§ Order for consideration, as amended, read.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, That the Bill, as amended, be now considered.
§ 7.10 p.m.
§ Mr. Marcus Kimball (Gainsborough)
I beg to move, to leave out from "That" to the end of the Question and to add instead thereof:this House declines to consider a Bill which would involve irreparable harm to a unique area of international scientific importance, fails to have regard to the proper long-term planning for the water requirements of the area, and is contrary to the declared advice of the Nature Conservancy and the National Parks Commission.This Amendment seeks to reject the Tees Valley and Cleveland Water Bill. It is a Bill which would authorise the Tees Valley and Cleveland Water Board to construct a river regulating reservoir in the area which is know as Cow Green. My hon. Friends and myself are asking the House to reject this Bill for three specific reasons.
The first is that if this reservoir is constructed it will destroy a unique area of international scientific importance. Secondly, this crisis has only arisen, together with the danger it brings to this unique area, because of the lack of long-term planning for the water resources and needs of the area. The Bill is contrary to the advice of the Nature Conservancy and of the National Parks Commission.
In asking the House to reject this Bill, I am not asking it to do something which has never been done before. In one case the House threw out the Mersey Docks and Harbours Bill after it had been to a Committee. I also want to make it clear that there is no reflection at all on the Committee which did such a thorough job of work on this Bill. The point is that the Committee had only a limited amount of evidence available. Since the Committee found the Long Title of the Bill proved, most disturbing geological evidence has come to light. There is a need for further exploratory borings in the field above Cow Green, and there 1980 is the problem which only came up in the last day of Committee—and this is what is so disturbing—of the whole question of grouting and the damage that this will cause.
My hon. Friend the Member for Norfolk, South-West (Mr. Hawkins) will deal in detail with this point if he should catch your eye, Mr. Speaker. Another reason why I am asking the House to reject this Bill is quite simply because we have this unique feature of one hon. Member of this Committee, the hon. Member for Norfolk, South-West, who has sat through the Committee and heard all the evidence and who has now signed the Amendment asking the House to reject the Bill. There is no doubt that the site is unique from a botanical and nature conservancy point of view. The site was recommended as a special conservation area by the Wild Life Conservation Special Committee in Cmnd. 7122. It is true that in the early stages of the negotiations over this Bill the Nature Conservancy had hoped to make some sort of compromise with the promoters. That hope was based on a false understanding of what the Bill would involve. There is no doubt that this reservoir, if it goes ahead, will destroy a complex community of plants, and whatever may be said there are no similar communities in the Western world at the moment.
This community is quite irreplaceable, and every botanist in the United Kingdom and in Europe subscribes to this view. It was proved, and put in a letter to The Times, signed by Peter Scott, at the beginning of this controversy. The Senior Scientific Officer at Kew said that this Bill, if it went through, was:An act of scientific vandalism, unparalleled since the scientific conservation movement began.The implications of Teesdale go far wider. If a highly developed and sophisticated country such as Great Britain is seen to act in this way, what an example we are setting to the underdeveloped countries.
Properly planned conservation and the proper use of natural resources is desperately important to them. If the Duke of Edinburgh's Study Conference on the Countryside in 1970 means anything, it means that Teesdale must be saved. Perhaps it would be unfair to 1981 comment that I was on that Study Conference, and the chairman of my working party who said that greater protection was needed for sites of special scientific interest was none other than Lord Beeching. It is quite true that Imperial Chemical Industries have offered £100,000 to make an extra programme of crash scientific research on this site. This means nothing because research done today can be out of date in the next century.
We had the problem in this House when we could not prove a particular disease because the only evidence was research done on it in 1881. There is a possibility that if the research continues on this site we shall add very considerably to our knowledge of what the flora and fauna of this country were like in the past 10,000 and 15,000 years. The House may say that if this is such an important site, why was it not in the National Nature Reserve; why is it only scheduled as an S.S.S.I.? The original intention of the Water Board was not to come back for a Further area of land until 1983. I contend that the Nature Conservancy was quite in order in thinking that the site which was scheduled as an S.S.S.I. and not in the nature reserve had sufficient protection.
I hope that when my hon. Friend the Member for Crosby (Mr. Graham Page) on the Front Bench makes an intervention in this debate he will give some encouragement to the naturalists and botanists by assuring us that when our party is in power we will take action to strengthen protection under the S.S.S.I. agreements. I know that it will be said that this is only a small area—20 acres out of 170 acres which are to be flooded. But it is the most important bit. My hon. Friends will seek to show from the evidence given to the Committee that a reservoir in the area will change the whole environment of the valley. One of the difficulties in the Bill, which I think was faced by the Committee, is that scientists are very bad at giving evidence to Parliamentary Committees. They will not say what they think will happen, they will only say what will happen if it has been proved. Most of us who are not exact scientists know that if one puts a reservoir in an area one changes the whole botanical aspects of the area. One has only to look at existing reservoirs 1982 to see that that has happened. Having said that about the scientists and botanists, I would like to place on record my endless admiration and the admiration of my hon. and right hon. Friends for the magnificent work done by the small Botanical Society of the British Isles in bringing this Bill before the House—in taking on the Goliath of I.C.I. on this important issue.
I said earlier that the situation would not have arisen had there been proper long-term planning for the needs of the area. This point was made, interestingly and well, today in the leading article of The Guardian. I was a member of the Private Bill Committee which in 1959 allowed the Baldor Head Scheme to go ahead on the firm understanding that the water board had stated its requirements as far ahead as 1983. In fact, it now appears that the water board has grossly under-estimated its requirements. This unsatisfactory solution arises because of the financial arrangements under which this water board works. The consumers pay a substantial sum towards the capital costs of any new works. If the board plans realistically for the future, then the capital costs are going to be a great deal higher. It is significant that in Day 4 of the evidence before the Committee, on page 68, it came out that pays 1s. 1d. per 1,000 gallons for its water against a national average of 3s. If this scheme were to go ahead—and I trust it is not going to—the figures produced by the Minister of Housing and Local Government and the Water Resources Board, as against the water board, make clear that it will only meet the estimated demand in Teesdale from four to ten years from completion; and it will still be necessary to face up to the long-term needs of this area.
The House should look for a moment at the alternative possibilities. From the Nature Conservancy point of view—and without getting involved in the argument about the use of good arable farmland—may I say straight away that a reservoir further up the river, higher in Teesdale, would be quite acceptable and the Nature Conservancy would be prepared to allow some of the Moorhouse Nature Reserve to be used in exchange for saving this important site. We cannot take seriously the argument about the costs in the promoters' case, because they do not know 1983 what the true cost will be, what the true geology will be found to be, or what the cost of grouting will be.
The House must also face the fact that in this country we have a great interest in the conservation movement. May I say, representing an agricultural constituency, one may find reasons for having to put nature conservancy interests and the interests of others living in towns ahead of the agricultural industry's interests in the next few years. This was brought home to me in my constituency when agriculture destroyed Waddingham Common, one of the most important sites in that part of Lincolnshire.
As a countryman and as one with a deep interest in the subject and a love of nature, can I say to the House simply that this is the most important conservation issue that has ever come before the House of Commons, ever since this House recognised that conservation was important and hon. Members opposite passed the National Parks Act in 1949. If a stand is not taken on this issue no single other area in the country is safe. If we do not reject this Bill tonight we shall be setting an appalling precedent for the rest of the countryside and I sincerely hope the House will reject it.
§ 7.23 p.m.
§ Mr. Timothy Kitson (Richmond, Yorks)
I am grateful for the opportunity to speak in this debate, but I must say straight away that I feel that our procedural arrangements are wrong. It would be much more satisfactory if we debated a Bill in the House before it was sent upstairs for the Select Committee to consider. Then at least the promoters of the Bill, if it were defeated in the House of Commons, would not have to go to the considerable expense and time of putting their evidence before a Select Committee. Whether we are in favour of or opposed to a Bill, I believe most hon. Members would agree with that.
I had hoped originally that I should not have to get heavily involved one way or the other with regard to this Bill, because over the years I have a large number of problems in my constituency with the Tees Valley and Cleveland Water Board. But I felt that the arguments for and against the Bill were so strong and were involving my constituency so heavily that 1984 I would have to speak in support of the Bill.
We must bear all the problems and alternatives in mind when we consider this Bill this evening. My main fear, if the Cow Green reservoir scheme is defeated, is that the possible alternative of a reservoir at Middleton would have a very serious effect on many of my constituents who farm in that area.
During the inquiry by the Select Committee and in the House this evening criticism has been made of Imperial Chemical Industries for not recognising much earlier the need for a substantial increase in its water requirements. When the last Tees Valley and Cleveland Water Bill came before the House it was strongly pointed out by the Select Committee that future plans for reservoirs in the area would not be considered favourably by Parliament.
Since then there has been tremendous expansion on Tees-side. The I.C.I. new steam reforming process for the conversion of naptha into ammonia and fertilisers, the substantial increase in demand for man-made fibres with the potentialities for export, new types of fertiliser and major developments in the plastics industry, with other advances in chemical technology have led to a substantial increase in the demand for water.
I.C.I. has asked the Tees Valley and Cleveland Water Board to supply an additional 25 million gallons of water a day by 1970 and another 10 million gallons of water are required by Dorman Long, the Shell Refinery Company, Industrial Estates Management and domestic consumers. I.C.I. has already launched into a substantial development programme which will produce many more jobs on Tees-side, and there is no doubt that, if the organisation is to complete its development programme, a new reservoir will have to be constructed in the area. When one remembers that the Hailsham Plan was largely responsible for encouraging I.C.I. to extend its development programme on Tees-side, and bearing in mind the high unemployment figures we had not many years ago in this area, we must try to do everything possible to continue industrial expansion on Tees-side.
There are three possible alternatives. First, there is the reservoir at Upper 1985 Cow Green which the hon. Member for Gainsborough (Mr. Kimball) mentioned. As he rightly says, this area has not as yet been surveyed, but one of the problems facing industry on Tees-side is the need that will exist for water in the early 1970s. If the Upper Cow Green project was to be pursued it would probably take another three years before the reservoir was developed. No survey has yet been done. I would cost in the region of an additional £5 million. Also, it should be remembered that Upper Cow Green would probably be capable of holding as a reservoir and supplying only 27 million gallons as day, as against the 35 million gallons a day which will be possible at Cow Green. Then there is the third suggestion of a reservoir at Middleton-in-Teesdale. This would destroy many agricultural holdings in the area and certainly would have a harmful effect on the town of Middleton.
If I may refer to the evidence given to the Committee by the County Secretary of the National Farmers' Union, Mr. Stan Jones, he pointed out that the area of land at Cow Green supports only about 500 sheep for summer grazing, whereas the site at Middleton-in-Teesdale would flood about 1,300 acres of land, 200 acres of pasture and about 1,100 acres of first-class meadow-land. This would also affect the grazing rights on about 500 more acres, because the lowland helps to keep during the winter the flocks that run on the moors higher up the dale. This would affect 39 holdings, 20 of which would be totally submerged; and about 30 farmers would lose their livelihood. The compensation for tenant farmers which the Tees Valley and Cleveland Water Board made in respect of Balderhead in the same district was inadequate to get many of the people affected reinstated in farming. Certainly the position of tenant farmers was quite hopeless.
Therefore, the other alternative is bore holes. The reports suggest that the total amount of water available by the early 1970s through bore holes would he no more than 6 million gallons a day. Therefore, I think that we have to rule that out.
I know the area fairly well and I feel that the reservoir would not spoil the natural beauty of the area. But, at the same time—and this is most unfortunate—there is the problem of the flora in 1986 the Cow Green area. What my hon. Friend the Member for Gainsborough did not point out was that of the 300 acres around the Widdybank area, where one finds the viola rupestris, only 17 will be affected. I.C.I. has offered £100,000 to the Nature Conservancy which could do a great deal of help the research work in the area.
§ Sir David Renton (Huntingdonshire)
I am sure that my hon. Friend realises that the purpose of that £100,000 would be merely to study the existing vegetation before it was flooded.
§ Mr. Kitson
I was pointing out that only 17 out of 300 acres where there is flora are to be flooded. The whole area is not to be flooded and the whole flora structure is not to be lost.
Botanists all over the world consider this area to be unique. However, I refer my hon. Friend the Member for Gainsborough to the evidence given by Dr. Arthur Stoker Thomas, who is a Fellow of the Institute of Biology, because he did not seem to hold these views when I heard his evidence. I.C.I. employs 31,000 people on Tees-side, and, with this substantial development programme under construction, there is no doubt that a reservoir will have to be provided from one of these three possibilities
The water board is to take the water from the reservoir down the Tees to Croft where it is intended to put a weir across the river. This was the subject of an inquiry at Northallerton only yesterday. I hope that we shall have assurances from the Government that the flow of water between Croft and Low Worsall will not be substantially reduced. I understand that it is the river board's intention to instruct the water board to allow a flow of 15 million gallons a day over this weir. I hope that the Northumbrian River Authority will determine a minimum acceptable flow for this stretch of the river and take all possible steps to improve it.
To sum up, we have to weigh up the evidence given to the Committee. If industrial expansion on Tees-side is to go ahead, a reservoir in the area is essential. I hope that hon. Members, when they vote tonight, will bear in mind that if the Bill is rejected probably 40 or 50 of my constituents will lose their farming jobs in the next five years.
1987 Two other points have been raised about the Cow Green reservoir. It may not be fully appreciated that the water board, through its consulting engineer, made a very early approach in 1964 to the Nature Conservancy. The consultant discussed 17 sites with the Conservancy in order to get its reaction to them. The then director of the Nature Conservancy wrote in a letter on 23rd October, 1964, to the consultant that the Cow Green site would be most unlikely to be objected to by the Nature Conservancy. Since then, the opposition to the Bill has built up.
Another point which is being discussed is the additional borings which have been taken at Cow Green. This has been done by the promoters to refute evidence and criticism that there is the possibility of this area not being suitable for a reservoir. These additional borings have been sunk to prove their point and to demonstrate that the geological construction of the area is suitable for a reservoir.
§ Mr. Paul Hawkins (Norfolk, South-West)
Would not my hon. Friend agree, however, that additional borings are still being made because the board's engineers are not satisfied with their previous evidence? In other words, the evidence given to the Committee was not complete.
§ Mr. Kitson
This is not the information which I have had from them. These additional five borings have been made to allay any suspicions voiced during the inquiry.
Although I have not been a great friend of the Tees Valley and Cleveland Water Board, I hope that the House will not reject its Bill.
§ 7.37 p.m.
§ Mr. Gerry Fowler (The Wrekin)
I have a particular interest in this area because my family origins lie in it. Teesdale, the name of the river valley, is my mother's maiden name and my middle name. Therefore, I feel that I should speak in the debate.
County Durham is a naturally very beautiful county, but, alas, the eastern half of it has been ruined in appearance by two centuries of industrial development and spoliation. However, the west of the county remains a singularly 1988 beautiful area of wild country of very great amenity value, not least to those who live in the eastern industrial half of the county. Much of the county is part of a development area and the needs of industry must be paramount.
No one wishes to deny that the development of I.C.I. is vital to the industrial needs of the area. The expansion of I.C.I. will take up at least some of the labour surplus created in the area by the decline of old industries. I am sure that no one in the House would like to see unnecessary obstacles placed in the way of the further development of I.C.I. at Billingham. However, if the area is to be redeveloped industrially, we should this time be most careful and ensure that all of the natural amenities of the area are preserved.
Many Members on both sides have spoken inside and outside the House, and not least in the last two election campaigns, of the necessity of looking to the quality of life rather than simply material values. Upper Teesdale is one of the most important relaxation and recreational areas for the inhabitants of the Lower Tees Valley and the Durham coal mining area.
Many hon. Members will be familiar with the Pennine Way. We should also remember Cauldron Snout, immediately below the area known as Cow Green, which is one of the most magnificent cataracts in the country. Many a time have I walked past the Cauldron Snout, in the area popularly known as High Cup Nick. To me, Cow Green is an unfamiliar name, as it would be to local residents. I would like an assurance from the Government Front Bench that the flow of water over Cauldron Snout and over High Force, a singularly superb waterfall, will not be affected materially by the development proposed at Cow Green. If it is to be materially affected, I feel that I cannot vote for the Bill.
§ Mr. James Tinn (Cleveland)
I believe that I can offer my hon. Friend the precise assurance that he is seeking. This is a reservoir which will conserve the water and regulate its flow, so that the water which is abstracted on behalf of industry will be removed further down the river, below both waterfalls that he has mentioned. From the scenic point of view, it will have the beneficial effect of 1989 ensuring a more regular flow in dry seasons as well as in wet.
§ Mr. Fowler
I am grateful to my hon. Friend for that assurance. At times of heavy rainfall I find the flow of water over High Force singularly magnificent. If we have a regulated flow of water, I suppose that we shall never see that again, so we are bound to lose something.
I turn briefly to the botanical interest of the area. I gather that here we have some unique plant communities; indeed, I am told that they are ice-age survivals, and perhaps that is not surprising in view of the climate of the area. But I would urge the House to remember that the study of our environment has unforeseeable consequences. It is not merely a question of the value in this day and age, but in future days as well. That is something which we should not forget. We do not know what the consequences of studies might have for human betterment, and for scientific and, ultimately, industrial potential, too. I am not satisfied by the statement in the document issued by the promoters of the Bill, in paragraph 17 of which they say:The particular assemblage of plants found growing in part of the reservoir site may well be different in some degree from every other assemblage of plants—it would be surprising if this were not so—botanical witnesses … could not say that comparable assemblages of plants did not appear elsewhere in Upper Teesdale.That is a singularly absurd statement. Obviously they could not say that comparable assemblages of plants did not appear elsewhere in Upper Teesdale or elsewhere in the country. But we must remember that it is possible that the area which will be drowned, albeit it is part of a larger area which is of botanical interest, may contain unique assemblages of plants, and we shall lose the opportunity of studying them afresh for ever.
I want now to say a word about the problem of water supplies in general as it is affected by the Bill. General concern has been shown about the problem of national water supplies for a number of years. The party to which I belong promised in the election before last that one of the items in our programme would be the nationalisation of water supplies. I hope that that may still be an item in the programme because, in my view, it should have been done a long time ago.
1990 What we are faced with in the Bill and what we have been faced with as a nation and will be faced with increasingly over the next ten or fifteen years is the piecemeal encroachment on areas of amenity value and on agricultural land because of our failure to plan our water supplies in the long term.
If I might refer again to the document issued by the promoters of the Bill, I find this statement in paragraph 4:In their report to the Minister the Water Resources Board stated that they could see no possibility of obtaining the necessary additional supplies from outside the catchment area of the River Tees in time to meet the demand and that there was no practical possibility of desalination solving the problem in time.We are all fighting a losing battle. In present circumstances, we are running hard in order to catch up.
That is the basis of the problem which we face with the Bill. In the long term, we may find that this sort of policy is also more expensive. Rather than give in to the policy of piecemeal encroachment which we find in the Bill, I would hope that, as a nation, we could resolve to set up a national water supply with a national grid and the development of large sea reservoirs such as Morecambe Bay and The Wash, thereby ensuring as well that the cost of conserving the nation's water supplies will be more evenly distributed over the whole population than is possible at present, with a plethora of local water boards levying local water rates.
I feel that the Bill represents what I can only refer to as a very bad principle on which to solve the problem of our national water supplies in the long term.
§ 7.46 p.m.
§ Mr. R. W. Elliott (Newcastle-upon-Tyne, North)
It is nice to learn that the hon. Member for The Wrekin (Mr. Fowler) is appreciative of Durham's beauty and that he originates from that delightful county. I cannot claim to do that, because I am a Northumbrian, but I claim to know a bit about the area in general, which is why I presume to take part in the debate.
In the course of what I have to say, I should like to take up, to a degree, the hon. Member's point about what he calls piecemeal encroachment. I should make it clear from the outset that I support the Bill. For once, I am at variance with 1991 my hon. Friend the Member for Gains-borough (Mr. Kimball), for whom I have considerable respect.
§ Mr. Elliott
I must confess that learning that I am at variance with my hon. Friend the Member for Tynemouth (Dame Irene Ward) does not make my task any easier. Again, I would suggest that it is an unusual circumstance.
Like most hon. Members present for this debate, I am trying to understand the conservancy case, and like my hon. Friend the Member for Gainsborough and others who have supported his Amendment, I want to appreciate it.
The case which I wish to put, if I may be presumptuous enough to suggest it, is the practical case for the Bill. My entire thinking on the Bill is dominated by that which has dominated my thinking and activities since I first entered the House some nine years ago as Member of Parliament for a constituency in the North-East of England. Those of us who have been in the House for some time as Members for the North-East of England, no matter where our constituencies may be, have been fully aware during the past decade that our major problem in the North-East is that of its continuing prosperity and its continuing employment. The Bill has a very big effect on the future employment of people in the North-East.
The problems of the North-East can be pinpointed quite easily. Our two major industries in the past decade, coal mining and shipbuilding, have been declining. The future picture of prosperity has not always been rosy and still is not rosy, for that matter, and some of us will be attempting to catch the eye of the Chair on Tuesday, of next week when we debate the problems of development areas.
Although the picture in the North-East is much brighter than it was a few years ago, problems still remain. During the past nine years there have been bright parts of the picture. There have been pieces of the picture which have given considerable encouragement. No part of the north-eastern area of the country has given us in this House more encouragement than Tees-side, because the development of a number of industrial concerns 1992 there has, to say the least, been most encouraging.
My hon. Friend the Member for Richmond, Yorks (Mr. Kitson) listed a number of industries which we are delighted to have in that area, but one must refer particularly to I.C.I. On its Billingham site alone, which covers 1,000 acres, 17,000 people are employed. Employment has been my major concern since I came into this House nine years ago. The capital involved at Billingham is £190 million, and the all-important point is that it is proposed to increase this figure to £223 million by 1970. I.C.I.'s Wilton site consists of 700 acres, and 14,000 people are employed there. The capital employed in the refinery at Wilton amounts to £206 million, and it is proposed to increase this to £330 million by 1970. We must remember, too, that on Tees-side I.C.I. employs 7,000 people in constructional work alone.
Production from I.C.I. factories amounted to £226 million in 1965, and will rise to £404 million if I.C.I.'s development plans continue. We have heard a great deal in this Chamber during the past two days about the importance of exports. I.C.I.'s exports amounted to £54 million in 1965, and it is estimated that if the company's development plans can be continued, its exports will reach £98 million by 1970.
I make no apology for quoting those figures, because, as I see it, they support the case for the Bill in that these developments which I.C.I. and other industries propose can continue only if they are assured of a reasonable addition to their water supplies.
§ Mr. Eldon Griffiths (Bury St. Edmunds)
My hon. Friend has made an impressive recital of the enormous resources of I.C.I. Does he not think it strange that a company with such enormous resources should be set back and unable to continue its business because of the demand to save a few acres of lichens and dandelions?
§ Mr. Elliott
I can only ask my hon. Friend to be patient, and I hope that I shall answer his point. Perhaps I might now begin to do so. As a Member for the North-East, I know that I.C.I. and other industrialists have been encouraged to expand their production in that area. I am aware that these essential development plans, in an area where our basic 1993 industry has declined, and declined most rapidly and dangerously, are within the Hailsham thinking, or, if I may put it this way, are very much within the Hail-sham concept of what was necessary for the North-East.
Hon. Members on both sides of the Chamber have done their best to bring employment to the North-East. Each of us has been responsible for encouraging industry and industrialists to expand there. Certainly from Hailsham onwards we have been responsible for encouraging not to go elsewhere, as it could have done, with the enormous development which it now proposes in the North East. Consequently, I am anxious, and see it as my clear duty in terms of what I have advocated in the past, to make sure as far as I can that the physical requirements are at hand to allow for this considerable development.
My knowledge of the proposed development leads me to the view that if there were a drought in the '70s, with this development going on, and without additional water to hand, it could have a disastrous effect on our national trade figures and would have an appalling effect on employment in that area.
A great deal has been said about alternatives, and I thought that my hon. Friend the Member for Richmond, Yorks, outlined them rather well. I know that many hon. Members wish to take part in this debate, so I shall touch on them only briefly.
My hon. Friend the Member for Gainsborough suggested that an accurate assessment had not been made of the cost of the construction of a reservoir at Cow Green. An estimate has been made with regard to Upper Cow Green, and it is reasonably established, as far as I am concerned from such evidence as I have to hand, that the Upper Cow Green site would cost £5 million more, but what is so much more important is that it will take at least three years longer to construct, and our industry in the North-East cannot afford to wait that long.
Another alternative is desalination. Figures given to me—and I have no reason to doubt them—show that the cost would be about 10s. per 1,000 gallons. I must, in all fairness, say that it is estimated that that figure could be reduced to 5s. per 1,000 gallons by 1980, 1994 but this compares—and in these days of competitive industry one must always make this comparison—with 1s. per 1,000 gallons which will be the cost of getting water from the proposed new reservoir.
I feel that I do not need to enlarge on the Middleton proposal, in that my hon. Friend the Member for Richmond, Yorks is well aware of the nature of the agricultural land in varying parts of Yorkshire. It would mean using excellent farmland.
Finally, what is the botanists' case? Those who see this Bill as essential have tried to understand it. We have read everything that has been sent to us, and we have received excellent letters from people who feel strongly about the possibility of this, from a botanists' point of view, valuable area being flooded. As I see it from such evidence as is to hand, there was full consultation with the Nature Conservancy at an early stage in the thinking on this proposal. There was a nine-month investigation of Cow Green, which cost £50,000. The Bill—it is before us in its amended form—was considered in Committee upstairs for 13 days. I suggest that this is evidence enough that those who oppose the Bill have had ample opportunity to voice their opposition to it.
The fact is that 20 acres of botanical interest out of 5,000 acres of similar if not identical land are involved, and I believe that it is somewhat unfair for my hon. Friend the Member for Gains-borough to suggest that the money offered by I.C.I. for research means nothing. I find this difficult to understand. A considerable sum of money has been offered, and even if this means carrying out the research before the area is flooded, surely if it is carried out thoroughly it can be of great service to scientists and botanists in the future.
I conclude by adding my appeal to that made by my hon. Friend the Member for Richmond, Yorks for the progress of this Bill. I believe that it is an essential Measure for the future employment of people in the North-East and the future prosperity of that area.
§ 8.0 p.m.
§ Mr. Ted Leadbitter (The Hartlepools)
The question of a Private Bill is something to be dealt with with the deepest 1995 suspicion. I have a natural disinclination to support Private Bills. I have a tendency to oppose them, and in this Parliament I have already opposed one that affected my constituency. On that occasion I felt that I had made some improvements to the Bill. I am grateful for the co-operation that my constituency gained from Members in the House and in Committee upstairs, and to some extent I am in a forgiving sort of mood tonight.
I want to see if I can speak to this Bill bearing in mind the interests of the North-East and the arguments both for the Bill and against it. Whatever opinions we may have about Private Bills much of my personal dislike concerns their nineteenth century origins, especially in connection with vested interests, railway and the like. I feel that there is an increasingly less important place for them within the modern context in which we are living.
Having said that I want to be fair to the Bill I must say at once that I am rather surprised to find that the hon. Member for Newcastle-upon-Tyne, North (Mr. R. W. Elliott) finds in it—no doubt in a degree of haste or in a state of anxiety—some Hailsham thinking. I felt that there was a little opportunism being exercised, because I could not see how this Hailsham thinking sprang from the hon. Member in the light of the assessment of the hon. Member for Bury St. Edmunds (Mr. Eldon Griffiths) on the issue of dandelions and daisies. I hope that having made the point we shall have an end first to nonsense and, secondly, to assessments about the Bill which are quite unrelated to the Hailsham thinking.
§ Mr. Kitson
Is it not a fact that I.C.I. was persuaded to put a substantial amount of capital investment into this area instead of going to one or two other areas where there would have been an adequate water supply? Was not this decision based very much on the recommendations of the Hailsham Plan—in fairness to my hon. Friend the Member for Newcastle-upon-Tyne, North (Mr. R. W. Elliott)?
§ Mr. Leadbitter
I find this in my constituency—members of the community and people in responsible positions with a spot of hindthinking see relationships between certain progress made on the industrial front and the Hailsham Report.
1996 Whatever else can be said about the Hailsham Report, it was a very belated document, and if anyone reads the record during the past few years he will see that Labour Members representing North-East constituencies have been pressing for some action for a long time. My estimation of that Report has not altered for the past two or three years. I still believe that it was an account of what had not been done and that it is therefore only incidental to the efforts of all the public representatives in the northern region to bring about the resuscitation of the economy. Their efforts merely coincided with the White Paper.
I want to refer to one point in that White Paper. It does not propose anything. It does not refer to the historical background of the region. It merely states the simple fact that in this region—Tees-side and the surrounding area—it is expected that the population will grow from 545,000 in 1962 to 675,000 in 1981. That is an important piece of information, because, related with the employment trends in this area we see an increasing need for the means to carry on industrial progress. In 1960 the number of people employed on Teesside was 173,029 and in 1965 it was 178,861. If, even in general terms, we attempt to project that increasing employment against the background of the projected population growth, between now and 1981 we can see that whatever agreements or understandings might have existed between Hailsham and I.C.I. the boom in industrial growth is there. It is real, and it must be catered for. Anyone opposing the Bill is not talking sense.
The hon. Member for Newcastle-upon-Tyne, North—whose personal interest in the region is not to be refuted and certainly not to be challenged, and whose contribution is appreciated by hon. Members on both sides of the House—said that the North of England is fully aware of its continuing prosperity and importance. That was the most important contribution he made to the debate, expressing a consistent, purposeful plan to support the region at all costs as a North of England constituency and Parliamentary Member. I support and encourage that kind of language from wherever it comes. We must therefore accept that in this region the primary thing at this stage is employment.
1997 I want to refer to the whole region, including Hartlepools, the Middlesbrough area, and Tees-side in general. During the years in which the hon. Member for Newcastle-upon-Tyne, North and others in the region were fighting for work—
§ Mr. Frank Hooley (Sheffield, Heeley)
On a point of order. Is not my hon. Friend straying somewhat from the point?
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Eric Fletcher)
I have been listening to what the hon. Member is saying. If he strays outside order I shall call him up.
§ Mr. Leadbitter
I am merely carrying on the theme introduced by the hon. Member for Newcastle-upon-Tyne, North. We were passing through a very dark tunnel and our hopes of reaching the end were a little dismal. We could not see the light. There were depressing economic circumstances, with increasing levels of unemployment and the incomprehensible indifference of those in power to bring these conditions to an end. I think that the preservation of human life with all its scientific interests was far more important than the scientific interests of other things.
I do not say that other things were unimportant but their importance had an evaluation which was related in some way to the extent to which we, as a society, judged each other. In other words, I made the point then, and I make it now, that we cannot evaluate the scientific interests of things outside ourselves unless we ourselves in society have cultivated—
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker
The hon. Member is now going rather wide of the subject. I must ask him to relate his observations to the Motion before the House.
§ Mr. Leadbitter
I am relating the conditions, in the sense that when opponents of the Bill attempt to defeat it on premises which have been questioned upstairs and valuations which are very much exaggerated, it is important to stress the point that in my region we cannot evaluate beauty and the scientific interests of flora until we have the social conditions for all those who live there to enjoy it. That is the true evaluation of the area.
I am making the point that human kind was predominant in my thinking at that 1998 time and I was strongly opposed then, as I am now, to any hypocrisy which gives lip service to values, but which fosters notions and attitudes which are antagonistic to the real values in society. But now we have got through this dark tunnel and the North-East is now beginning to look brighter. There is work, people are moving about and the population is able to enjoy the area in question—an area in which I live and where I have worked, where I go for my own leisure—
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker
Order. The hon. Gentleman must relate his observations to the Motion before the House.
§ Mr. Leadbitter
Having made the point that we have reached the stage where things are better in this region, it is right that, in considering the Bill, we should say to those who determined this Bill and sought to promote it that their concern is not only with the matters which I have raised but with the social and economic life of the region, and that they should therefore, in consequence, look very seriously and deeply into all the matters which the objectors have hitherto raised.
It is therefore right that, in support of the Bill, I should claim that I have looked at some of these objections. I notice that the Botanical Society has outlined in a memorandum to hon. Members the purposes of the Bill. They refer to the area and the plant community life which in some way has its origins in the Ice Age. They also refer to a consultant who makes the comment that the intrusion of something man-made into this splendid landscape would be wrong and would do great damage. It refers to the particular demand of an industrialist.
In the question of this industrialist, I.C.I. are spending about £1 million per day on new processes. This, in itself, creates difficulties of demand for water. It is very difficult to assess the demands for water when a user of water of this size is involved, and there is an experiment of this magnitude in terms of capital cost. No one can claim as an argument, as an hon. Member opposite did, that the Board has failed in not assessing the demand properly. It is impossible to do so.
The memorandum goes on to say that the past history of the Board is such that actual demand over a prolonged period outstrips the estimated demand for water.
1999 I repeat this point only in order to make out that, to my knowledge, no water board, however successful has been able to estimate the demand for water. If there is anything wrong in the Bill at all it is that the water supply of the country is not really organised and administered properly to satisfy the needs of the nation.
However, accepting the situation as it is, it is not a valid argument to say that the board has not been successful in recent history in assessing the demand of the area. It is not unusual; this is understandable. It is because of this circumstance that the board has had to use this instrument of a Private Bill in order to get this kind of solution to a problem which is most pressing in the area.
Of course, the memorandum finally refers to a short term requirement and long term possibilities of the irreparable damage to unique vegetational features. In The Times on 27th July, a writer indicated some concern about this question of unique vegetational features. He wrote that a previous letter in The Times:refers three times to the destruction of the area which the creation of the Reservoir will entail. The area of 770 acres to be submerged contains no human habitation. The greater part, as usual, is used only for rough sheep grazing. Seventeen acres only are admittedly of special botanical interest, but the flowers and plants found there are not, as I understand it, unique in the sense that they cannot be found elsewhere. Indeed, they occur in the same neighbourhood but outside the limits of the proposed reservoir.It is interesting to notice that on 23rd October, 1964, a letter written by the Director-General of the Nature Conservancy to Mr. Kennard on behalf of the board indicated a lapse in opposition. At the time that the letter was written, the proposed top water level for the reservoir was about 1,600 ft., and this was known to the Nature Conservancy. The top water level proposed in the Bill is 1,603 ft. above ordnance datum. It was therefore necessary to raise the level by about 3 ft. This is the reason for it: in order that the dam can be moved further back from the top of Caldron Snout in the interests of amenity.
This is only one of a number of examples by the water board to meet the objections of botanists, naturalists and others, who are scientifically interested 2000 in the area. The Board went to this extent and the letter from the Nature Conservancy is of interest. I want to read only the first paragraph of it:I was very glad to hear from you"—that is, the Board—on Tuesday about progress in your investigations and also to meet Mr. Hetherington. However troublesome it may be reconciling our respective interests in this way, it is far less difficult and more civilised than the alternative of developing projects unilaterally and then fighting them in the chaotic conditions of a public inquiry!So the Nature Conservancy was saying to the water board that it appreciated the co-operation of the board and that it understood that it was a very important step forward to remove from the area of dispute the practice of unilateral action the kind of action which spoiled the northern region in the nineteenth century.
Hon. Members who speak in the House about pit and slag heaps are really talking about unilateral action by industrialists at a time when provisions were not available to support the interests of those who were scientifically inclined towards botanical matters in this area. A leading figure in the northern region wrote to The Times on 27th July:The Bill if enacted will enable the regulating reservoir to be constructed to supply 35 million gallons of water per day for domestic and industrial purposes on Tees-side. The water will not be piped away from the reservoir, but will pass down the river to be abstracted at and below Darlington. The whole regime of the river will thus be improved.A great deal of work has been done to consider alternative sites and to make them available to the water board, but the Cow Green site was found to be less costly than other ventures. The proposed site was marked out to avoid a despoliation of agricultural land, taking into account the interests of the Botanical Society, naturalists, nature lovers and people scientifically interested in the area.
On 12th July Professor Harper indicated the concern of the British Ecological Society, which means that we now have another organisation which is interested in the area. I mention this because the members of this society are men of great distinction whose authority and opinion in these matters are difficult to question. Concern was also expressed on the scientific side, when the members of this 2001 Society stated why this unique area should be preserved. When I read the letter containing the view of the Ecological Society I could not, however, find any detailed argument about the types of plant and so on involved. Although there were no facts of that sort, I could only draw the assumption that this important Society was approching the subject as a matter of principle and was indicating its support for the objectors in the case.
§ Mr. Hawkins
As one who was a member of the Committee, I assure the hon. Gentleman that the British Ecological Society is wholeheartedly against this proposal and gave evidence against the Bill. I assure the hon. Gentleman that its representatives gave extremely good reasons for taking that view. If I am fortunate enough to catch Mr. Speaker's eye, I will develop this theme.
I am not speaking in order to dispute what was said in Committee upstairs but merely to produce the evidence which is available to me. I was referring to a letter in The Times. Having considered all the evidence, as well as the priorities which should be maintained in the area, I am satisfied that the case which has been made out by the botanical interests and bodies associated with them—indeed by the objectors in general—has, I regret to say, been exaggerated.
Unless the Bill is passed and water is made available to this expanding firm—remembering the need of domestic users, which is rising with the growth in population—this area will suffer a serious loss. It has been estimated that, in the event of drought, one firm alone might lose £45 million worth of exports of water is not made available in the sort of quantities we are discussing. I hope that, these priorities having been considered, hon. Members will support the Bill, bearing in mind that those who live in the area are, nevertheless, sufficiently aware of the need to preserve the beauty of what is a wonderful regions.
§ 8.25 p.m.
§ Mr. Graham Page (Crosby)
This is not the occasion when much time should be taken up by members of either Front Bench. We are discussing a Private Bill on which hon. Members must make up their minds without the assistance of the Whips of either side. I am sure, how- 2002 ever, that the Minister will wish to give some advice to the House, and it is therefore right that I should comment on the matter from this side.
The House has an opportunity of debating this matter because a Private Bill was necessary since, in this case, certain common lands were involved and the Water Board wished to take them over. Thus, the Bill reaches the Floor of the House after being for 13 days in Committee. To correct my hon. Friend the Member for Richmond, Yorks (Mr. Kitson), the Bill could have come before the House on Second Reading if anyone had objected at that stage. But, having gone through 13 days in Committee, I doubt whether any points of argument for or against it have failed to be put in that Committee.
However persuasive hon. Members may be in debating on the Floor of the House—and we have heard some very persuasive speeches today—the Committee appointed to consider the Bill heard the evidence first-hand. The House is grateful to those hon. Members of the Committee who sat for 13 days listening to this evidence and all the other arguments. Therefore, prima facie, the case is for the Bill when it comes back at Report stage in this way, and the burden is on those who object to it to prove their case.
Their argument is that the Committee itself was not unanimous, and my hon. Friend the Member for Norfolk, South-West (Mr. Hawkins) has declared that he was not with his colleagues on that Committee in their decision. My hon. Friend the Member for Gainsborough (Mr. Kimball) has pointed out that the Committee did not have all the evidence before it which is available now. So, to some extent, the objectors to the Bill have justified bringing the Measure before the House today.
The debate is a little wider than procedural points concerning a private Bill and how it has been through its Committee stage and so on. The issue is, perhaps, wider than the Bill itself. It has been put as the preservation of human life being more important than the preservation of flora and fauna. That may be a somewhat exaggerated way of putting it, but my hon. Friend the Member for Gainsborough said that there were 2003 three reasons why the Bill should be rejected. He stated that if it were to become law it would, first, destroy a unique area of scientific importance; secondly, that it showed a lack of long-term planning; and, thirdly, that its content was contrary to the advice of the Nature Conservancy and the National Parks Commission.
He asked me whether the Opposition would support action to strengthen the protection of areas of international scientific importance. I can confidently give an assurance that from this side full support will always be given to action taken to strengthen the protection of these vital areas of international scientific interest and importance. My hon. Friend the Member for Gainsborough said that this was perhaps the most important conservation matter that had come before the House for a very long time, while the hon. Member for The Wrekin (Mr. Fowler) expressed it as a consideration of qualities of life rather than the material values.
What, then, is the need for this reservoir? The promoters of the Bill have very clearly set out for us that the undertaking, Imperial Chemical Industries Limited requires additional supplies of water for very important purposes at the chemical works at Billing-ham and at Wilton, and the new refinery at North Tees. Further, and I do not think that this has been very much mentioned so far in this debate, it is not only a question of Imperial Chemical Industries Limited but of Dorman Long and Company Limited, the Shell Refining Company Limited and the Industrial Estates Management Committee of the Tees-side. On the other hand, does this important need of these industrial concerns outweigh irreparable damage to this area of unique botanical interest?
My hon. Friend the Member for Newcastle-upon-Tyne, North (Mr. R. W. Elliott) said that the major problem was the future prosperity and employment in North-East England. On the other hand, those who object to the Bill say that there are alternatives; that there is the Middleton area where a reservoir could be placed; that there is the Upper Cow Green area where, again, there is opportunity for a reservoir, and that investigations could be made of the quantities 2004 of water that might be provided by means of bore holes.
I should think, though, without necessarily taking sides, that the advantage of the reservoir proposed by the Bill is very great as compared with the alternative sites. It uses an area of comparatively unimportant unproductive land, and only a small area of that, it is said, is of botanical importance. We are told that only 17 acres of some 300 acres of the scientifically important area will be submerged, but even 17 acres of an area which is of international fame is of importance, and should be protected if that is at all possible.
There is no doubt that a new water supply is necessary in order to continue the substantial expansion of industry in this area. Reference has been made to what is known as the Hailsham Plan. There is no doubt whatever that the intention of that plan for the North-East was the expansion of industry there, and my right hon. and learned Friend who devised that plan worked very hard to persuade I.C.I. to increase its investment. Had that undertaking not done so at that time, there would have been many fewer jobs in the area than there are now—indeed, there might have been greater unemployment had that firm not been persuaded to invest substantially in that region. At any rate—if, even on a Private Bill, I might make one political remark—we did not have to abandon the plan for the North-East as the present Government have had to abandon the National Plan. The plan for the North-East has gone ahead, and has provided substantial employment—
§ Mr. Arthur Blenkinsop (South Shields)
If the hon. Gentleman is to raise an issue like this, he should make it clear that we are stepping up our plans for the North-East and other development areas, to the great success and happiness of the people living there.
§ Mr. Page
Indeed, the present Government are developing, increasing, improving and implementing the Hailsham Plan. We are very glad that they are. Therefore, it is not, as one hon. Member opposite said, an account of what has not been done; it was an account of what should be done and is going to be done and not, as the National Plan 2005 now is, an account of what is not going to be done.
§ The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Public Building and Works (Mr. James Boyden)
The hon. Member rather forgets that in this area—which is in my constituency—a particular part of Teesdale was left out of the development district. It has been put into the development district by the present Government and this reservoir is of great importance in providing a job carry-over.
§ Mr. Page
At any rate I think we are agreed that I.C.I. is doing a good job by providing employment for 17,000 at Billingham and 14,000 at Wilton. The argument against that is that here is a very wealthy concern which has got the money to make other provision than to obtain a water supply from this area.
§ Dame Irene Ward
I come from the area, and what I want to know is whether my hon. Friend the Member for Crosby (Mr. Graham Page) can deal with the technical details about alternatives to this site. We know all these arguments backwards. What we want to know is what is the appreciation of my hon. Friend, who represents the Opposition, of the alternative sites which have been offered? That is what we have to make up our minds about. I want the technical details, not all the flim-flam which anyone could give.
§ Mr. Page
I offer my hon. Friend the technical details given in 13 days in Committee. They certainly cannot be Given on the Floor of the House at this time. The alternatives are the Middleton Reservoir, the Upper Cow Green Reservoir, which was dealt with in considerable detail in Committee, and other possible alternatives, but in those cases—
§ Mr. Page
—there would be more expense and they would take a longer time. I do not want to sit in judgment 2006 on the question of which reservoir should he provided. Each individual hon. Member on a Private Bill of this sort has to make up his or her mind as to which way to vote. Frequently the decision is more satisfactory either way than when the Whips direct us into which Lobby to go. Undoubtedly there is a very grave problem and a very difficult issue, on the one hand to maintain the expansion of industry in the area and to ensure employment, and on the other hand not needlessly to throw away a most important asset of the country, the scientific knowledge which can be gained from this area and the enjoyment which can be given by the beauties of nature in this area.
These have to be set against the development. It is a difficult issue but with the decision of the Committee and the evidence taken by the Committee, hon. Members should be able to make up their minds on whether they support the Bill or wish to reject it.
§ 8.39 p.m.
§ The Minister of Land and Natural Resources (Mr. Frederick Willey)
I do not think anyone in the House who thought twice would think that the Hail-sham Plan was worth while spending much time on, and I shall not spend any more time on it.
§ Mr. Willey
No, I shall not. I have expressed a point of view which the hon. Member may not share, but I think it is the view of most people who have thought about the North-East. I intervene because I got the impression that on balance the hon. Member for Crosby (Mr. Graham Page) was in favour of the Bill.
§ Mr. Willey
I can only express the opinion that I thought on balance he was in favour of the Bill. As he said, this is Private Business. I am intervening without the automatic nod of approval from the Whips regardless of possession or lack of eloquence. I can only very briefly advise the Committee. I agree with the hon. Member for Crosby that the facts are available. They have been considered. They have been fairly well deployed this evening.
2007 Like the hon. Member for Crosby—I think that I at any rate have this impression correctly—I think that when my hon. Friend the Member for Chorley (Mr. Kenyon) and his colleagues have exhaustively considered the Bill upstairs for 13 days there is a predisposition to agree with them. They have had an opportunity of hearing the evidence first hand and forming a view on it. It does not commit the House, but it expresses a point of view to which we must pay very serious regard.
I could give my personal advice. I know the area very well. I had the great pleasure of opening the youth hostel at Langdon Beck when it was rebuilt after being burned down. I was very happy to do that because I had often stayed there. In company with my hon. Friend the Member for South Shields (Mr. Blenkinsop), I have been on the High Cup Nick and walked up there. My own personal view would be that, if this were a choice between the Cow Green and the Upper Cow Green reservoir, I would prefer the present scheme. I do not like the prospect of the high concrete dam, although it is higher up the valley.
I also think—this is no more than a personal opinion—that from an amenity point of view this reservoir will be very attractive. We rather misleadingly talk about this as being a very remote area. With this attraction, it will bring to the Upper Tees Valley quite a number of people at the weekends from the Three River country—from the Tyne, the Tees and the Wear.
The main issue here is that this is an area of unique scientific interest which might be prejudiced or damaged by what the promoters of the Bill propose or seek permission to do. Therefore, what we have to consider is whether this can be avoided and whether it can be avoided at a cost commensurate with the scientific interest. These are the questions to which we must direct our minds.
This could be avoided if we had no reservoir. That would be—there is no need for me to re-state this—to the great prejudice of this important industrial development on Tees-side. I agree with the hon. Member for Crosby that it is not only I.C.I. It is Dorman Long and other industrial development on Tees-side.
2008 The question is, then: is there an alternative?
§ Mr. Willey
My advice can only be based on the technical advice available to me. That is the advice of the Water Resources Board. After all, we have been asked this evening about technical advice. The advice available to me is that there is no alternative without a grave risk. There would be a grave risk if there were a succession of three or four dry summers. This is entirely a matter on which the House must express its judgment. I do not think that it is a risk which we can afford to run.
The second issue is whether it is an unavoidable risk. There is no question of possibly avoiding the risk over the three- or four-year period. Even if one had to run that risk, can one preserve this unique site undamaged, unprejudiced, at a cost commensurate with the scientific value?
We have discussed the cost. It would be about £3 million or £3½ million. This would be, to put it in another way, £12 million over 60 years. This is the issue upon which the House has to reach a decision.
I have considered this with my right hon. Friends the Minister of Housing and Local Government and the Secretary of State for Education and Science and, having done so, we feel that the advice we must tender is that we should support the Bill. I do this with the greatest reluctance. Too often have we found ourselves in this kind of position. I was very pleased the other day to introduce the report of the Water Resources Board's Technical Committee on the South-East.
I realise that in this case the advice I have to give to the House is partial and hurried because we have been working against time and all that the board has been able to do is to give the best advice it could in the time. But it is now conducting a survey of the North, and I hope to get at any rate an interim report by the end of the year. In this way, I hope that we will get far greater knowledge so that we can make a much more effective and wider choice. What the House must feel is that the difficulty here is in the narrow limitations of choice.
§ Mr. Eldon Griffiths
The right hon. Gentleman has made the interesting remark that the northern committee is to report to the Board. He said that the information should be available by the end of this year. Would not that be the time to make this judgment?
§ Mr. Willey
This is urgent; we cannot delay it. The board is doing its best, but I cannot say that, by the end of the year, we shall have a report comparable with that of the one on the South-East. What I am anxious to do is to get the best information I can, if possible by the end of the year. We must see that we have proper information so that, in future, we find ourselves less and less forced into making ad hoc decisions. It is for that reason that, very reluctantly in the circumstances, I have to recommend the House to reject the petition and support the Bill.
§ 8.47 p.m.
§ Mr. Arthur Blenkinsop (South Shields)
I welcome the comments of my right hon. Friend the Minister of Land and Natural Resources because he has made clear the problem we face in this issue. It is also right that a voice should be heard from these benches from the North-East objecting to the Bill, because I was, frankly, concerned about the case as the hon. Member for Newcastle-upon-Tyne, North (Mr. R. W. Elliott) developed it. It seemed to me that if one accepted his argument one would be saying, as so often in the past it was said in the North-East, that so long as we supported industrial development it did not matter what else happened. I thought that this was something we had woken up to reject.
I thought that we all now took the view that, if we were to get a healthy North-East, it must be a balanced development which took full account of the wide range of needs of the area and also the quality of life of its people, and not merely, terribly important as it is, of the industrial need. This is particularly important when we come to examine a case like this, where so many of us feel that alternatives could have been provided, at least had there been time to examine them properly.
We are continuously faced with this kind of problem. We are quite unfairly asked to judge on an issue virtually with 2010 a pistol at our heads and being told, "Unless you agree, many people will be put out of work, or an important and vital and progressive industry will move out of the area". When that sort of argument is raised, it makes it almost impossible for us to reject it, however badly based it may be. Of course, I welcome enormously the news that we have some hope in future of getting a proper view of matters like this because of the work of the Water Resources Board. He has been the first to admit that the report so far available from the Water Resources Board is inadequate on any criteria which we would wish to use.
Like my right hon. Friend, I know the area well and in past years we have walked over it together. I have also had the experience of being a member of the Nature Conservancy, under whose auspices I have stayed on the site and met many of the scientists concerned with the area. I have also had the opportunity of serving on the recent Conference on the Countryside in 1970 and I am still concerned with carrying out some of the recommendations made by people with a wide range of backgrounds, and I have been concerned with trying to give greater emphasis to the long-term scientific considerations which I hope hon. Members will not brush aside.
Unlike some of my hon. Friends, i do not reject the proposal in the Bill because of destruction of amenity in general terms. I do not object to stretches of water. Indeed, I have welcomed the introduction of reservoirs properly designed and carefully sited in many places. I very much welcome the Derwent Reservoir which is nearing completion, and I welcome enormously the recreational opportunities which will be provided. At one time, water engineers told us that we could not make use of water which was for drinking purposes, but nowadays we are growing up and realising that we can make use of water and that, provided authorities take proper precautions, there is no danger to communities. Thank heavens the obstructionism of some water authorities, like Manchester, is a thing of the past.
I also welcome the Tryweryn and other reservoirs which have been introduced in North Wales, although understanding the anxieties of some of my Welsh friends.
2011 I think that water in these areas can provide an added amenity, and I agree with my right hon. Friend about that. I do not agree with him that necessarily the reservoir in this case would be better placed as is proposed in the Bill, as against higher up the valley. I am prepared to accept the higher dam. I do not think that it will necessarily destroy the area by being in that situation. There will still be great beauties and the water itself will provide beauty. I welcome the fact that the Nature Conservancy is prepared to support proposals for a reservoir constructed higher up the valley and flooding a good part of the area on which it has been working.
The issue, therefore, is one of time. Is it true that there is no other way of meeting the urgent demands than by having a reservoir sited as proposed? At this moment I am not satisfied that the promoters of the Bill have made their case adequately. I feel that there is a need at some time for hon. Members to take a stand against this kind of procedure. I hope that it is not unfair to I.C.I., but I suspect that at any rate there is a danger that if an application can be delayed sufficiently, there is more opporunity to get it through the House, because we are then confronted with this kind of pistol at our heads, which I deeply deplore. I hope that this kind of problem will not arise in future, because of the excellent and encouraging work of the Water Resources Board, which should help us to get a proper picture of our needs ahead. I repeat that my main anxiety, therefore, is not about the amenity problem. But I regard the scientific problem as very real and not one that can be brushed aside. Although the area involved is small, the long-term damage to the scientific interest will be real, and the House should bear this seriously in mind. Because of this, unless I can be convinced by any succeeding argument I propose to oppose the Bill.
§ 8.55 p.m.
§ Sir David Renton (Huntingdonshire)
Like the hon. Member for South Shields (Mr. Blenkinsop), I have no predisposition against reservoirs as such. In fact, the largest artificial reservoir in this country is in my constituency, Graffham Water, made entirely by flooding farmland. With great respect to the Minister 2012 and to hon. Gentlemen on both sides of the House who have spoken, I do not think that the true issue has yet been pinpointed in the debate. I do not think that we have the facts, in the first place, in spite of 13 days in Committee and in spite of test borings having taken place—[An HON. MEMBER: "And still going on."]—and, I am told, still going on, although my hon. Friend the Member for Richmond, Yorks (Mr. Kitson) thinks that they have finished.
§ Sir D. Renton
But whether they are finished or not, we still do not know whether groutings will be necessary, and because we do not know whether groutings will be necessary we still do not know how much land surrounding the part to be flooded will have to be taken for the works. Because we do not know whether groutings will be necessary, we still do not know what the total cost will be and we still do not know when the work can begin. What a situation for Parliament to be in—trying to take a decision in circumstances like that.
The other respect in which the issue has not been pinpointed is this: the Minister, without detailing it, said that there was a matter of urgency here. He is probably a very unhappy man tonight; he should be after the speech of his hon. Friend the Member for South Shields.
Let us consider what the matter of urgency is. The only information that we have and can pinpoint on this question of urgency is in paragraph 6 of the statement put out on behalf of the promoters, which, summarised, comes to this: that there is a risk, not a certainty, that by 1969 an additional 25 million gallons of water of acceptable quality will be needed. By way of amplification of that we are told, or threatened, that if we get a dry year like 1949 or 1959 I.C.I. may have the serious losses mentioned. We never have more than about three months of real drought weather in a dry year, and it is worth remembering that the South and South-East of England are generally worse affected than the North-East or North-West.
That is the nature of the risk. How shall we insure against it? That is the point that the House must decide by its vote tonight, and the question we have to decide is whether it can be reasonably 2013 insured against in ways which are established as feasible, and which I shall mention in detail in a moment. Or are we going to insure against it by an irrevocable act of spoliation? This is what it comes to.
Once 770 acres of Cow Green have been flooded, they will be flooded for ever and this unique patch of vegetation of scientific value will have been lost to science forever. The Minister tells us that we cannot wait even till the autumn; we must take a decision tonight, on inadequate facts.
§ Mr. Willey
I am sure the right hon. and learned Gentleman wishes to be fair. I said hat the Water Resources Board hopes to issue an interim report by the end of the year. But there will be nothing in that report to affect this decision. We have the contemporary advice of the Water Resources Board.
§ Sir D. Renton
If Parliament takes a decision tonight, I hope that the Water Resources Board will certainly not try to reverse our decision. But I am suggesting that Parliament is not in a position to take a decision tonight because we have not the basic facts on which the promoters of the Bill are relying for the consent of Parliament to the works proposed. Moreover, I do not consider that the clearly feasible way of covering the accepted risk which I.C.I. has mentioned has yet been considered fully enough in this debate.
In the short term, this risk can be covered perfectly satisfactorily. I understand that one of the witnesses before the Select Committee said that not 6 million gallons as has been mentioned but possibly even 18 million gallons could be found from the bore holes between Darlington and the sea, and that these could he linked with one another and worked into the existing water supply system of the area. There is a potential supply of 6 to 18 million gallons. There is also an easily and, I believe, fairly quickly and fairly cheaply obtained scheme at Cloud Beck which would produce another 4 million gallons.
When we are thinking of alternatives, we have to measure the alternatives against the risk. I suggest that, rather than plunge into an irrevocable decision tonight, we should decide to meet that risk and the short-term needs by means 2014 of these bore holes and the scheme at Cloud Beck, and give the Water Resources Board the opportunity for sound thinking such as it has displayed this week in its excellent report on the South East Study. This will avoid Parliament nibbling at this problem, as we should be doing if we gave consent to this Measure.
§ Mr. Clifford Kenyon (Chorley)
Has the right hon. and learned Gentleman read the account given by the director of the Water Resources Board in evidence to the Committee?
§ Sir D. Renton
I have not read all the evidence before the Committee, and I have not read that particular account, but I must point out that the Water Resources Board has moved a good way in its thinking in studies of the water supply problem of the East and South-East of England.
What I am asking—the Minister is asking it, too—is that the Water Resources Board should now have second thoughts, with the aid of its northern Committee, about the water resources of the North-East.
§ Sir D. Renton
What I am suggesting is in line with what the Government have asked, and all I am saying now is that we defer a decision, which would be an irrevocable one unless something is done wisely in another place, and that—
§ Lieut.-Commander S. L. C. Maydon (Wells)
I assure my right hon. and learned Friend that the question of alternative supplies from boreholes was very thoroughly examined in Committee. There is nothing which can be called evidence on this score, because the yield from a borehole is pure conjecture until one has bored. But, weighing the professional opinion on one side and the other, the Committee came to the conclusion—or, rather, the evidence was given to the Committee—that this was not a practical proposition.
§ Sir D. Renton
Whatever element of conjecture there may be, I prefer the possibility that the boreholes will produce an answer to this problem to the total certainty that 770 acres at Cow Green will be lost for ever. That is my answer 2015 to my hon. Friend. I am sorry, but I must speak bluntly and frankly.
Because of the shortage of time, I shall refrain from giving my views on the generalities of this matter. We are working ourselves into a hopeless position in which an ever-increasing population will be unable to enjoy our national heritage unless we are very careful. Tonight is a test case. Tonight we will be setting a precedent for our nation and possibly for others as well.
I have very great sympathy with my hon. Friend the Member for Richmond Yorks, because already having one reservoir in my area I was threatened with another. That has been staved off, but I accept his difficulties over Middleton-in-Teesdale. I would like him to bear in mind that Middleton-in-Teesdale is part of a big, long-term solution and when the Water Resources Board has had further thought it may be that he can inspire them to avoid flooding even Middleton-in-Teesdale.
Meanwhile I would ask him and other hon. Members to remember that if one floods Cow Green it will be a question not merely of losing the 17 acres, which would be flooded anyway, it would mean that the unique vegetation on the sides of the banks of the reservoir, in addition to that beneath the waters, would be altered for ever. This is for the scientific reason—a limited knowledge of biology is enough for me to understand it, and I am sure that I can explain it to the House—that when there is a reservoir there is evaporation, especially in warm weather, and we are reliably informed by scientists who gave evidence to the Committee that the evaporation will affect the vegetation and the insect life on the banks of the reservoir by the raising of the temperature by an average of 2°C. That will mean that the plant life, which is of Ice Age origin, will not survive. What my hon. Friend said has to be considered in the light of that scientific fact.
§ Mr. Kitson
Is it unfair to say that the longer-term solution to this is a reservoir at Middleton-in-Teesdale. The Water Resources Board has suggested that water should be brought in from another area. This is what we all hope to see in future. Let us not suggest that the longer-term solution to this problem is a reservoir in Middleton-in-Teesdale.
§ Sir D. Renton
I entirely agree with my hon. Friend, and I was trying to give him some moral support in his view. He has expressed the point much better than I have. I hope that he will take comfort from the fact that the further thoughts that the Water Resources Board are going to have may make it possible to save Middleton-in-Teesdale as well. Meanwhile, what we have to do is to decide whether Cow Green should be flooded forever, and I say that the case for it has not been made out.
§ 9.10 p.m.
§ Mr. Ernest Armstrong (Durham, North-West)
I come from the North-East, and I should like to commend previous speakers for the way in which they have dealt with this issue. It is a credit to the House that there has been such an attendance for and such great interest in a Bill of this kind. I agree with almost everything that has been said. I was particularly impressed by the contribution of my hon. Friend the Member for South Shields (Mr. Blenkinsop). However, I will disagree with him in the Division Lobby.
I think that the real issue is fairly narrow. I deplore the presentation of the issue to Members through the post. I accept the real and genuine concern of those who have spoken tonight and who have written to me pleading that this very important and valuable area scientifically should be preserved. I could be overwhelmingly convinced by the statements which they have made and the evidence which I have had in isolation. All of us would like to leave the area as it is if we could. On the other hand, when we read about the real needs and priorities, again in isolation, the case is unanswerable. I do not regard the members of the water board as people who have promoted the Bill ruthlessly and without care or regard for the consequences. There is not the slightest doubt that great care has been taken. All of us agree on certain fundamental principles.
I have had long conversations about this matter with my hon. Friend the Member for Bishop Auckland (Mr. Boyden) who sits on the Government Front Bench. We both know the area very well. Only three years ago the town of Middleton and the surrounding areas were described as a "travel-to-work" 2017 area where job prospects would decline and capital investment would be allowed only in very unusual circumstances. The outlook for the area was very grim.
We tend to be influenced by all sorts of pressures. I have lived in the area and seen family after family, young person after young person, unable to deploy their ability and talent in the area and having to move to the South of England and the Midlands. I get as many visitors as anybody, and hardly any come from my constituency. They are people who have come down here to live. When I see the conditions of life here, the most exciting place for me in London is King's Cross, because it is from there that I escape to the lovely North-East. If this is the quality of life in London, I am not anxious that it should be transferred to the North-East—heaven forbid.
I take issue with my hon. Friend the Member for South Shields about the quality of life. None of the social amenities will be destroyed. The beauty of the area will not be affected. One of the most delightful places in the North-East is the new Derwent reservoir and the surrounding district. I take people who come to my home to that area to show them the beauties of the district.
§ Mr. Blenkinsop
I was not objecting to the proposal on amenity grounds. I was anxious about the logic of the argument of the hon. Member for Newcastle-upon-Tyne, North (Mr. R. W. Elliott), who seemed to be arguing for industry in the North-East whatever the cost.
§ Mr. Armstrong
I go all the way with my hon. Friend the Member for South Shields on that matter. I am very concerned about what I call the depression complex that has lingered so long among so many of our people. When we see families forced to leave the area in order to find work, our minds tend to become concentrated.
This is a matter of judgment and opinion. I would not dare to be dogmatic and say that the right hon. and learned Member for Huntingdonshire (Sir D. Renton), who spoke with such persuasion and deep feeling, is wrong and that I am right. I do not know. When the House divides, each of us has to make a judgment. I was impressed by both Front Bench speeches which tried to spotlight the arguments for those of us who would 2018 like to preserve what is there because of its value and who have a great understanding of the human problem in the area.
I do not think that we can discount, as the right hon. Gentleman tried to, what has happened in 13 days of Committee. To say that we have not had the facts is a bit unkind. Those of us who have read the minutes of proceedings can see that it was presented and sifted very carefully. We have to make a judgment on that evidence.
The determining factor for me is that if the Bill were defeated, industrial development on Tees-side would be impeded and delayed. I do not think that he should have industry at any price. At the same time, I know what the denial of freedom to work means to young folk. Many of us have had the experience of talking to young men and women who regard leaving school as the very mark of adulthood. When they seek employment to earn their living and it is denied to them, I cannot think of any more inhibiting human factor.
On balance, I believe that the circumstances justify support for the Bill. I am concerned about the very easy way in which we have encroached on valuable land. It has gone on far too long, and in that context I welcome the remarks of my right hon. Friend the Minister for Land and Natural Resources, who happens to be my own Member of Parliament.
We are presented here with a decision which must be made now. If we throw out the Bill, we shall impede very necessary industrial development in an area which needs it so much. [Interruption.] It is no good hon. Members saying "No". That is my judgment. They may have other opinions. It is because of that and knowing what it means to people in the area who have suffered all too long, that we should approve the Bill. We have heard a good deal of defence by its opponents, who choose to live a long way from the area. However, it is a very popular area. It contributes greatly to the quality of life of our people. I estimate that 99 per cent. of those who have visited the area, enjoyed the amenities and walked over it were quite unaware of its scientific value until this case came before the public and before the House. That is not to say 2019 that we should push aside these valuable and rare examples of flora which exist there. But, on balance, I am bound to say that I shall support the Bill.
§ 9.20 p.m.
§ Sir John Eden (Bournemouth, West)
As I am sure everyone will agree, this has been a most important debate, raising questions of a kind which are becoming increasingly urgent. The conflict between the demands of our expanding industrial society and the claims of agriculture and the countryside occasionally erupt in a debate of this kind.
I was heartened by what the Minister said about his dislike of the ad hoc solution, and about the encouragement which he gave to the work which is being carried on to try to find a more considered and comprehensive solution to these problems. I do not for a moment underestimate the importance of industrial development in the North-East. I take very much to heart what was said by those hon. Members who have spoken most feelingly on this subject. I intervene for a brief moment, however, to speak against the Bill, and in support of the Amendment.
There are already in this area impounding reservoirs with a total capacity of about 10,000 million gallons of water. When, in 1959, Parliamentary approval was given for the last and greatest of these reservoirs, the Balderhead Reservoir in the Tees Valley, it was said that the requirements of the water board would be met until 1983. It would appear, therefore, that as the Board has had to come to Parliament and ask for further powers to extend its reservoir area in this locality, the requirements then stated were grossly underestimated.
I recognise that this is largely due to the pace of the industrial development which has taken place there, most notably as a result of the new plant established by I.C.I. I fully recognise that there is a great need to take account of the technological advances in this organisation, and indeed also to exploit the new techniques and to develop the market outlets which are becoming available to it. As some hon. Members have said, these are some of the conflicts which each of us has to weigh up.
2020 I am told that if this new reservoir is built, it will satisfy the water needs for about four to ten years from the time that its construction is completed. After that, I am given to understand, further water supplies will be required for the area. We are therefore contemplating, in the time scale, a comparatively short period, albeit a most significant one, for the purposes of the industrial development and livelihood of the people in the area. But against this we are accepting, at any rate partial, and I contend substantial, destruction of plant life which has come down to us from a previous age, covering many thousands of years of the time scale.
I believe that for such a short-term stop-gap requirement the destruction of an area of special scientific interest of this nature is more than just, in the words of my hon. Friend the Member for Richmond, Yorks (Mr. Kitson), "most unfortunate". This is more than just a case of, again to use his words, "the problem of the flora." This is a thing of importance not just to the locality, not just to the amenity, or even the scientific value of the region, but to all who wish to make further studies, from whichever country they happen to come, of a unique group of plants.
The best description which I have been able to find of this area was given in Cmd. 7122 of July, 1947, the Report of the Wild Life Conservation Special Committee, appointed in August, 1945, of which Dr. Huxley was Chairman. It refers to this area as supportingmany important types of alpine and sub-alpine communities (including a well-known arctic-alpine flora and fauna not developed anywhere else in Great Britain … One site probably contains more rare plants than any other of equal size in Great Britain. This district is also of great geological and physiographical interest, including an extensive exposure of the Whin Sill and a classic region for Lower Paleozoic, Carboniferous, igneous and structural geology, and was recommended as a Conservation Area.A "conservation area" may be defined asa tract of country the existing character of which it is desired to preserve as far as possible either for the singular beauty of its landscape or for its high scientific interest, but more usually for a combination of both.
§ Mr. Kitson
If this point was of such great significance, why did the Nature Conservancy in 1964 not inform the 2021 Water Board of its interest in the area? It is useless to say that for years everybody has known of the tremendous scientific interest in this area when nobody objected in 1964, when the point was first raised.
§ Sir J. Eden
Obviously a case might have been made earlier and stronger, but that is not a reason for destroying the area now. Surely we should not say, "Because you are late in your representations you must let us flood this vitally important beauty site". Great consideration has been given to the alternatives to the Cow Green proposal.
It is impossible to quantify in money terms the scientific value of this area. We should consider the consequential effects of flooding even a small portion of this area upon the remainder of the area. We are talking about an area as a whole. If we alter the water table or interfere with one part of the area it is bound to have repercussions and consequential effects upon the plant life and vegetation in the other parts of the same scientific area.
But I look further ahead. I ask that this scheme shall be deferred. I ask for delay and that use shall be made of the borehole techniques and other techniques to insure against this type of emergency, which seems to be remote. Looking further ahead. I hope we shall make a substantial advance in desalination. I know that it is expensive, but the progress being made by the Atomic Energy Authority is considerable. I am encouraged in my reflections in this matter by paragraph 9 of the submission made by the promoters, when they say:The prospects of the establishment of a nuclear power station in the North-East and of the use of North Sea gas also give reasonable grounds for hoping that the desalination of sea water might become a practicable means of augmenting water supplies between 1978 and 1985.So originally there was to have been sufficient water in this area to meet requirements up to 1983. Industrialists are concerned about the possibility of an emergency arising in the early 'seventies. I contend that there is such a narrow gap in the time scale as not to justify the destruction of something which has existed for between 10,000 and 15,000 years.
I agree with the attitude of the hon. Member for The Wrekin (Mr. Fowler).
2022 This is one of the reasons for my intervention in the debate. This same point was made in a two-volume book on Durham written by my father. I would end by quoting one extract, in which he said:We must readjust our values and give regard to scientific development of Industry, not as the immediate and ultimate and only object of our existence, but as an entirely subordinate and unimportant adjunct to the true meaning and purpose of life.These considerations are important and vital. They are ones to which increasingly hon. Members must turn their attention. We must find some long-term solution to this abiding conflict. The Bill and the Amendment give us an opportunity to make a start. I believe that it is right to use this opportunity to make a stand on this most important question.
§ 9.30 p.m.
§ Mr. James Tinn (Cleveland)
Having been born and having grown up in the North-East, I share their passionate concern with the problem of unemployment from which our area has suffered so much in the past. But I hope that this does not entirely colour my attitude, nor theirs, to the very real scientific and amenity interests involved in the Bill. Because of the very real concern we have with this question of unemployment and with the diversification of industry in our area, which is very closely linked with it even in time of prosperity, I make no apology for speaking first from what some might regard as a rather narrow constituency viewpoint.
These are the people to whom I owe my first loyalty. I am speaking in this connection not only for myself, but, by a curious quirk of Parliamentary fate, for my right hon. Friend the Member for Middlesbrough, East (Mr. Bottomley) and my hon. Friends the Members for Middlesbrough, West (Dr. Bray), Stockton-on-Tees (Mr. William Rodgers), Sedgefield (Mr. Joseph Slater) and Bishop Auckland (Mr. Boyden). It seems that the very scarcity of back-bench Members for the North-East is due to that area choosing such able Members that they are inevitably drawn into the Government and the task of representing them has fallen to the one exception to that rule.
The water board in this area has a big problem, in that the proportion of 2023 water which it distributes to industry is higher than any other in the country. The demand, as has been said, arises not only from I.C.I. but considerably from steel and from various other industries. But we on this side particularly welcome the presence of I.C.I. because it has brought a badly-needed stability of employment to this area which has been, for too long, too heavily dependent upon the basic industries which have always been so particularly and savagely susceptible to recession and unemployment.
Reference has already been made to the size of employment offered by I.C.I. and I do not intend to weary the House with further statistics. But evidence of the scale of its contribution to the national economy is given by the fact that total production which in 1965 amounted to £226 million, is expected to rise by 1970—provided this Measure goes through—to £404 million. Clearly, this also includes a tremendous contribution to our exports. Last year, direct exports totalled £54 million and it is confidently expected that, providing the necessary water is available, they will rise to £100 million by 1971.
In addition to the direct contribution made by Tees-side industry to our exports, there is the indirect contribution which is, perhaps, best indicated by reminding the House that the total British production of terylene and nylon comes from I.C.I.'s factories on Tees-side. Remembering that, one can speculate how much the production of plastics contributes indirectly to further exports.
This export consideration cannot be ignored. While other industries on Teesside require large amounts of water, the Bill is particularly necessitated by the needs of I.C.I. and it is essential, therefore, that I should concentrate on those. I will, first, outline the general picture—not in detail because time does not permit—and then deal with the serious allegations that have been made against I.C.I. to the effect that the company has shown a total lack of foresight in predicting its requirements and arrogance in assuming that, once stated, those requirements must be met regardless of other considerations.
First, the general consideration. Current manufacturing today by I.C.I. 2024 on Tees-side requires about 25 million gallons of clean water a day, plus a further 9 million gallons a day of low-quality, unfiltered water. I.C.I., Billing-ham, uses a further 2 million gallons a day of water from the Tees Estuary. The right hon. and learned Member for Huntingdonshire (Sir D. Renton), who seemed to assume too readily that neither the water Board nor I.C.I. had sought other sources of supply, should bear in mind that this search has been going on continuously and that no avenue has been neglected.
§ Sir D. Renton rose—
§ Mr. Tinn
I will not give way. I have much to say and little time in which to say it. It will be seen from what I have said that I.C.I., Billingham, is using six times more water from the estuary than the other two sites of the firm. Nor can it be said that the industry is wasteful of water. By far the greater amount of fresh water is circulated many times through cooling towers before it is finally rejected.
I come to the allegations that have been made against I.C.I. As I said, I must try to satisfy the House on two major points in this connection. First, I must try to show why I.C.I. was unable to foresee this dramatic increase in its water needs and, secondly, I must explain why this urgent demand for water arises and why we have not been able to afford to yield to the persuasions of hon. Members who wish to delay this consideration.
Much, though not all, of the increased demand arises from the construction at Billingham of three of the world's largest single ammonia plants. This is in itself the direct consequent of the discovery and development by I.C.I. of a new ammonia synthesis which processes ammonia from oils rather than by means of the normal coal processes. It is called the naphtha steam reforming process, and was discovered and developed by I.C.I. in the period between 1960 and 1964. These dates show why the firm was unable and could not be expected, to foresee the demand. Far from being criticised on this account, the firm is to be congratulated on its enterprise and on the brains that went into this development, and also on 2025 the speed with which, once the development was seen to be a practical possibility, it went ahead and notified the water hoard of its needs. I should like to see the rest of Britain's industry working at a similar pace; if it did, perhaps we would not be in our present difficulties.
The other charge, if I might summarise it—fairly, I hope—is that I.C.I. simply went ahead with developments involving millions of £s before Parliament had approved the Bill. The distinguished Chairman of the Committee that dealt with the Bill here had some doubts on this score; it was he, I think, who used the colourful phrase that I.C.I. was pointing a pistol at the head of Parliament. With all respect, I would point out that no amount of money committeed by I.C.I. to such development needs influence the position of this House by one iota. There is no pressure. The House, as always, is free and unfettered in its decision on this matter. Far from its putting a pistol to the head of Parliament, I believe that I.C.I. made a justified gamble—if that is the right word, though I doubt it—on the good sense of Parliament in realising the need, measuring up to the opportunity and passing this Bill.
Those who are a little more cynical than I as to the readiness of Parliament to measure up to this need might wonder why I.C.I. took such an appalling risk, running into so many millions of £s. The simple and brief answer is this. By this discovery, British technology has once again given us a lead in world markets and world technology, and for once, provided Parliament will co-operate, this lead will not be squandered, but these three years—and people talk of them as though they did not matter—are absolutely vital in this connection, and a heavy responsibility will lie upon us if we fail to realise it.
As I said at the beginning, neither I nor the other supporters of the Bill have neglected consideration of the scientific viewpoint, but we must try to get the matter in perspective. The argument is about 17 acres out of the total area. It is true, as the hon. Member for Crosby (Mr. Graham Page) said, that there will be peripheral effects due to wave erosion and spray, but they will be peripheral effects only. The hon. Gentleman re- 2026 ferred also to the climatic and micro-climatic effects. I do not have time available to deal with that in detail, but I would refer the hon. Gentleman to the evidence given on the fifth day of the Committee's proceedings—page 15 and the pages following—in which a distinguished climatologist expressed the opinion that atmosphere and atmospheric changes in the area adjoining the reservoir would be only minimal.
The balance of considerations here is best summed up in the decision of the Minister peculiarly and particularly responsible for preserving scientific progress in this matter, the Secretary of State for Education and Science, who, however reluctantly, in weighing up the expert opinions tendered to him by various bodies concerned, nevertheless found himself forced reluctantly but quite definitely to support the Bill. It is a similar decision which I warmly recommend to the House tonight.
§ 9.46 p.m.
§ Mr. Eldon Griffiths (Bury St. Edmunds)
Listening to all the speeches tonight I have been struck by the contrast between the eloquence and sincerity of speeches from the back benches on both sides and the tameness made from the two Front Benches. I quite understand their embarrassment because the Conservative Party and the Labour Party made clear in the last election that they intended to pay more attention to the natural beauties of the countrside. I am disappointed that the speaker from my Front Bench felt unable tonight to give support to those of us who are seeking to retain this area of natural beauty.
I can equally well understand their embarrassment, because my right hon. Friends in Government in the Electricity Act, 1957, specifically required that conservation areas should be looked after in respect of their natural beauty and that the flora and fauna should be safeguarded. Equally, the Minister will remember that the Labour Government of 1945 brought in the excellent White Paper "The Conservation of Nature in England and Wales", a magnificent State document. I am sure the Minister, who will have read it, must have felt in his heart that what he said tonight departed a great distance from what was contained in that White Paper.
2027 This is a debate not between right and wrong but between right and right. There is first the undoubted right of I.C.I. and the local water board to seek cheap water for the purpose of industrial expansion. But there is also the right of the objectors, virtually every conservation and scientific society in the country to seek to protect a singularly lovely piece of countryside which happens also by a trick of nature to be one of the world's greatest natural laboratories of post-arctic flora.
There has always been, and I think there always will be, a contest between those who put their main emphasis on economics without which I admit men and women cannot enjoy the beauties of the countryside, and those who put their main emphasis an aesthetic, scientific and cultural matters without which, let us admit, economics have little meaning. I found it a little difficult to choose between these two points of view on this Bill. I looked for a compromise, as one always does, but I fear that there is no compromise here. Either we throw out the Bill, in which case I.C.I. will have to look elsewhere for water, or we have the reservoir, in which case beyond any doubt this magnificent area will be blotted out forever.
Like other hon. Members, I have had letters from constituents. I also have a constituency interest, because reservoirs are taking up more and more agricultural land in East Anglia. But before reaching any decision I lead almost all the evidence of the 13 long days which the Committee gave to this Bill. Although I found it a heavy task, I found it an extremely interesting one. I came down on the side of the evidence against the Bill because, if I.C.I. is stopped, it will suffer only inconvenience—which, although awkward, can be got over—whereas if Cow Green is destroyed, the loss will not be simply an inconvenience but will be total and irreparable.
In effect it is a choice between a dip in I.C.I.'s profits which they would have to accept—[HON. MEMBERS: "No."]—or it is the destruction of 10,000 years of unique natural history. The naturalists' argument has been well put by my hon. Friends. I confine myself to three points. First, I want to look at the way in which 2028 the problem of water supplies has been handled in the Tees area. Not only here, but all over the country, I believe that we are tackling our water problems piecemeal and sometimes quite wrongly.
As I understand it, between 1955 and 1958 a number of sites in Tees-side were investigated for another reservoir and among them was Cow Green. Cow Green was rejected by experts and, instead, a reservoir was built at Balderhead. Balder-head needed powers from Parliament. Parliament gave those powers.
At the time, as my hon. Friend the Member for Bournemouth, West (Sir J. Eden) said, an assurance was given by the water board that the water to be taken from Balderhead would be enough to satisfy the Board's needs for 22 years, including I.C.I., including Dorman Long, and including all of the projected development at that time.
The water board got it wrong. Balder-head was not enough for 22 years. It was not even enough for six years. Even before that reservoir was opened in October of last year, I.C.I. and Dorman Long were coming forward for more water. The evidence is quite clear that the water board has consistently underestimated the water needs of the area. Indeed, it has come to Parliament no fewer than three times in the last 12 years for more powers to build more reservoirs.
What is more, the board acknowledges that, even if this Cow Green scheme is agreed by the House tonight, it will still have to start looking for yet another, bigger source of water in the area within the next three or four years. So, in all probability, these gentlemen will be back in the House seeking yet another Private Bill on behalf of the same water board, within five to ten years from now.
At day 22, page 23 of the evidence, the chief engineer of the water board was asked what allowance the board was making for future industrial demands. His reply was a monument to this board's far-sightedness. He said this:The allowance we are making for future industrial use is quite modest in respect of industrial demands and nothing at all for I.C.I.He may have known that the Government's National Plan was about to collapse and that I.C.I. therefore would not need any more water! But surely we cannot be asked to believe that I.C.I. will have no more water requirements 2029 after 1970. It simply does not make sense. It is not what I.C.I. itself told the Committee.
My point is not to cast aspersions at the water board or its engineers. It is simply to underline that estimating the future needs for water is an extremely difficult task. It is a matter of guesswork. It is easy to be wrong. But against the uncertainties—one might even say the guesswork—of water projections, is the total and absolute fact that, if this reservoir scheme is permitted to go ahead, a unique and invaluable scientific area will be lost for good.
The second point I wish to deal with is I.C.I.'s approach. I have great admiration for this magnificent firm. I am sure that all hon. Members will accept that. But I certainly hope that the firm does not tackle its usual business problems in this fashion. The firm first informed the water board that its needs would greatly increase in July, 1964. At the end of that year it said that it would want 25 million gallons a day by 1969.
The year 1969 is a very interesting date. The same witness from I.C.I. who told the Committee this, also said that it generally takes between five and seven years to complete such a reservoir. Therefore, we are told at the end of 1964 that something which will take at least five, and probably seven years, to build must be ready by 1969. This does not leave very much time for other people's views to be taken into account, for all the surveys to be done and the geological investigations to be completed, and, above all, for Parliament to be consulted.
Why was so little time left for consultation? I cannot avoid the impression that I.C.I. simply assumed that, if this mighty company wanted water in Cow Green or anywhere else, no power in England could stop it. If there is any doubt about this it is blown away by the fact that I.C.I., without even waiting for the surveys and before bothering about Parliament, went ahead, ordered the machinery and started the buildings which the water that it had not yet got was intended to be used in. It was not a question of "fly now, nay later" but "build now and worry about the water when it suits you".
As a result I.C.I. got itself into a jam. On day 5, page 7, of the evidence, the 2030 Chairman of the Committee, having ascertained that was already putting up new works in readiness for the water for which it was still asking, asked the I.C.I. witness:Suppose Parliament refused to pass the Bill. What would be the position of I.C.I.?The witness replied:We would be in a very difficult position indeed.Like the hon. Member for South Shields (Mr. Blenkinsop), the Chairman commented:But are you not putting a pistol at the head of Parliament when you tell us that all this building is going on because you have come to the conclusion that you put them up and then you just get the water?That is precisely what I.C.I. is doing—putting a pistol at our heads. It is no use the promoters saying, as they did before the Committee, that they assumed that they would not need Parliament's consent, that they thought that they could get permission direct from the Minister. It was their business to know that Parliamentary permission would be required.
When a big company with an international reputation intends to spend millions on new plant, it is only prudent to its stockholders if to no one else to get all the details tied up clearly before a single shovelful of earth is moved. But I.C.I. did not do so.
Is there an alternative? I believe that there is and that it lies in the high reservoir up the river which is known as Middleton. My hon. Friend the Member for Richmond, Yorks (Mr. Kitson) said that he would not like that because it is in his constituency and would interfere with farming. I have not time to develop the argument but, having examined the evidence carefully, I have concluded that would be the better course because it would provide water not simply for this individual undertaking of I.C.I. but for the whole generality of users in the area as the population grows over the next 10 years.
I now wish to sum up. First, this is not a conflict of right with wrong, but a conflict of right with right. But the greater right lies with those who wish to retain a precious portion of our national heritage rather than with those who say, rightly, that they must have more water, because, with a little more expense and a good deal more ingenuity, they could obtain these supplies elsewhere.
2031 Secondly, there are grave doubts, based on new construction and geological evidence, as to whether the scheme proposed is structurally sound. All reservoirs leak, as all Government's leak. But it appears that this one will leak more than most.
Thirdly, it is not proved that the promoters, I.C.I. and the local water board have done their homework right. They were wrong before and may well be wrong again.
Fourthly, I do not like the way that I.C.I. has gone about the Bill. It has been a rushed and last minute affair, as the Minister himself mentioned. What is
§ more, it is treating the House of Commons as a rubber stamp. It is for that reason more than any other that I and my hon. Friends will vote against the Bill.
§ Mr. Tinn rose in his place and claimed to move, That the Question be now put.
§ Question, That the Question be now put, put and agreed to.
§ Question put accordingly, That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question:—
§ The House divided: Ayes 112, Noes 82.2033
|Division No. 149.]||AYES||[10.0 p.m.|
|Alldritt, Walter||Gourley, Harry||O'Malley, Brian|
|Armstrong, Ernest||Grey, Charles (Durham)||Orme, Stanley|
|Atkinson, Norman (Tottenham)||Griffiths, Rt. Hn. James (Llanelly)||Oswald, Thomas|
|Bagier, Gordon A. T.||Hamilton, William (Fife, W.)||Page, Derek (King's Lynn)|
|Beaney, Alan||Harper, Joseph||Palmer, Arthur|
|Bidwell, Sydney||Harrison, Walter (Wakefield)||Parkyn, Brian (Bedford)|
|Binns, John||Hart, Mrs. Judith||Pentland, Norman|
|Bishop, E. S.||Hattersley, Roy||Perry, Ernest G. (Battersea, S.)|
|Blackburn, F.||Hazell, Bert||Price, Christopher (Perry Barr)|
|Booth, Albert||Herbison, Rt. Hn. Margaret||Price, Thomas (Westhoughton)|
|Bottomley, Rt. Hn. Arthur||Hiley, Joseph||Redhead, Edward|
|Boyden, James||Howie, W.||Rees, Merlyn|
|Braddock, Mrs. E. M.||Hoy, James||Reynolds, G. W.|
|Bray, Dr. Jeremy||Hunter, Adam||Richard, Ivor|
|Brown, R. W. (Shoreditch & F'bury)||Jackson, Cohn (B'h'se & Spenb'gh)||Roberts, Goronwy (Caernarvon)|
|Bullus, Sir Eric||Janner, Sir Barnett||Rodgers, William (Stockton)|
|Butler, Mrs. Joyce (Wood Green)||Jopling, Michael||Ross, Rt. Hn. William|
|Cant, R. B.||Kaberry, Sir Donald||Shaw, Michael (Sc'b'gh & Whitby)|
|Carter-Jones, Lewis||Kenyon, Clifford||Silkin, John (Deptford)|
|Conlan, Bernard||Lawson, George||Slater, Joseph|
|Crawshaw, Richard||Lee, Rt. Hn. Jennie (Cannock)||Small, William|
|Cronin, John||Lever, L. M. (Ardwick)||Spriggs, Leslie|
|Crouch, David||Lomas, Kenneth||Steele, Thomas (Dunbartonshire, W.)|
|Cullen, Mrs. Alice||Loughlin, Charles||Stonehouse, John|
|Davies, Dr. Ernest (Stretford)||Luard, Evan||Symonds, J. B.|
|Davies, Ednyfed Hudson (Conway)||McBride, Nell||Thornton, Ernest|
|Doig, Peter||McCann, John||Tinn, James|
|Eadie, Alex||MacColl, James||Turton, Rt. Hn. R. H.|
|Edwards, Robert (Bilston)||Mackenzie, Gregor (Rutherglen)||Urwin, T. W.|
|Elliott, R.W. (N'c'tle-upon-Tyne, N.)||McNamara, J. Kevin||Wainwright, Edwin (Dearne Valley)|
|Errington, Sir Eric||Maydon, Lt.-Cmdr. S. L. C.||Walker, Peter (Worcester)|
|Evans, Ioan L. (Birm'h'm, Yardley)||Millan, Bruce||Watkins, David (Consett)|
|Fitch, Alan (Wigan)||Mitchell, R. C. (S'th'pton, Test)||Whitelaw, William|
|Fletcher, Ted (Darlington)||Morris, Charles R. (Openshaw)||Wigg, Rt. Hn. George|
|Forrester, John||Neal, Harold||Willey, Rt. Hn. Frederick|
|Fraser, John (Norwood)||Norwood, Christopher||Wilson, William (Coventry, S.)|
|Fraser, Rt. Hn. Tom (Hamilton)||Oakes, Gordon|
|Garrett, W. E.||Ogden, Eric||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Mr. Leadbitter and Mr. Kitson|
|Allason, James (Hemel Hempstead)||Davies, Robert (Cambridge)||Hill, J. E. B.|
|Archer, Peter||Doughty, Charles||Hooley, Frank|
|Astor, John||Driberg, Tom||Hooson, Emlyn|
|Atkins, Humphrey (M't'n & M'd'n)||Edwards, William (Merioneth)||Horner, John|
|Beamish, Col. Sir Tufton||Farr, John||Jackson, Peter M. (High Peak)|
|Bennett, Sir Frederic (Torquay)||Faulds, Andrew||Jeger, Mrs. Lena (H'b'n & St. P'cras, S.)|
|Berry, Hn. Anthony||Fowler, Gerry||Johnson, Carol (Lewisham, S.)|
|Bessell, Peter||Gardner, A. J.||Johnston, Russell (Inverness)|
|Biffen, John||Goodhew, Victor||Jones, Arthur (Northants, S.)|
|Body, Richard||Grant, Anthony||Kerr, Russell (Feltham)|
|Bradley, Tom||Gray, Dr. Hugh (Yarmouth)||Kershaw, Anthony|
|Cooper-Key, Sir Neill||Gregory, Arnold||Kimball, Marcus|
|Craddock, Sir Beresford (Spelthorne)||Griffiths, Eldon (Bury St. Edmunds)||Kirk, Peter|
|Cunningham, Sir Knox||Griffiths, Will (Exchange)||Lestor, Miss Joan|
|Dalkeith, Earl of||Hawkins, Paul||Longden, Gilbert|
|Lubbock, Eric||Renton, Rt. Hn. Sir David||Walters, Dennis|
|Mackenzie, Alasdair (Ross & Crom'ty)||Roebuck, Roy||Ward, Dame Irene|
|Madden, Martin||Russell, Sir Ronald||Webster, David|
|Mallalieu, E. L. (Brigg)||Sharpies, Richard||Wells, John (Maidstone)|
|Manuel, Archie||Shaw, Arnold (Ilford, S.)||Wells, William (Walsall, N.)|
|Marquand, David||Smith, John||Williams, Mrs. Shirley (Hitchin)|
|Morgan, Eystan (Cardiganshire)||Steel, David (Roxburgh)||Wills, Sir Gerald (Bridgwater)|
|Moyle, Roland||Talbot, John E.||Wilson, Geoffrey (Truro)|
|Murton, Oscar||Tapsell, Peter||Winstanley, Dr. M. P.|
|Neave, Airey||Thorpe, Jeremy||Wood, Rt. Hn. Richard|
|Osborne, Sir Cyril (Louth)||Tuck, Raphael||Worsley, Marcus|
|Parker, John (Dagenham)||Vaughan-Morgan, Rt. Hn. Sir John|
|Pym, Francis||Wainwright, Richard (Colne Valley)||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Sir John Eden and Mr. Blenkinsop.|
§ Main Question put and agreed to.
§ Bill, as amended, considered accordingly; to be read the Third Time.