HC Deb 09 July 1964 vol 698 cc644-82

Order for Second Reading read.

4.20 p.m.

The Under-Secretary of State for Scotland (Mr. Gordon Campbell)

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

My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State is disappointed that he cannot himself be here to introduce the Bill. The Second Reading, unfortunately, clashes with a commitment for him to be host at the opening of an international conference in Edinburgh; and, in this connection, I am sure that all hon. Members of Scottish constituencies are glad that the European Free Trade Association—E.F.T.A.—like other international bodies, has recognised the advantages of Edinburgh as a centre for international conferences.

This Bill is a modest Measure to provide powers to deal with what may increasingly become a problem in certain parts of Scotland. The problem arises from a development of spray irrigation as a technique in fanning. This method of irrigation is a valuable one which can substantially improve the quality and production of crops, but it can involve the use of large quantities of water and, unlike most other uses of river water, very little finds its way back to the stream.

While we are fortunate, in general, in Scotland in having abundant supplies of water, there are areas, particularly in the East of Scotland, where the use of spray irrigation could seriously affect the quantities of water left in rivers and streams. Such reduction of the normal flows can create problems, not only of water conservation but of pollution, since purification measures often entail the dilution to the safe proportions of effluents.

In passing, it might be helpful if I pointed out that the word "stream" is used frequently in the Bill, and that under the relevant definition this term covers any river or other watercourse.

While the Government favour the use of spray irrigation in appropriate circumstances, because of its benefits to agriculture, we recognise that some control and co-ordination is necessary in view of the recent increase in popularity of this method, and its possible spread in the future. The Bill seeks to provide a sensible and flexible form of control to deal with the problems that may arise from the development of this form of irrigation. My right hon. Friend received a unanimous recommendation from the Scottish River Purification Advisory Committee to the effect that there should be powers to control the abstraction of water for spray irrigation in any area where this was shown to have been necessary. The Government have accepted this advice.

I would remind the House that the Advisory Committee was constituted in 1956 under the terms of the Rivers (Prevention of Pollution) (Scotland) Act, 1951, and the Committee quite properly carried out a review of the development of spray irrigation. The Committee covers a wide range of interests—local authorities which have statutory duties for water and sewerage, agriculture, fisheries, industry and amenity. The Committee's good work in encouraging improvement of conditions in Scottish rivers is widely appreciated, especially by my right hon. Friend.

I have mentioned that there is a direct link between the abstraction of water and river purification. One important principle of purification is that all discharges of effluent into rivers and streams should be of such quality that the available volume of water will ensure their dilution and thus prevent pollution. The aim of the river purification boards, which operate under the 1951 Act, is to raise standards of sewage purification and effluent treatment. The boards have done much excellent work to this end, but the need for ample river flows for proper dilution of some effluents is still most important.

I want now to turn to the legal position of those who take water from rivers or streams for spray irrigation purposes. The position is that a riparian proprietor has a right at common law to take water for what are known as the primary uses, namely, drink for man and beast and water for ordinary domestic purposes. This has been the law for a long time, but it is open to doubt whether the abstraction of large quantities of water for spray irrigation is within the common law, and it would certainly be unwise to suppose that a farmer today is beyond reasonable challenge at law if he is doing this. Fortunately, there are many Scottish rivers which have such an abundant flow of water, and such a relatively low amount of pollution, that the development of spray irrigation is unlikely to create any problems for other interests.

Certainly, there is no need at present to visualise control being exercised on a grand scale throughout Scotland. Indeed, the Bill does not impose such overall control. What it does is to make it possible for the question of control over a particular area to be examined carefully in the light of all the interests concerned. If it is found that control over that particular area is necessary, action can be taken accordingly.

I am glad to say that the principles of the Bill have been widely welcomed. They have been discussed with the National Farmers' Union and the Scottish Landowners' Federation, which have both accepted the need for this limited form of control where circumstances call for it. My right hon. Friend accepts the view of these bodies that when a control order is made for any area, as proposed in the Bill, the river purification board concerned should have added agricultural representation. He would be able to provide for this under the terms of the 1951 Act.

Mr. Thomas Fraser (Hamilton)

But does the Under-Secretary appreciate that the decision to strengthen the landowners' and farmers' interests on these purification boards under the 1951 Act—not under this Bill at all—when a control order has been made, will be very greatly resented, because a control order will be made very largely in the interests of the purity of the river, and the hon. Gentleman is proposing to load the river purification board with persons who themselves have an interest in increasing the impurity of the river?

Mr. Campbell

I understand the point that there might be a danger of one interest receiving increasing weight on the board, but I can assure the hon. Gentleman that it is the intention that all the interests should have a voice in these matters; and that when a question like this which, as the hon. Gentleman says, particularly affects agriculture, adds to the duties of the board, it is open to the Secretary of State to add agricultural members to the board. I have noted what the hon. Gentleman has said, but I can assure him that the Secretary of State intends to review all the interests, and that he certainly would not have decided on this if he had thought that it would throw out the balance of interest—

Mr. E. G. Willis (Edinburgh East)

This is shocking.

Mr. Campbell

Perhaps I have said enough on this point, but I have noted what the hon. Gentleman has said—

Mr. A. Woodburn (Clackmannan and East Stirlingshire)

Is the Under-Secretary sure that he has dealt with what my hon. Friend has said? When the purification boards were set up, there was a suggestion about putting interests on them. The "interests" were people in manufacture, coal mines, and other things in the area, and their interest was to slow up purification because it would involve them in expenditure; in other words, it is suspected that some boards would work more quickly if it were the public interest that was being looked after instead of the interests of many of those who are pouring stuff into the rivers.

Mr. Campbell

I did understand what the hon. Member said and I have noted the point that his right hon. Friend has also made. I assure them that my right hon. Friend has no intention of disturbing the relative distribution of interest in the boards and that this was thought to be a sensible way of proceeding after a control order had been adopted by a board.

Mr. Archie Manuel (Central Ayrshire)

I have an interest as I have something to do with angling interests being represented on the river purification boards. Is the Under-Secretary certain that there will be complete protection against the emission of effluent from a spray irrigation plant? The water will not always be clean. It is not always used for watering a plant. Chemicals might be used to control insect life and if a seepage occurred back to the stream or river, it could result in the loss of a great deal of money spent by anglers in stocking the river, and so on. There is danger in this. Will the hon. Gentleman consider strengthening the angling representation, which, I believe, is only one member per board?

Mr. Campbell

I know of the hon. Member's interest in angling. As he said, anglers' interests are represented on the boards. What the hon. Member has said brings out one of the main factors in the formulation of the Bill, and that is the balancing of the various interests. The whole concept of bringing in control of spray irrigation is to ensure that other interests are not adversely affected. The strength of effluents in a river, to which the hon. Member has referred, and the possibility of a large decrease in the quantity of water in a river are things that we are trying to guard against by the Bill. What the hon. Member has said about angling interests is an important factor and is certainly one of the factors behind the Bill.

Clause 1 of the Bill leaves with the river purification boards the initiative to apply for a control order, subject to the reserve power of the Secretary of State to require a board to apply. The Schedule to the Bill provides for the full processes of advertisement of the application for an order, notice of which is to be given to all bodies likely to be affected, and, if any objections are maintained, for public local inquiry. These requirements should provide safeguards for consideration of the interests involved. It will be observed that we have based the procedure in the Schedule upon the existing procedure under the Flood Prevention (Scotland) Act, 1961. This procedure has already been considered and approved by the House and, in practice, it has been satisfactory.

Clause 2 provides for licensing control once a control order has been made. In considering the size of the maximum fine of £50 for contravention of the licensing control, one should note also the provision in Clause 6 for revocation of licences if the holder is convicted of an offence under Clause 2.

Clauses 3 to 6 govern the administration of the licensing system with the object of holding a proper balance between the interests of all concerned. Under Clause 3, the aim is to enable farmers to make their spray irrigation plans in good time. They should know where they will stand on licences well before the period in the year for which licences will apply when their operations will be started. At the same time, there is provision for the boards to publish brief particulars of all applications received and to maintain for inspection a register of applications and of licences granted. Those wishing to object to applications will be able to follow what is happening and to make their views known.

Clause 4 makes a reasonable provision for contingencies, such as changes in tenure of land or sudden illness, which can legitimately give rise to applications out with the normal autumn period. Clauses 5 and 6 leave room for necessary changes such as transfer of licences. If applications for upward variation of licences are made under Clause 6(2), the safeguards for other interested parties in Clause 3 will apply.

Clause 7 recognises that from time to time on; must expect exceptional conditions to arise concerning rainfall and river flows. It provides for regulation of licences on an equitable basis if there is exceptional shortage of water or, more happily, such abundant supplies that suspension or relaxation of restrictions is a proper course. Circumstances can be expected to vary widely in different areas and in particular cases. The Bill accordingly aims to give a proper discretion to the boards.

We are seeking in the Bill to make reasonable powers available for use as and when local circumstances make their exercisable desirable. I hope that the Bill will commend itself to the House.

4.36 p.m.

Mr. William Ross (Kilmarnock)

The Under-Secretary of State, who so felicitously opened the debate on the Bill, was rather modest about it. This, after all, is the major Scottish legislation of the year. We must not underestimate its importance simply because it is not being introduced by a private Member. I hope that we will give it the importance and consideration that it merits.

What interests me is that when we started this Session in 1959–60 we were faced with a shipping breakdown. We had no ships, so the Government introduced a Bill which virtually gave us nationalised ships. Here we are, ending these five years of glorious Tory rule with a shortage of water. One of the things which, I notice, has been said more than once by the Government spokesman in another place was that we have an abundance of water in Scotland, and that is true. But we get tremendous shortages also, because the water is not in the right place and we have not so far taken steps to ensure that the water is conserved and will be there when it is needed.

When we look at the Bill and see all its terms—licensing, permission, compulsions and controls—it reeks with all those terms that send a shudder through the breasts of the dowagers and the matrons of the Primrose League when the Prime Minister warms to his theme of Socialist terror. In fact, the Bill is sound common-sense bearing in mind the circumstances which it is designed to meet.

At certain times of the year, in particular areas in Scotland, irrespective of the spread of spray irrigation, there is a shortage of water. In many of our burghs small and large, given about a fortnight's dry weather we are in difficulty. The result is that the Government have been trying hard, but belatedly, to get regional co-operation concerning water supplies. Local authorities are ascertaining the exact costs of providing water for all the various needs. Ayr County Council has recently committed itself to a scheme costing well over £1 million to provide water and to transport it across the country for one new industry which it is determined to attract.

We can, therefore, appreciate that in such circumstances, when water is taken out of a stream considerable difficulties might well be caused to other users of water. These users of water are strictly controlled in what they take out of, and what they put into, the stream. Those who have interests in fishing know that if the level of the water is reduced, and there is no reduction in the polluting substances put into the river by agriculture and industry, then the fishing interests will suffer. We know what pollution has done to fish in the past.

We know that the level of streams and rivers falls at a particular time of the year because of lack of rainfall—and yet it is when there is no rainfall and when the level of the river is falling that the agriculturist wants to use his expensive spray irrigation equipment. If he uses it, it may cause problems in the cleanliness and amenities of the river, and all the work of the river purification boards will go by the board.

At the moment, they have no power to do anything about it, because they have no rights in respect of the river. Yet the people who are taking water out of the river have no right to it, either. The farmer who is using organic irrigation through the main supply is paying for it. Farmers taking water out of the river or stream in respect of organic irrigation are covered by the Bill, but those taking water from the tap, from the main, are paying for it and they are excluded from the provisions. But they will be envious of the person who is exercising his privilege—I do not know whether it is a privilege, but it is certainly not a right—and is taking advantage of the present situation because no one so far has questioned his practice.

There is an increasing use of this form of irrigation, which may be applied not only to green crops, but to early potatoes, and it may leave the river in a desperate state.

As a result of this situation the Scottish River Purification Advisory Committee, which, I understand, had support from the river purification boards, came to the unanimous conclusion that something had to be done. People with varried interests, faced with the practical situation, came to the conclusion that something must be done, and the Government, despite all their postures outside the House about control, realised that this was the only way to do it.

Under the Bill, anyone who wants to abstract water from the stream for spray irrigation can do so only if he has a licence. I understand that he will need a licence if he is within an area in respect of which the river purification board has applied to the Secretary of State and has been authorised to proceed on the basis of making it a control area. The Secretary of State takes this so seriously that if the board does not do so and he thinks that something should be done about it he can force the board to make the application. That is my reading of the Bill.

We have progressive farmers who have spent a lot of money in some areas, par- ticularly in the West and in the South-East, where farmers are doing well. But they are creating this difficulty, and we can see that it will be more troublesome as time goes on. What will be their position? They will have the equipment but no guarantee that they will be able to use it. Certainly, there is less likelihood that they will be able to use it at the time when they most need it and at the time for which they bought it.

This is one of the uncertainties. Once a man starts using spray irrigation, he must keep going until natural rainfall takes over. Let us not underestimate the difficulties of those who buy the equipment and who will be faced with the uncertainties which will come with licensing, for getting a licence may be a tricky business. There will still be a limited amount which can be taken from the stream if it is within a control area, but there is no guarantee that there is a limit to the number of people who will want licences.

I was terrified by the figures given in another place by a noble Lord who mentioned a river in the South-East where, he said, there were eight pumps capable of pumping 15,000 gallons an hour and there were likely to be 20 such pumps within the foreseeable future—that is to say, 300,000 gallons an hour, free, coming out of a stream which is valuable from the point of view of others with interest in it, and a stream which, if this were allowed to continue, would be polluted, to the detriment probably of the health of man and of beast. It would also be an eyesore. The river purification board is to be given the job of sorting out those who will have a licence and those who will not and, even after they have a licence, when to limit the supply, when to increase it and when to suspend it altogether. These are considerable powers to give to a board which is not an elected Board.

Here I come to the point which the Minister made about the board. The definition of the board is laid down in Section 3 of the Rivers (Prevention of Pollution) (Scotland) Act, 1951. The local authorities—county councils and large burghs—appoint between three-fifths and two-thirds of the members. The remainder are appointed by the Secretary of State—one-third, with the possibility of another one. Working it out arithmetically, a reasonable size for a board will be 15, so that either nine or ten will be from the local authorities and six or five from the Secretary of State. This is the amount of leeway which is available.

The boards for each area are probably already appointed, and the five or six whom the Secretary of State can appoint and with whom he can manœuvre are appointed already on conditions that he thought fit. They are appointed to deal with such interests as agriculture, fisheries, and industry.

What scope is there for manoeuvre, or do the Government intend to change the rules? It may mean another Clause in the Bill. It is not right for Ministers to make pledges unthinkingly and without considerable consultation. This House ought certainly to have been consulted. We are talking about rural areas. Many people already on the county councils are representing agricultural interests. Indeed, it may well be that most of the boards are already over-weighted with agricultural interests. In many circumstances the people representing agricultural or county council interests will have a difficult task. Is it likely that an agriculturist sitting on a board will adjudicate in respect of licences for which he himself may be a competing applicant? If so, this is wrong.

The Secretary of State ought to think again about the pledges that he has given. Would we ever dream of handing the administration of valuable licences to people who are themselves interested? This is what we are virtually doing. The Secretary of State is to ensure that the dominating interest will be agricultural. We would never put the apportionment of public house licences in the hands of publicans. Nevertheless, we are handing the right to abstract water to people who at the moment have no right to the water, and we are guaranteeing them against any legal action arising from what they do under the licence, and all we are charging them is £5 a year. It is a valuable licence, and these people should not be handing out such licences.

There is a way out. Under the original Act, any power exercised by a river purification board can be delegated to a county council. Have the Government thought whether that is possible in this case? Indeed, the Secretary of State will find that a statutory water authority can ask to have certain powers delegated to it. There may be some requests about these powers.

This is not a simple Bill. It is tricky. It arises from our failure to ensure that the abundance of water that we have at a certain time is conserved for use when needed. The real way out of this is to have pond storage schemes for certain farmers or groups of farmers to ensure that water is available in time of shortage. The Bill is merely a makeshift made necessary by our failure to appreciate the importance of water. I do not think the Prime Minister appreciates the importance of water, unless it is in his whisky when he is campaigning in Kinross.

Commander C. E. M. Donaldson (Roxburgh, Selkirk and Peebles)

The Prime Minister may not be the great drinker of whisky that the hon. Member for Kilmarnock (Mr. Ross) suggests, but if he has a little of the water of Perth, then that is at all events good peaty water.

Mr. Ross

It was not the good peaty water of Perth that the Prime Minister was drinking, according to a recent photograph. He bought his constituents beer, but he was drinking whisky.

It must be realised that in many respects this Bill is tied to the original Act, which I do not think has been properly appreciated. Take the penalties. The immediate purpose is to prevent pollution. The Bill prevents pollution just as it prevents industry or agriculture depositing in the water something which would be deleterious to it. But the standards of penalties are entirely different. The original provisions were unbalanced and favoured industry and agriculture.

The penalty under the Bill is the simple one of £50 for abtracting water without a licence, which can do tremendous damage, but the penalty for positive pollution is £200 on indictment and if the pollution persists, six months' imprisonment and a fine of £500. We might well look at this for the sake of fairness. The penalties for obstructing the river purification board in the exercise of its functions might well be higher than those for abstracting water wrongly.

I hope that the Government have noted the difficulties and will be prepared to do something about them in Committee. We have already been told when the Committee stage will be, and I take strong exception to the fact that a matter of this importance should be dealt with on a Friday and at such short notice. Most hon. Members have already fixed other engagements.

Have the Government thought any more about the £5 annual licence fee? It is a valuable right. In some circumstances it may be regarded as a derisory fee. Perhaps we should look at it with the idea of making the whole exercise more self-sufficient financially. I find it difficult to see why local authorities should have to bear the burden of the expense, for they get little out of it. Yet the local authorities, with some help through the equalisation grant, will pay for it.

This ought to be paid for by the people who will benefit from the scheme. It is wrong that rates or taxes should be increased to deal with a problem which arises from people taking advantage of doubts or local good nature and abstracting water which is of very considerable value to them and their crops. Now they are to be given absolute immunity from legal action for £5 a year. This may well be an aspect we should closely examine.

Nor am I entirely happy about Clause 7. Like other Clauses, it could do with amendment. The Government plan to give boards within the control area the right to vary the conditions and eventually, if necessary, to suspend licences altogether. But one of the dangers is that the legal immunity is given in respect of the licence. What happens to that immunity if a licence is suspended? As time passes, more and more people will be refused licences and there will then be more likelihood of the legal rights being challenged. I wonder whether our lawyers have looked at this from that point of view. No doubt we shall hear from them in due course about it.

The Bill will create difficulties for quite a number of people, including the river purification boards, which are not over-endowed with administrative staff for the work that they are to carry out. This is not just a matter of adjudicating licences, but of the whole rigmarole of receiving applications by 15th September, the administrative work which must be done by 15th October and the decisions which must be taken by 15th November to be in time for the following year. Have the Government considered whether sufficient staff is available to deal with all this work?

It is unfortunate that, despite the Act with which my hon. Friend the Member for Hamilton (Mr. T. Fraser) was associated, the Government have been able to achieve very little in relation to the control and purification of our rivers because of the expense involved in the installation of purification plant. Perhaps we would not now be required to be so harsh about spray irrigation licensing had there been better measurement and standards of purification of effluent. The Government have failed by not taking more positive steps and now we must fall back on negative action to ensure that there is not extraction of water to such an extent that it reduces the flow and, therefore, the dilution of these deleterious effluents.

Finally, I put three points to the Government. First, will they look at the whole question of Scotland's water? Surely by this time they have some plans not just for a survey—we should be beyond that stage—but for action to provide a proper and adequate water supply readily available wherever wanted for agriculture, industry, or the domestic user.

Secondly, we want an assurance that the Government are pressing on with steps for positive purification. It may well be that many industries are too ready to ride off on the excuse of expense, but, nevertheless, especially in the light of our hopes for tourism, for the greater purity of our rivers and for fishing, we should press on with purification.

Thirdly, we must ensure that, wherever possible, there will be strengthening of the river purification boards and in the right way so that there can be no suspicion of there being handed out to friends what will virtually be scarce and valuable licences for spray irrigation.

I regret that, once again, the Government have allowed events to overtake them and that what is now available to industry and agriculture for the support of our crops after a time when our farmers had to stand by and watch them the is to be denied to Scottish farmers because we have not yet taken action to ensure that the water will be there.

5.5 p.m.

Sir James Duncan (South Angus)

The hon. Member for Kilmarnock (Mr. Ross) made slightly heavy weather of the Bill. Had it applied to England I should perhaps have agreed more with him. I had to follow in considerable detail the passing through the House of the Water Resources Act which concerned England and Wales, and I then learnt the great importance of using England's water resources to the best advantage.

But, because of the geography, the problem in Scotland is quite different. Any angler will know that almost every river starts in a hill and comes bubbling down over the stones and that it is only in the lower regions of a few of the hills that the problem of spray irrigation can arise at all. I doubt whether parts of more than half a dozen rivers will be affected by the Bill, so I think that the hon. Gentleman, in the metaphysical disquisition he made on the details, was making rather heavy weather of a rather minor piece of legislation.

Mr. Ross

It is important to the people affected.

Sir J. Duncan

I agree that it is important to those who may be affected.

As my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State mentioned pollution, I would like to refer to it, in particular, to pollution by detergents. The Sixth Progress Report of the Standing Technical Committee on Synthetic Detergents stated that about 51,000 tons of detergent a year is used in the United Kingdom and that this is likely to increase. This large amount of detergent has to be passed through the drains and eventually into the rivers. Paragraph 34 of the Report said: Complaints of problems resulting from the production of foam in rivers and sewage works continued to be received. If we are to abstract, or to allow farmers and others to abstract, water from our rivers then it is very important that the problem of foam from deter- gents should be kept in mind before any licence is granted.

Clause 3 uses the word "contiguous" and I am not sure what it means. It says: A person may apply for a licence to abstract water for the purpose of spray irrigation from a stream specified in his application where he is the occupier of land contiguous to that stream. … That does not mean the owner and may be, I presume, a tenant farmer, for the reference is to the occupier of the land.

Here is a problem which does not arise in England, but which can arise in Scotland where there are special and separate hereditaments for fishing. When someone buys fishing rights in Scotland, he also buys part of the bank to give him access to the fishing. If a man who is farming alongside a stream, which is in the ownership of a different person for fishing rights, wants to abstract the water, is he entitled to abstract over the bank which is owned by someone else? What does "contiguous" mean in this context?

If we are to encourage farmers to abstract water for the improvement of their farms, the Bill ought to provide that, notwithstanding any ownership of the fishing rights in the river and notwithstanding any small gap between the actual water and the field lying next to the river, the farmer should have the right to abstract the water over the bank. I hope that my hon. Friend will make this clearer in Committee—

Mr. Ross

Next Friday.

Sir J. Duncan

—but I hope that it will not be on Friday. It is a matter of some importance.

The Bill deals only with streams, but streams are not the only source of water. There are many wells and boreholes and, whatever the Scottish Office may know, I do not think that we know how much underground water there is in Scotland. I know of one man who sank a borehole and got an almost inexhaustible supply of water from a bore about 200 ft. down. I do not think that the flatter areas of Scotland have, ever been subjected to a dowser, but if we are to deal with this matter properly and as a whole it is advisable to extend the Bill's operation to boreholes and wells as well.

If too much water is taken out of a river or stream, the water table may be lowered all round. Similarly, if there is a borehole used for spray irrigation in a big way, that may lower the water table all round. This would dry up all the wells, whether the water was used for human consumption, cattle drinking, sheep, or anything else, and it might have a serious effect on the neighbourhood all round.

I hope that my hon. Friend will consider extending the operations of the Bill beyond streams. I do not know what the word "localities" means in this context, but if it includes areas from which water is abstracted for spray irrigation, whether underground or from surface streams, that would complete the picture and make the Bill more efficient.

In an intervention, the hon. Member for Central Ayrshire (Mr. Manuel) mentioned angling. I have already mentioned the dangers of pollution from foam. I agree with the hon. Gentleman that the most likely time for the use of spray irrigation machines is during the growing periods of the crops, that is to say, May, June and July, for instance, which may be the driest period of the year.

Mr. T. Fraser

Horticultural crops are grown all the year round.

Sir J. Duncan

For the time being I am talking about farming.

Mr. Fraser

Horticulture is farming.

Sir J. Duncan

I agree, but I am dealing with large masses of water used in spraying potatoes, for instance. The problem of horticulture is a separate problem.

We should carefully take into account not only the provision of water, but the effect of spray irrigation on angling. Pollution of a river may kill the whole crop of trout or salmon for the whole of that year and do immeasurable damage to the angling interests of Scotland, which means not only the angling interests, but the tourist interests, because we have to bear in mind that the Scottish rivers are potentially an extremely valuable tourist attraction, and that the more we can encourage better fishing the better it will be for the tourist trade.

The hon. Member for Kilmarnock mentioned balance on the boards. I am rather sorry that the Government have gone so far to increase the representation of the farmers on the boards. It may be—I do not say that it is—that in some rural areas the existing boards are too weighted with representatives of the farmers. Up to now, the duties of the boards have been anti-pollution. One of the biggest headaches of a pollution board in a rural area is the pollution from farming, particularly from silage pits. So far, the balance on the boards has been such that the farmers have been prosecuted and told that they must drain their silage pits properly and not into burns or streams.

However, if the boards are overweighted with agricultural representatives, not only may that have an effect on the proper drainage of silage effluent, but it may also affect the licensing of the distribution of the water. Therefore, whatever pledge may have been given to whomever, I hope that steps will be taken to keep the balance, either with the reduction of time, or through the appointment by the Secretary of State of people not interested in agriculture if he believes that the existing boards are too heavily weighted with county council and other local authority representatives.

This is a good Bill, although it is not extremely important. I hope that my suggestions will go some way towards improving it by making it more complete and that this question of what is contiguous will be dealt with today, because it is more than a Committee point. It would be a great pity if a tenant farmer, or even an owner-occupier, who did not own the rights to the river were unable to use the water for the irrigation of his crops.

The hon. Member for Kilmarnock said that spray irrigation was for the improvement of agriculture. It undoubtedly is in some respects, but we should beware of trying to improve potatoes through irrigation.

Mr. T. Fraser

Farmers do.

Sir J. Duncan

I know that many people do and they may get extra tonnage, but if the hon. Gentleman reads last month's "Scottish Agriculture" he will find that many people doubt whether the keeping or tasting qualities of the potatoes are as good. If potatoes have to be kept through the winter and then sold in highly competitive markets against the new varieties which are coming along, it is not necessary in the interests of agriculture to have large crops of potatoes which will not keep.

The Bill can affect only a few parts of rivers when they come down to the alluvial part of the valley before entering the sea, but, with the suggestions that I have made, I think that we can make if a better Bill.

5.20 p.m.

Mr. Archie Manuel (Central Ayrshire)

I agree with much of what was said by the hon. Member for South Angus (Sir J. Duncan), but I have a higher regard for the Bill than he has. The hon. Gentleman said that it was a good Bill, but not a very important one. I think that it will be of considerable importance in some areas.

The hon. Gentleman said that many rivers would not be affected, and I agree with him about that, but many streams could be affected. As horticulture as well as farming come within the scope of spray irrigation, I think the hon. Gentleman will agree that in some areas the abstraction of water from streams could be a matter of major importance.

The Bill is entitled "Spray Irrigation (Scotland) Bill". Is it intended to cover merely irrigation? Is there to be a safeguard that nothing will be added to the water which is extracted for the purposes of spray irrigation? Will it be possible to add insecticides to control pests? If it will not be permissible to do that, I should like that written into the Bill. I agree that it will be extremely difficult to prevent people from adding chemicals to water abstracted for spray irrigation, but I think that something ought to be done to try to ensure that this cannot happen.

It is obvious that the Government have in mind the possibility of pollution, because one sees in the Bill a reference to the Rivers (Prevention of Pollution) (Scotland) Act, 1951, and the fact that the river purification boards are to have additional members. The hon. Member for South Angus probably has some idea of what the farmers think of this aspect of the Bill. Farmers do funny things, and they do not always tell everybody what they do. They sometimes use methods which are frowned on, and possible the hon. Gentleman could assist us on this matter. I am thinking about the angling interests when I say that we should not allow the addition of insecticides and so on to water withdrawn for spraying operations.

My hon. Friend the Member for Kilmarnock (Mr. Ross) was right when he said that the abstraction of water for spray irrigation was an important matter during periods of drought. We must ensure that during such periods no abstraction at all takes place. At the moment we are abstracting from many rivers and streams the maximum possible amount to provide adequate supplies of water for housing and industry. We must make certain that during periods of drought there is the strictest possible control to ensure that the water does not drop below a certain level.

I wish that the Bill had been brought forward at an earlier stage. It is ridiculous that a Measure of this importance has been brought forward in the last weeks of this Parliament. We are told that the Committee stage of the Bill is to be next Friday. Most hon. Members have engagements far in advance of a week, and this method of getting the Bill through is a negation of democracy. It is not good enough to allow us so short a time in which to put forward considered Amendments.

I should like to write into the Bill a provision that if farmers want to abstract water under licence—and we must realise that this licence is to cost only £5 a year—they must construct on their land a holding tank of a capacity to be decided by the Board. Water could then be abstracted when the river or stream was in spate, and stored for use during a period of drought, instead of being drawn off then, with the danger of the water level falling dangerously low. This provision would help the angling interests in Scotland, because already they suffer from the fact that far too much water is abstracted from our rivers and streams.

There is no worse sight than seeing a river drying up during a long drought. When it does, one gets a horrible smell from what should be a clean, clear, stretch of water. Fish die, and plant life is killed. If we claim that we are keen to promote tourism, we should take every possible step to ensure that we keep our streams, rivers, and lochs as clean and as full as possible. I suggest to the Joint Under-Secretary that one way in which we could do that would be to lay down in the Bill that, when the licence is granted small conservation points should be constructed, so that supplies could be taken for spray irrigation purposes from holding tanks on the farms. The farmers have plenty of money for that. We are giving them enough money each year to build hundreds of tanks. All that I am asking is that they should construct a few holding tanks.

I suggest that this proposal should be looked at where there are areas of drought. There may be areas where lack of abstraction by industries and towns make this unnecessary. I am not asking for this if the need is not there, but where the need is there we should make every effort to lay down safeguards for the conservation of water.

I do not see any safeguard in the Bill other than payment for a licence. Perhaps the P.P.S., who has been examining this and who will be watering, irrigating and spraying all over the vast areas on which he grows crops, would tell us: "Is it all for £5 down and do as you like?". Where people abstract water or get a water supply from the water authority, it goes through the meters and they have to pay for it. When people are paying for something they are more careful about using it. I am only saying that all users of water from a water authority pay for the water they use. If the water that it is proposed to abstract were not abstracted, it would go into the ownership of the water authority which could then relay it to customers and industries in the neighbourhood. In Ayrshire, we sell much water to I.C.I. and other industries, and all of it is metered.

I want to be certain that our rivers are kept clean. I should like to know if some addition will be made to the Bill in Committee by which the Government can make certain that where abstraction occurs if the water seeps back into a stream or river it will not cause pollution.

It would be an excellent step if the Joint Under-Secretary could assure us today whether a definite pledge has been made that the River Purification Board is to have added farmer representation and, if so, I would suggest that he ought to bring in angling interests. Would the Joint Under-Secretary consider whether the angling clubs affected should have representation on the Purification Board? It would be an excellent thing for the Board and for the areas where abstraction is taking place for spray irrigation if the angling clubs affected had the right to nominate from their membership one member to serve on the Board. That would be an added protection. We are all keen to keep our rivers and streams clean, and I think that we should endorse wholeheartedly any action along these lines that the Under-Secretary can take.

5.34 p.m.

Commander C. E. M. Donaldson (Roxburgh, Selkirk and Peebles)

I believe that on both sides of the House there is already full and general agreement that this is a Measure well worth while for Scotland. I agree with the hon. Member for Central Ayrshire (Mr. Manuel) that this is, however small, an important Measure. I am inclined in that respect to disagree with my hon. Friend the Member for South Angus (Sir J. Duncan), who has temporarily left the Chamber, when he said that it was not particularly important. I think that it is important. The Measure itself is important, and it is even more important for the future of Scotland that increasing consideration should be given to the conservation and purification of water in Scotland. As the Scottish nation grows in population, and its industries expand, the necessity for water will become increasingly important.

It is some considerable time ago—a matter of years—when the matter contained in this Bill was brought to my attention as a Member whose constituency covers a great proportion of the Tweed River. I noticed that the hon. Member for Kilmarnock (Mr. Ross), who opened the debate for the Opposition, referred to streams, but I am sure that he would not deny the Tweed as being a river, which, with all respect, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, passes through your constituency, but to which you are not allowed to make reference.

While this is important to other areas of Scotland, the proposals contained in this Measure may well have originated in the desire of the Tweed River Purification Board and other river boards in and about my constituency and elsewhere that something needs to be done. The hon. Member for Central Ayrshire said that this Measure was late in coming. I agree with him that it is. But now it is here and I think that this is the time to look forward to similar Measures in the future which will provide for the purification and conservation of water.

The hon. Member for Central Ayrshire suggested that it would well be within the compass of farmers to have on their farms water storage tanks. He is not a farmer and I am not a farmer, but we both have farms and farmers in our constituencies. When one considers the vast quantity of water required to deal with the requirements in the Bill for spray irrigation, it would be most unlikely that a series of farms could have the number of water tanks that would be effective. There would have to be a main catchment to conserve water for irrigation. That leads me to a rather dangerous point, and I shall watch the Chair, because I believe that in my area of south-east Scotland and the Tweed there are potentials for the catchment and saving of water in very large reservoirs by the expenditure of funds which will be available at those times of the year when water is scarce in the rivers.

I notice that you are becoming restive, Mr. Deputy-Speaker. I will not pursue this point further. I merely wanted to follow the remarks made by the hon. Member for Central Ayrshire.

Mr. Willis

The hon. and gallant Gentleman says that the farmers should not spend money on conserving water to irrigate their crops but that the public should.

Commander Donaldson

That is not what I have said. I had in mind something, but I must watch the occupant of the Chair when I say that if water is to be abstracted that might be done apart from the provisions of the Bill. If there were a financial aspect related to abstraction which could apply to those who build catchments for water to be used at times of scarcity that would be an advantage.

My hon. Friend the Member for South Angus made a reference to other matters contiguous to the waters of a stream, burn or river. I have with me a considerable amount of correspondence that has taken place between my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State of various organisations and persons, and part of that correspondence deals with this subject. I had occasion to write to my right hon. Friend as a result of a representation by the River Inspectors Association. His reply was that: The River Inspectors' third point related to the proposal that control should cover abstraction for spray irrigation from all sources other than public water supply mains. The suggestion made by the River Purification Boards Association about the control of boreholes"— a matter to which my hon. Friend the Member for South Angus referred— covers rather similar ground. One could not rule out altogether the possibility of a borehole being sunk within a few yards of a stream in favourable conditions for seepage of water from that stream, but our advice is that the construction of a borehole on this basis would not only be quite uneconomic but the quantities of water likely to be available would be totally inadequate for the purposes of spray irrigation. Those few boreholes which have been constructed could, in the areas where spray irrigation is developing, draw water from underground sources and the fact that such abstractions would be out with the Act would mean that the farmer concerned might well be challenged at common law over this abstraction of water. That is not in the Bill, but it is part of the answer to the question raised by the hon. Member for Central Ayrshire.

I have risen because I feel that as this was a matter of thought for so many in the south-east of Scotland, particularly in the counties which I represent, and for those in neighbouring counties—including you, Mr. Deputy-Speaker—we should welcome this. it does not go all the way to solving the problems of conservation and abstraction, and all the things to do with the water services of Scotland, but it is a first move, and as such it should be welcomed.

The hon. Member for Kilmarnock almost had crocodile tears in his eyes when he referred to the absence of the Secretary of State for Scotland.

Mr. Ross

I did not mention that.

Commander Donaldson

I understood that the hon. Member did.

Mr. Ross


Commander Donaldson

It has certainly been mentioned, but I will not pursue the matter further.

I welcome the Bill from the point of view of the interests not only of my constituents but of those in the surrounding areas. When the hon. Member for Central Ayrshire talks about farmers, he gives the impression that they are all men of substance, but in my three counties there are many who will not be encouraged one way or another by the Bill. However, many small farmers may benefit from its provisions.

The prime object of the Bill is not to say, "You chaps get together to extract water for spray irrigation," but to make clear that there will have to be licences in respect of the control of the supply of water and that an obligation will be placed not merely upon farmers but upon local authorities, including county councils, to have regard to the necessity for sewerage works and purification. That will be necessary if we are to have a sufficient quantity of water flowing.

5.47 p.m.

Mr. E. G. Willis (Edinburgh, East)

The Joint Under-Secretary need not have apologised for the absence of the Secretary of State, because he read his brief rather better than the Secretary of State reads his.

There has been some argument whether the Bill is a major or a trivial piece of legislation. As usual, the truth lies somewhere between the two. I believe that it is of some importance in two respects, and that it will become increasingly important. I refer to the question of pollution and conservation. Pollution will become increasingly important as the quantity of effluent being discharged into the rivers increases, and conservation will become increasingly important as the community generally consumes ever larger quantities of water.

Only a few years ago Edinburgh thought that its water problems had been solved by the Talla Reservoir. We used to boast about it. But now Edinburgh is faced with an expenditure of several million pounds on the supply of additional water. I understand that the obtaining of water is now becoming a pressing problem all over the world. We should not sit back and say, "We have plenty, and do not need to worry". We thought that a long time ago, but considering what has happened to some Scottish streams even since the war we must have some concern about water conservation.

Commander Donaldson

The hon. Member has referred to Talla, which is in my constituency. I agree that that was the situation. I understand that there is a stream contiguous to my constituency to which the Edinburgh Corporation is now looking for further supplies, probably in Selkirkshire. By taking feed water, Edinburgh would be helped as well as the Tweed Valley.

Mr. Willis

I only point out that what was considered an ample water supply a mere twenty years ago has now become a totally inadequate supply, although there has been little increase in population. Every person in this country is responsible for using two, three, four, five and six times as much water as a person used years ago.

Mr. Manuel

I have gone into this matter at some length, and I find that much of the increase is due to the fact that thousands of occupants of municipal houses now have baths installed in the houses and more extensive facilities for washing than they have ever had before. Previously they were the "great unwashed". Now they have proper water supplies.

Commander Donaldson

And all under a Tory Government.

Mr. Willis

I am not disputing what are the causes. I am pointing out that it is happening on a vast scale, not simply as a result of a greater number of baths being provided. Cars are being washed and water used for gardens. The result is that water supplies are inadequate. Industry uses vast quantities of water, much more than in the past. We must recognise that this is one of the problems which faces us. It is a problem which confronts Glasgow as well as Edinburgh, and in respect of Edinburgh millions of pounds will have to spent in the constituency of the hon. and gallant Member for Roxburgh, Selkirk and Peebles (Commander Donaldson).

My right hon. Friend the Member for Clackmannan and East Stirlingshire (Mr. Woodburn) referred to pollution. I have a river in my constituency about which I ask Questions regularly. At one time people caught salmon there, but now nothing comes up the river. The last salmon gave itself up in disgust to a wee boy with a pin. There is nothing now in the Esk. Despite the fact that local authorities in the area have undertaken a large-scale sewerage scheme, the river still smells at times and people object. They ask whether the authority responsible for river purification has sufficient power to deal with the matter. A problem arises in connection with the expenditure involved.

Both pollution and conservation are matters of importance, and so I think that this Bill is important. If we permit the extraction of large quantities of water we shall increase the degree of pollution. If we extract large quantities of water we shall affect the amount of water available. Representations which I have received from river inspectors indicate that water used for spray irrigation evaporates or is soaked up by the earth and does not return to the stream. In this way the levels of water in an area are affected.

If pollution results from uncontrolled extraction of water, it poses a question which ought to be settled in other ways than by putting additional representatives of agricultural interests on the river purification boards. It seems to me that this should be the concern of other people. If there is a considerable extraction of water from the River Esk above the town of Musselburgh, or Dalkeith, and a degree of pollution results, it is not the farmers upstream who suffer but the good residents of Musselburgh. They have to put up with the smell and the intolerable conditions. I cannot understand what the Government mean when they talk about increasing the agricultural interests on these boards. Why should we do that? They are already represented. Surely those people who represent the agricultural interests know something about spray irrigation? Why should we suddenly increase the agricultural interest?

I do not know what pressures were put on the Government, but I imagine that they came from the Scottish landowners. That is the most effective form of pressure which is ever brought to bear on a Tory Government. As soon as the Scottish landowners raise their heads the Government—at least a Tory Government—are on their knees. I was charmed by the manner in which the Under-Secretary of State read his brief, but I was amazed at the manner in which he tried to explain this point. He said that we have agreed that there should be added agricultural interests, without in any way disturbing the balance of the Committee.

Mr. G. Campbell indicated assent.

Mr. Willis

The hon. Gentleman nods his head in agreement, but how can we increase the agricultural interest without changing the balance of the Committee?

Mr. Campbell

I was proposing to explain that later at greater length, but I can say now that it can be done by also adding representatives of other interests.

Mr. Willis

It is difficult to see what is achieved by that. What is the result? Only that we have a bigger committee.

Mr. Ross

We shall probably find that all the members are farmers.

Mr. Willis

I do not know whether a bigger committee is more capable of looking after things than a small committee. I should feel more inclined to accept a smaller committee. Members of a bigger committee might not bother to attend the committee meetings. They might say, "I have not the time to attend a committee meeting this afternoon, there will be plenty of others present". The attendance will be smaller, therefore, and less interest will be taken in the work. A smaller committee would be preferable. To increase agricultural interests in order to add other interests seems to me to be fruitless.

The Government representatives receive powerful representations from hon. Gentlemen sitting behind them—the land-owning interests and the farmers—that there should be a greater representation. The Government promised the farmers a greater representation on the boards—

The Earl of Dalkeith (Edinburgh, North)

I have noticed an increasing tendency on the part of hon. Members opposite—whenever they run short of something worth while to say—to start taking a rise out of the wretched Parliamentary Private Secretary, whose ability to take part in the debate is limited. I make no representations on behalf of those such as myself, or farmers who may be interested in this issue. I think this a very good Bill.

Mr. Willis

I was talking about the Scottish landed interests. I think it was a fair comment. The hon. Member for Edinburgh, North (The Earl of Dalkeith) is one—he is one of the very large ones. I suggest that the Scottish landed interests brought pressure to bear on the Government—not the hon. Gentleman but the Scottish Landowners' Association, which represents those interests. That is all it exists to do, and it would not be doing its job if it did not represent those interests. I do not blame them, for that is why they exist. I blame us for allowing these interests to continue for so long and to have such great power. I do not blame the hon. Gentleman but those who allow this.

What do the Government expect to achieve by increasing the size of the committees? In spite of what the Under-Secretary said, he has to confess that there will be no change at all in the actual balance on a committee. Already those committees have 15 members. That is not a bad number if a committee is to work rather than to be merely consultative. I was rather disappointed about these additional agricultural interests, but having heard the hon. Gentleman's explanation that there is nothing in it and that other people will be put on the committees, I see that there will be no change, and I do not understand why it is being done.

I tried to trace this Bill as it went through in another place to find what happened to some of the representations made by river inspectors. I understand that they made certain representations, and it seems that some of them have been met. The first concerned extraction of water from subterranean sources. In spite of the letter which the hon. and gallant Member for Roxburgh, Selkirk and Peebles received from the Secretary of State, we would be assisted if the Under-Secretary could make a statement about this. There is some concern about it. Simply to have the matter referred to in a letter sent to the hon. and gallant Member is not good enough. I should like the Under-Secretary to give us some information about this. Are the river inspectors right in fearing that the Bill does not go far enough? If the hon. Gentleman thinks mat the river inspectors are wrong, will he give his reasons for thinking they are wrong?

Another point concerns the time for granting licences by the Board. I understand that in another place this was altered from a fortnight to a month. It seems that the point has been met. I would not have raised these points during the Second Reading had it not been for the fact that the Government place us in an awkward position by rushing Bills through other stages on Fridays. It is difficult to find time to discuss them in Committee. It would, therefore, help if the Under-Secretary said something on these points today.

The original paragraph 3 of the Schedule said mat a copy of the notice with a copy of the application and any relevant plan had to be sent to every person known to the river purification board to have any interest in any land to which the control order applied. This was objected to as it was considered impossible to carry it out. Am I correct in assuming that the matter has now been dealt with in another place and that if the board find that they cannot comply certain steps will be taken to meet the position?

I had no intention of occupying all this time, but I got led into one or two little byways, as often happens in Scottish debates. The problem is that byways are so often more pleasant than main roads. I think that the Bill is a good one and will be useful. We have to recognise that these are growing problems. They are important now and may become worse. It is much better to tackle them early than to allow them to get into a position to cause very serious damage.

6.6 p.m.

Mr. A. Woodburn (Clackmannan and East Stirlingshire)

I apologise for having to leave the House for a few minutes during this debate. As my hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh, East (Mr. Willis) said, I have had a great deal to do with these problems and I am interested in their solution.

I welcome the Bill as a small contribution to tackling the problems, but they cannot be tackled adequately until the whole of our water supply system is dealt with in a proper way. It is tragic to find local authorities, as it were, scrambling over the mountains to find places where they can establish reservoirs and competing with each other for the use of streams. This system has to be brought into some sort of order sooner or later. When we were passing legislation to deal with drainage it was seen that in this problem we should plan in a businesslike fashion. Hon. Members will know of the steps we took to drain hillsides. That seemed a wonderful contribution and, as a result, we recovered much agricultural land and mountain pastures. But the net result was that when floods came, instead of the water being held in the hills and undrained, it rushed down into the rivers which flooded and swamped more good land than we had recovered. These things cannot be dealt with in isolation.

Although I welcome the Bill for what it does in regard to small streams, I wish to ask about the position over reservoirs. When they are built the law provides for compensation water so that the water can go down from the reservoirs to the sea. How far would these streams be invaded by this kind of reservation? That is a point which must be looked into. The question of irrigation will become of increasing importance. I have seen what happens in the French irrigation scheme, which in a way is one of the wonders of the world. The French have used their great River Rhone, not only to provide for basic load electricity, but for an irrigation scheme which has turned the whole Camargue and Marseilles area from a bog into fertile land irrigated by pipes. The fertilisation is controlled by the pipes going to crops, and they have turned what was a bog into a great fruit garden. They are training people to manage it. They are growing crops which they have not grown before, and it has been a remarkable development.

In addition, they have used the power of the stream to take water to areas in which there was sun but never water, and they have been able to irrigate areas of high land and to bring whole areas into cultivation. I understand that it was the inspiration of the Mississippi scheme in America which led to this work. The work in France is being done by the State. Hon. Members opposite may be disappointed to know this, but it is the kind of planning which can be done only by the community. It is worked by people who are giving their lives to this kind of work, and the results have been fantastic. Anyone who has an opportunity of seeing it should take that opportunity.

Scotland needs to do something of this kind, because although there is a scarcity of water developing, millions and millions of gallons run to waste down the rivers at times when water is plentiful. Hydro-electricity is doing something to preserve this water, and atomic energy and pumped storage will recover some of the water and use it over and over again. I agree that subterranean sources can provide a considerable amount of water. The flooded pits of Lanarkshire, which have tremendous quantities of water, are being drawn on for industrial purposes, as should be the case.

Moreover, with atomic energy there is bound to be a great deal of surplus energy during the night—energy which cannot be used. In the Far East and elsewhere we see methods of converting seawater into fresh water. All this provides the opportunity to take water to the right place with energy which might other-wise be lost. We could use that energy and the heat available to turn our land into a much more fertile and beautiful land. Quite near the constituency of my hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh, East, or in it, is one of the most adventurous horticulturists perhaps in the world. Certainly he is not surpassed in his ideas. He can produce vegetables in the early part of the year by spraying, by cover to keep out the frosts, and by the use of a certain amount of heat. He has indicated what is possible. He was not afraid of the Common Market because he saw in it a great opportunity for marketing his vegetables.

At one time he had the idea, which I tried to encourage—I was disappointed when it did not come off—of going to the softer climate of Argyllshire, where there is never any scarcity of water, where there is warmth and good soil, and trying to provide early vegetables for Glasgow and the West Coast. I am sure that this could be done. If Sir David Low, who is building up the town of Livingstone, were called upon by the Government to tell them how to do it, I am sure that he could show them how to use the Bill to develop irrigation in the west of Scotland—not to flood the land when it does not need water, but to conserve the water and to use it on the land when it is required. I am sure that if this could be combined with proper fertilisers, the West Coast could be a great producer of food. In some parts it can grow palms. It seems to me that with a climate like that there is no reason why the land should not be properly used.

But it must be part of a national plan. Politics apart, there is only one sensible way to do it, and that is to bring the water supplies of the country into a great national plan. I understand that when we come to power it will be the policy of the Labour Party to do this. This is not an easy matter because it involves, as the hon. and gallant Member for Roxburgh, Selkirk and Peebles (Commander Donaldson) said, there are problems of drainage, sewerage, fresh water, evaporation and many other problems. It cannot be done easily.

I agree that interests must be consulted, but the point is that interests are not the executive power. They are the consultative power. Our objection is not to the farmer or even the landowner being consulted. One might even take the butcher's advice when dealing with vegetarianism, but one does not necessarily put butchers on the body to control the propaganda for vegetarianism. One might as well say that cigarette manufacturers should be put on a committee to see whether anything should be done to stop people smoking because of the danger of lung cancer. It is in their interests to do so, but they are unlikely to be missionaries in a campaign to stop people smoking cigarettes. We found this with the purification board. People were there not to get things done but to prevent them from being done, in some cases because it would cost them a great deal of money.

This is important because the cost of purification is sometimes greater than the benefits which would come from it. All this must be taken into account. I wish that the Government would bear this principle in mind—that experts should be on tap and not on top. The people who should be there are those who judge in the public interest, and they should take everything into account just as the Government do when preparing a Bill. As the board is created, with too many people who do not want things done, the Government are apt to tie their own hands from the point of view of the success of the Bill. I hope that they will keep this in mind when appointing these people. If they are to appoint people of this kind they should consider the principle of setting a thief to catch a thief, but they should not have vested interests appointed who will simply prevent things from being done.

We have this legislation—a little bit on drainage, a little bit of control here, and a little bit of building there. The Department should get down to the fundamental problem of what is to be the future of our water supplies. As my hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh, East said, we must think of this years in advance. It was 20 years in advance when Talla was made, when they thought that Edinburgh would never need any more water. We have all these advertisements about soap and washing whiter than white. A tremendous amount of water is bound to be used. Cleanliness is said to be next to godliness, and there is bound to be considerable increase in the use of water.

I hope that the Government realise that this is only a small part of a very big problem which will not be solved until there is some authority which has at least a guiding control over what happens to the water when it falls on the hillside and flows down to the sea. We may have to pump it back. We may have to create fresh water from the sea. It may be used for hydro-electric power, we may have reservoirs and all kinds of things. But the water must not be wasted. We should not allow it simply to run into the sea when there is plenty of it if the result is that water is not plentiful when it is needed. I therefore believe that the Government should have a comprehensive plan which will embrace the supply of water generally. Up to that point I welcome the Bill as one small candle in lighting up this great problem.

6.19 p.m.

Mr. G. Campbell

With the leave of the House, I should be glad to answer some of the points raised during the debate. AU hon. Members have drawn attention to various aspects of the need for conservation and purification in certain areas of Scotland. The right hon. Member for Clackmannan and East Stirlingshire (Mr. Woodburn) has had great experience of these matters, and I was most interested to hear some of the problems which he mentioned and some of his suggestions. What the hon. Member for Kilmarnock (Mr. Ross) said at the beginning, and what has been echoed by other hon. Members, shows that the Measure is necessary.

I should like to underline again that when the Bill, as we hope, is approved and enacted the position will be open for applications for control orders to be made. It is only in the areas where control orders subsequently become effective that licensing will be necessary. In the large majority of the areas of Scotland we do not expect licensing to be necessary.

I should like to deal with the points on representation on the boards at greater length than I could in reply to interventions. As I mentioned to the hon. Member for Edinburgh, East (Mr. Willis), the intention is that there should be added representation for agricultural interests but that at the same time the balance between the interest should be maintained, so that other new members may also be added. This could be done under the 1951 Act by the Secretary of State and he would consider the composition of each board at the time that a control order was coming into effect and the position required his attention.

The hon. Member for Edinburgh, East asked what it should be necessary to make the boards larger in this way. It is for the simple sort of reasons which I am sure would occur to him and other hon. Members. If, for example, there are only two members representing agricultural interests on the board and these important questions of spray irrigation came up it could be that through illness or other reasons outwith the control of the members concerned only one—or indeed neither—might be present. We feel that an increase in the representation of other interests would not be detrimental to the boards. It would mean that at any meeting when these questions came up there would be more certainty that the various representatives would be attending and expressing their views. Many hon. Members have represented that this is a matter of balancing interests including, for example, as the hon. Member for Central Ayrshire (Mr. Manuel) said, angling interests in contrast to farming interests.

Mr. Ross

The hon. Gentleman will appreciate that the same difficulty arises with all the other interests. Their representatives might not be able to attend but if he adds representatives of all interests there will be tremendously big boards.

Mr. Gordon Walker (Smethwick)

A Grand Committee.

Mr. Campbell

It is not the intention to appoint what the right hon. Gentleman calls a Grand Committee. It would be simply a matter of adding a small number and increasing membership to balance the interests. To increase the number representing agricultural and other interests would make it much more probable that the other members would be able to attend the meeting as well. I do not think that hon. Members can object to this. I have explained that the point is not to increase relative to the other interests the agricultural interests so that they might be considered to be over-weighted.

The hon. Member for Kilmarnock spoke of there being no right to take water. The legal position is that a riparian occupier has a common law right to take water for certain primary uses. I did not say that a farmer abstracting water, if he were a riparian owner, had no right. I said that if he was taking large quantities it was open to doubt whether he had the right and therefore we are trying in the Bill to improve on the position and remove doubts. The hon. Member thought that a £50 penalty too little, and I would point out that there is also the penalty of the revocation of the licence which is a valuable licence for the holder.

My bon. Friend the Member for South Angus (Sir J. Duncan) asked me about the meaning of the word "contiguous". He gave as an example the farmer who might be separated from the water of the river by a narrow strip owned by a fishing interest. I can only help by saying that we have looked into this possibility to see whether special provision should be made for this kind of case.

Firstly, situations of this sort seem likely to be infrequent in the areas most affected now by abstraction for spray irrigation. I recognise, nevertheless, that such a situation could arise. The basic legal point, as I have indicated, is the common law right of a riparian proprietor to take water for certain purposes. The non-riparian proprietor has no such right and therefore a person whose land is separated from a river, by no matter how narrow a strip, does not appear to have a common law right.

After careful examination we have reached the conclusion that to try to change the law in this respect, or to make exceptions for non-riparians, would lead to confusing anomalies. If a strip of five yards were excepted, why not 25 yards or 100 yards? However, if a farmer whose land is separated from a stream by a narrow strip of land should become interested in installing spray irrigation equipment, he could try to purchase back a short part of the riverside strip and thus become the owner of land contiguous to a stream and entitled to apply for a licence, but I recognise that he might be unsuccessful in this attempt. We understand that "contiguous" means the land actually washed by the waters of the stream or river.

I have explained the legal position and this is all I can do to help my hon. Friend. I know that it does not do what he was hoping for, but nevertheless I think that it is the most helpful thing that I can do, because it makes the legal position clear to anybody who finds himself in this position.

My hon. Friend also raised the question of boreholes, as did my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Roxburgh, Selkirk and Peebles (Commander Donaldson). First, he asked about the word "localities". I should explain that it is used because there may be areas where it is far too complicated to try and follow the whole network of small watercourses and streams and much easier to designate an area.

I can confirm that the best technical advice available to me is that the construction of boreholes for the purpose of obtaining supplies of water from a river bed by means of seepage would not only be quite uneconomic but that the quantities of water so obtained would be totally inadequate for spray irrigation. The amount would be so small as to be of limited value.

The question arises whether boreholes should be included in the scope of the Bill. Few boreholes have been sunk in Scotland for spray irrigation and those draw their supplies from underground strata. As I have indicated, it is most unlikely that a borehole could draw water in sufficient quantity for irrigation. Normally the water is pumped into a pond and from the pond, in due course, it is sprayed on the land. It is our intention therefore that boreholes should not come within the scope of the Bill.

We shall consider whether this should be made absolutely clear by an Amendment. If we think that this is necessary or desirable we propose to table an appropriate Amendment in Committee. I think that this will help farmers, because farmers who can at the moment sink boreholes on their land and obtain water from the strata below without in any way interfering with the flow of streams will be happier to think that they can do that without being involved in the licensing procedure of the Bill. Secondly, as we have agreed during the debate, the purpose of the Bill is to deal with the flow in streams and not to go into the question of wells and strata.

Mr. Willis

I understand the force of the hon. Gentleman's argument, but whether a borehole near a stream would take a large seepage would depend upon the nature of the strata. Although in many cases it might not take very much, it is conceivable that it might well take a great deal. It was the river inspectors themselves who were concerned about it, and they are by no means ignorant.

Mr. Campbell

Yes, this was an important point which they raised, and it enabled us to go very carefully into the technical and geological considerations. As a result of our investigations, I can state categorically that boreholes are very unlikely to affect the flow of streams and that farmers are much more likely to be embarrassed if we bring them within the scope of the Bill than if we exclude them. Of course, if the findings had been otherwise, we should have had to bring them in.

The hon. Member for Central Ayrshire asked about the addition of chemicals or insecticides. This is not likely to be a technique used in spray irrigation. It is certainly not at present, and it is most unlikely to be. Moreover, as the hon. Member for Edinburgh, East pointed out, one of the attributes of spray irrigation is that the liquid does not return to the stream.

The hon. Member for Central Ayrshire asked about storage tanks. If water is abstracted from a river and placed in a storage tank for the purposes of spray irrigation, it will fall within the scope of the Bill. Under the agricultural water supplies scheme of 1937, it is possible for farmers to obtain a 50 per cent. grant for such storage tanks. I imagine that the boards are likely to favour applications which include such tanks or ponds because, obviously, their use will assist the conservation of water. The hon. Gentleman asked also about fishing interests. Most of the boards have at least two members representing such interests. I know that the board he is thinking of has only one, although some of the members have a dual interest. We shall take account of the point which he made about that.

In reply to the hon. Member for Edinburgh, East, I can confirm that both Amendments dealing with the points he raised were made in another place. The second one is in the form of the proviso added at the end of paragraph 3 of the Schedule.

The hon. Member for Kilmarnock made three general points. First, he asked about water policy. We recognise the importance of a water policy as a whole. Important steps to reorganise water services for Scotland, and for Ayrshire in particular, are in hand. My right hon. Friend regards the positive encouragement of purification—the hon. Gentleman's second point—as extremely important.

The hon. Gentleman's third point was on the quality of the boards. I can assure him that my right hon. Friend recognises the need to have very high-quality representatives on river purification boards. So far as it lies within his power, he will assist to that end.

Question put and agreed to.

Bill accordingly read a Second time.

Bill committed to a Committee of the whole House.—[Mr. Hughes-Young.]

Committee Tomorrow.