put by hon. Members on both sides. We all understand these fears and we sympathise with them, but I do not think that they will be justified. I think that the calculations given by the Minister as to future needs are near the mark.

For the water industry, the next few years will be a period of research and hard work. It will, obviously, be some time before the Bill makes its impact felt, but I have no doubt that it marks a significant step forward and a necessary one. I hope that it will more than justify our expectations.

11.0 p.m.

Mr. Bourne-Arton

I was not privileged to be selected to serve on the Committee stage of this immensely important and imaginative Measure. Perhaps, therefore, on Third Reading it may be appropriate if I am permitted to voice my view, which is probably shared by many other hon. Members on both sides who were not on the Standing Committee but who yet not only took a deep interest in the passage of the Bill but had local and regional axes to grind.

Over a long period, I, for one, had many consultations and arguments with my right hon. Friend the Minister and my hon. Friend the Joint Parliamentary Secretary. I should like to express, on my behalf, and I believe that it will be echoed by hon. Members on all sides, my gratitude for the courtesy and patience with which they dealt with our local grumbles.

I remain of the opinion that in one respect in the Bill, and in one respect only, my right hon. Friend is entirely wrongheaded. He knows in which respect that is, and so does the House. I do not believe that it is possible to persuade a Green Howard or a Durham Light Infantryman that he shall be called a Northumbrian. I am grateful to my right hon. Friend for having got through all its stages Clause 10 of the Bill, which gives him power to have second thoughts, and I trust that in the light of experience he will find that in this respect, and in this respect only, he was wrong and I was right.

I am, however, sincere in my gratitude to my right hon. Friend and to my hon. Friend the Joint Parliamentary Secretary for the courtesy and patience with which they have dealt with my nattering over a great many months.

11.2 p.m.

Mr. Denis Howell

Like other hon. Members, including my hon. Friend the Member for Anglesey (Mr. G Hughes), I pay tribute to the Minister and to the Joint Parliamentary Secretary for their great courtesy and consideration. I say this particularly on behalf of the British Waterworks Association, on whose behalf I have been seemingly making a never-ending number of speeches. The Association is grateful for the way in which the Minister and his officials have considered what it has said.

For the first time in the long passage of the Bill, I should like now to make a speech on my own behalf, because I want to refer to the Bill and the situation that we now have in the water industry concerning it. I cannot entirely share the optimism of my hon. Friend the Member for Anglesey about the Water Resources Board. I entirely agree that this Measure takes us a long way, and as far as it goes I certainly welcome it, but the Water Resources Board will be nothing nearly as important a body as the central water authority for the country should be.

Indeed, when we were dealing this afternoon with Welsh affairs, the Minister gave the game away, because it was clear from what we were told that the Water Resources Board, which is to be the central authority, far from having teeth and being the sort of central authority that we on this side would like to see, will be relegated to the rôle of a technical or advisory body.

What the country needs above all else is a grid system for water, in the same way that we have grid systems for electricity and gas. The Water Resources Board operating under the Bill has no authority at all to transfer water from one area of the country to another in times of drought and need. Consequently there will still continue the sort of difficulties of which I have personal experience, as many hon. Members have, in those odd summers when we have fine weather and a drought—a water shortage in, say, Cornwall, at a time when holidaymakers are pouring in. The needs of such people at such a time will not be met.

Here we have a major Measure dealing with the water industry, and one would have thought that, with all this reorganisation, we should have met that position, that we should have had a new type of authority, and that, in consequence, droughts would have been things of the past. It is a matter of great regret to me, and, I hope, to other hon. Members, that we still have not that type of authority. That is why I think that, while the pattern can be reasonably firm in future, there will have to be some amending legislation in the not too distant future, because now, at the end of the day, with the passing of this Bill and the establishment of this new machinery, it does not mean the end of droughts in this country, it does not mean this is the end of water shortage. None of us can say it does.

The Water Resources Board ought to be given far more authority than it has. It ought to be given power to give instructions to the river authorities, to determine the pattern of water services in this country, and certainly power to move water from one part of the country to another, under a grid system or some similar system. It is a matter of great regret to me that the Minister has not gone as far as that.

It seems to me that what the Minister has done is this. He has said, quite rightly, that the problems of water conservation and supply have got to be dealt with; they have not been adequately dealt with in the past; and they probably ought to be divorced from the problem of distribution, which is in the proper field of local authorities and water companies. But having said that, he has come to the conclusion that he thinks—I may be wrong here—that this solution of the problem is too socialistic, and he has been afraid to go the whole hog and to meet the whole of the situation. The consumption of water in this country is increasing at such a rate, so rapidly, that either he or his successors sooner or later—and, in my judgment, much sooner rather than much later—will have to take this step.

Secondly, just a word about disposal. It still seems to me to be absolutely absurd that at the end of the day we still rather ridiculously have not got not only the collection and use and supply but also the disposal of water all concentrated in one industry and authority as it ought to be. It is wasteful administratively to have separate disposal organisations, as distinct from the collection and supply of water. It is not only wasteful economically. It leads to some situations such as I disclosed in Committee, that we find at one end of the scale local authorities preparing to supply large quantities of water but not preparing to dispose of them, and this inevitably means we get disposal by very unsatisfactory methods—and disposal of sewage into rivers and the seas. The whole of the water industry needs centralisation, and it ought to be under one organisation.

The third question is, will this Bill work? Will this new pattern work? We hope it will, but in the industry there is a great number of doubts. For example, the new river authorities, which, many of us remember the Minister said this afternoon, are the hub of the whole Bill, have no responsibility laid upon them at all by this Bill in respect of seeking to promote new sources of water supply. All that they are going to do is take over, manage and regulate sources already in existence. They will not have any regard to the tremendous new demands and no means of assessing the increase in demand for water, and to that extent the question arises: Will it work?

We cannot escape the fact that many of the water undertakings and responsible people within the industry have grave doubts about the financing of the new system which the Bill imposes, and particularly with regard to the supply of capital. We had a detailed discussion about this in Committee, and I do not want to go over it all again, but would make the point that the places in this country where water is most plentiful, such as Wales, are the very places where the population is least plentiful and where the amount of capital is least plentiful, and there is no grid system and they have not the opportunity of transferring the water from their area to other areas where it would be welcomed and where it could be used.

I know that all sorts of information has been given to us about the possibilities of larger areas and what that might mean, but I have not been convinced by these statements, and I can tell the Minister that many people in the industry, having looked at the little debate that we had in Committee and at what we were told by the Parliamentary Secretary, still have very great perturbation about how the financial side will work.

Those are difficulties which I still see at the end of the day, but, having made these points, I still readily concede to the Minister that the position is very much better than it has been hitherto. We certainly hope that our doubts will prove to be unfounded, and we offer him our congratulations on the passage of the Bill.

11.12 p.m.

Mr. Temple

The hon. Member for Anglesey (Mr. C. Hughes) was right when he said that this is now a better Bill than when it started. It is certainly a much bigger Bill, and if we had had another stage, perhaps we might have added another 20 pages to it! I cannot help saying that I am glad this is its last stage.

I congratulate my right hon. Friend on the delightful way in which he has handled the proceedings. Some years ago I said that my right hon. Friend now the Home Secretary was the greatest legislator in local government since Neville Chamberlain. If my right hon. Friend goes on the way he has started this Session, he will eclipse even my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary, because he has dealt with a great weight of legislation, and handled it most effectively.

The hon. Member for Anglesey congratulated many people inside this House and connected with the House. I should like to add my congratulation to those national bodies and the members who serve on them who have done so much work outside this House. If it had not been for the work of the River Boards Association, the Council of the Federation of British Industries, the fishery interests and others, we should never have known of some of the pitfalls into which we might have fallen in this Measure. It is only right that we should pay a very sincere tribute to those men and women who give up a great deal of their time voluntarily to serve on the national committees of these organisations, without which this legislation would have been impossible.

I believe that the Bill is a great step forward in our water legislation. I believe that, administratively, it will be a pretty good headache for the river authorities of the future. This I have always maintained.

I should like, therefore, to wish the river authorities every possible success in the administration of the Measure, which I believe will be for the benefit of everybody connected with our water.

11.14 p.m.

Mr. Cole

I offer my congratulations to my right hon. Friend on seeing the happy conclusion of the Bill, which is so large. It is never a small feat to get through 135 Clauses and 13 Schedules, and particularly is that a great feat when the Bill deals with a material such as water in which there is such a great multiplicity of interests. With that, I echo the words of my hon. Friend the Member for the City of Chester (Mr. Temple) in adding my thanks and congratulations to all those bodies outside the House who have done so much to assist hon. Members and, I am sure, in some instances the Ministry itself, in keeping to the right path in this most complex matter.

Water is something rather like air. Most of the time we take it for granted. We cannot always do that, however, because, although we never run short of air, we do tend to run short of water in some places. It has been said that the last element but one—the last is air—that brings an end to a planet is shortage of water. With the growing development of the country, and particular areas, I perceive that the supply of water will become an ever-increasing problem. This Bill comes none too soon and is very much needed. We may well need more legislation of this kind in the years ahead to harness our most natural and vital resources for our future living.

I want also to echo, from my own knowledge and from what has been brought to my notice, what the hon. Member for Anglesey (Mr. C. Hughes) said about the question of charges to industry for consumption of water. I know large firms which are somewhat perturbed about the increased charges they may have to pay, running in some cases into hundreds of thousands of pounds. I hope that my right hon. Friend, with his influence in setting up these authorities and the Board, will bring this uncertainty, which is the worst of all evils, to an end as soon as possible so that they will know exactly where they stand and can budget accordingly. That is as much as I can ask him to do at this stage, but I hope that this worry about charging will soon be resolved.

There is also the question of the interests of agriculture, horticulture and fishing, about which I have written to my right hon. Friend. I hope that, in appointing the members of the Board and the authorities, he will have regard to agricultural interests, as I am sure my right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food will, with particular reference to horticulture, and that both Ministers will see that there is a proper representation of the fishing interests—and I do not mean only the commercial interests.

I am thinking also of those who believe that man is better at doing his vital work by having a pastime which gives him proper solace and relaxation. My right hon. Friend has given an earnest of this earlier today by introducing the Clause to protect fishing rights before the minimum flow of a river is settled. I hope that this is an earnest of things to come.

I have had representations from a fishing club in my constituency—the Leighton Buzzard Angling Club—which is a member of the Great Ouse Fishery Consultative Association. Although it is keen on the Bill, it is concerned that the fisherman shall not lose his means of obtaining relaxation in this way.

With these points, to which I am sure my right hon. Friend will give attention, I wish this Bill well. I am sure that I speak for all my hon. Friends on both sides when I wish the Board well for the future. It will need our good will and good wishes. Those good wishes go to the river authorities as well, for it will be their job to see that the Bill works in their areas. I hope that it will do a lot of good in the immediate future. I still believe we may need more legislation in the years to come, but I reiterate my congratulations to my right hon. Friend. He must be a very satisfied and happy man tonight.

11.20 p.m.

Mr. J. H. Osborn

My contribution tonight will be short. There is no doubt that this Bill in its improved form will have an impact on many sections of the community. During the Second Reading debate I listed some of the fears of the smaller firms, let alone the big ones, particularly those in my constituency, and the company in which I am interested, which will be using water and will be affected by this Bill. Sooner or later water will become a scarce commodity, and without the Bill we as a nation would have found it difficult to do much about such a situation.

In the early stages of this Bill various industries were concerned about the water rights—their riparian rights—which they had had for centuries. Earlier this evening I referred to them as being part of the assets of a company, and in Committee I expressed the point of view of industry. But these rights will be worthless unless something can be done to ensure that there is an adequate minimum flow of water, and I am sure that the Bill will give industries, and particularly those which have many fears, some things which they would not have had without it.

It is also reasonable to say that if industry has this guarantee, this underwriting, it should pay for it. During our discussions in Committee upstairs we discovered that some sections of industry found it hard to accept this fact, but I think we are beginning to realise that water is a scarce commodity which has to be paid for.

In conclusion, I thank my right hon. Friend and the two Joint Parliamentary Secretaries for the courteous way in which they have handled the many Amendments that I put forward. I congratulate them on the skill with which they conceded very little, but I thank them for at least clearing up the points that I raised. I congratulate them on piloting through a difficult Bill which I regard as an important milestone in our history.

11.22 p.m.

Mr. Maxwell-Hyslop

When Black Rod knocks on the door of the Chamber to summon us to another place to hear the Royal Assent to this Bill, I hope that we shall not keep him waiting too long because this is a very necessary Bill indeed. The necessity for it is more obvious in some parts of the country than in others. Indeed, in my part of the country there is no obvious shortage of water at the moment.

The long list of Amendments which we have dealt with today is nothing compared with the Amendments that were dealt with in Committee. My hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield, Hallam (Mr. J. H. Osborn) rightly said that not many Amendments were accepted by the Committee, but in many cases the tabling of them fulfilled a useful function, because this is a complex Bill, and in replying to the Amendments my right hon. Friend and his colleagues pointed out in many cases that the things which the Amendments sought to embody in the Bill were already in it.

Tedious as the task might be, I recommend industrialists and members of the new river authorities to saddle themselves with the task of reading the reports of our proceedings in Committee upstairs, because by so doing they will in many cases discover how it is intended that the Bill should function. Many of us who read the Bill through in considerable detail when it was first published had doubts about various aspects of it, and it was not until my right hon. Friend and his colleagues explained them that we realised that our anxieties were well covered by certain Clauses.

This is particularly important because in many cases my right hon. Friend gave us assurances on matters which do not come within his normal powers of direction, but they were assurances about the manner in which the river authorities themselves would exercise the powers conferred on them under this Bill. It is particularly important that the river authorities should familiarise themselves with the assurances and undertakings given about the manner in which it is intended that their powers should be exercised.

I want to refer again to the subject of costs and ask that my right hon. Friend, when considering schedules of charges put to him, should bear in mind the advisability of consulting my right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade, particularly in the case of industries whose competition is primarily not other water-using industries in the United Kingdom but water-using industries in countries which do not have to pay a gallon age charge on that important raw material. This is all the more important as some industries become all the more vulnerable with the reduction in E.F.T.A. duties and in the Kennedy Round.

I want to thank my right hon. Friend, my hon. Friend the Joint Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Housing and Local Government and my hon. Friend the Joint Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food for the enormous amount of work which they must have put in before Committee meetings to prepare themselves for the very long list of Amendments and for the informative way in which they have replied to points raised. I want to pay tribute also to the amount of work put in, not only by the hon. Member for Anglesey (Mr. C. Hughes) representing the Opposition, because this has not been a political Bill, but also by my hon. Friend the Member for the City of Chester (Mr. Temple), who has saved a very considerable amount of trouble which could have overtaken the Bill once it were enacted, particularly from the point of view of demarcation limits.

With those words, I give the Bill a very ready welcome and express the hope that many of the fears which have been voiced will prove groundless.

Sir K. Joseph

In this most unaccustomed atmosphere I rise to acknowledge the courteous words that have been spoken and to say on my part a heartfelt word of thanks to my hon. Friend the Joint Parliamentary Secretary, who has been a most stalwart and sturdy help at all times during the Bill. I want also to thank my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food for his patience in sitting for long stretches and then intervening effectively on his special subjects.

I should like to say on behalf of us all how much the Committee benefited from the work of the hon. Member for Anglesey (Mr. C. Hughes), whose speech this evening said all the things I might have wanted to say and said them eloquently and crisply. I hope that his speech will be widely read as an expression of all our expectations of what the Bill may hope to achieve.

The Committee as a whole has been extraordinarily hard-working, most constructive, extremely patient but, I regret to say, also extremely persistent, and as a result a very large number of concessions have been wrung from the Government by a most unfortunate concatenation of Opposition and Government back benchers working in unholy harmony to force the Government's hand from time to time. I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for the City of Chester (Mr. Temple), who has been particularly diligent throughout the Bill, that as a result of the Committee's work the Bill is probably considerably better than when it came here. I think we should also spare a thought for the labours of another place, because they themselves scrutinised the Bill very thoroughly indeed and the Amendments they made add up very nearly to as many as we have made.

At the risk of being invidious, I should like particularly to thank the hon. Members for Stoke-on-Trent, Central (Dr. Stross) and Birmingham, Small Heath (Mr. Denis Howell) for a number of short and valuable interventions in Committee which represented a good deal of behind-the-scenes work to study the subjects. I want to thank also my right hon. Friend the Member for Guildford (Sir R. Nugent) and my hon. Friends the Members for King's Lynn (Mr. Bullard), Westmorland (Mr. Vane), Sheffield, Hallam (Mr. J. H. Osborn), Abingdon (Mr. Neave), Tiverton (Mr. Maxwell-Hyslop) and Plymouth, Devonport (Miss Vickers), all of whom, in combination with my hon. Friend the Member for the City of Chester, were most invaluable members of the Committee. All ex-members of the Committee would also like to pay a word of tribute to my hon. Friend the Member for South Angus (Sir J. Duncan), who as Chairman handled the Committee most helpfully.

My hon. Friend the Member for the City of Chester has given me far too much praise. The great feature of Neville Chamberlain's Ministry was that he not only got the Bills through but practically drafted and invented them. I can take absolutely no credit on that score because it was my right hon. Friend the present Home Secretary who conceived the urgent importance of this Measure and it was Professor Proudman and his Committee who gave us the outlines on which to work. I am also grateful for the kind words spoken by my hon. Friend the Member for Darlington (Mr. Bourne-Arton), my hon. Friend the Member for Bedfordshire, South (Mr. Cole), my hon. Friend the Member for Hallam and my hon. Friend the Member for Tiverton.

As for the hon. Member for Small Heath, I can insult him the more easily if he will step inside the Bar of the Chamber. I have a high respect for the hon. Member but I thought that his speech this evening was packed with all the errors which I thought we had got out of him in Committee. If ever a government was so misguided as to strengthen the Water Resources Bill to by-pass Parliament and the Minister alike, any such government would find the hon. Member for Birmingham, Small Heath in his place fighting hard for the rights of the statutory water undertakers.

There remain three or four obligations for me to discharge; undertakings I gave in Committee. First, on the question of private Bill procedure. This Bill does not touch in any way the right to proceed by way of private Bill procedure. However, now that we are setting up a new mechanism for the management of water, the Government of the day are bound to feel that any sponsors of such private legislation would need to consult the river authorities concerned, and the Water Resources Board if that is relevant, and to seek their agreement before private legislation is presented. Though I cannot bind my successors, I think it most unlikely that any successor would look with favour on the sponsors of a private Bill if they had not managed to agree with the river authorities and the Board before coming to the House. Nevertheless, I repeat that the scope for Parliamentary private Bill procedure, both to propose and oppose water Measures, remains unaltered.

My hon. Friend the Member for the City of Chester pressed me hard in Committee about the need for alternate members of the river authorities. I undertook to consult widely about the feeling outside the House. Such consultation was carried out and it has revealed no strong support for the proposition. Certain bodies supported it, but not strongly. The objections were explained in Committee and I have not tabled an Amendment on this subject.

The question of the attitude to the Bill of industry was mentioned tonight by my hon. Friend the Member for Hallam and my hon. Friend the Member for Bedfordshire, South. We are, by the Bill, inviting industry to emerge from the state of hydrological self-help which has obtained up to now. We are inviting it to enter with confidence into the more formal set-up under the Bill, by which, we believe, it will more surely and efficiently and, in the end, far more economically get the increasing quantities of water it will need.

I regard it as the duty of my Department—and I hope that it will also be the duty of the Water Resources Board and river authorities—to get to know the needs of industry, to become familiar with the trends of industry so that they may command the confidence of industry in the same way as the river boards have commanded the confidence of the agricultural and statutory water undertaking interests. I expect that the Water Resources Board will become the focal point of water knowledge and plans and, even wider than industry, of which I have been speaking, I expect the Board to make itself accessible to all those whose needs or problems are on a substantial scale.

In this effort to pick up the threads remaining, I must refer to spray irrigation. We have taken a somewhat draconic attitude to this subject.

We have written into the Bill a power of control over those who start abstracting for spray irrigation before the second appointed day. We have written into the Bill a power for river authorities to limit spray irrigation when there is a water shortage. It is only fair to the farmers and horticulturists who are increasingly turning to spray irrigation to express our hope—and it must be only a hope since it is not in the Bill—that river authorities and the Water Resources Board will emphasise to other abstractors of water that they should exercise all practicable economy in the use of any source of water before it should become necessary to limit absolutely, by the powers in the Bill, the access to that water of the spray irrigation interests. That, I think, completes the undertakings I gave at a previous stage.

I do not need to go into long descriptions now, but I think that the House will recognise that the Bill represents an essential feature of the modernisation of our economy; and this is the point in time at which we should emphasise our appreciation to the river boards, and all their members and officers, who will be superseded by the machinery set up by this Measure, and express our high hopes and best wishes to the river authorities and the Water Resources Board which will be created by the Bill. I think that both sides of the House hope that by the machinery established by the Bill we may be able to keep pace with—and, indeed, keep ahead of—the rapidly rising demands, domestic, agricultural and industrial, and the rapidly rising use that, mercifully, a more prosperous and more leisured population will be making of our water resources for pleasure and for fishing.

Finally, we send a message to all those concerned with water—an assurance that we have genuinely and persistently tried to reconcile all their varying, and sometimes conflicting, interests, be they industry, statutory water undertakers, farmers, from the agricultural or land drainage point of view, or be they navigation, fisheries or the interests of the public for pleasure and for clean rivers.

This is undoubtedly a major Measure. I think that we can all take pride in having had a part in it, and I hope that the House will give it its Third Reading.

Mr. M. Stewart

I am sure that it will be understood that the absence of my hon. Friend the Member for Anglesey (Mr. C. Hughes) is no discourtesy to the Minister or to the House. As is, I think, known, my hon. Friend has an important engagement in his constituency tomorrow, and on Thursday evening there are problems of time, space and movement that affect him but do not affect me.

I am full of admiration, if I may say so, for the work of the Minister, of hon. Members opposite and of my hon. Friends on the Committee that dealt with this Bill. I followed—indeed, I took part in—the Second Reading debate with great interest. I thought then that this would be an important Measure and one that, once it had broken the ice—if that is the correct word for a water Bill—would be an extremely absorbing and interesting Measure. So, I think, it has proved to hon. Members who were on the Standing Committee.

There seems to have developed in the Committee a remarkable—indeed, an almost alarming—degree of amity between the two sides. Whether that was due to the subject or to my own absence from the Committee it is not for me to say, but it must be admitted that it has been to the public advantage. I am happy, therefore—if it is not considered an impertinence on the part of one who has not shared in the labours to do so—to join in the congratulations that have been showered on this Measure and on all who have worked to make it a good piece of legislation.

Question put and agreed to.

Bill accordingly read the Third time, and passed, with Amendments.