HC Deb 18 June 1968 vol 766 cc912-3
Q5. Mr. Derek Page

asked the Prime Minister what steps he proposes to take to ensure the co-ordination of activities of the Department of Economic Affairs, the Ministry of Transport, the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, and the Ministry of Housing and Local Government concerned with the desk study of the Wash barrage.

The Prime Minister

I would refer my hon. Friend to the Answer given by my right hon. Friend the Minister of Housing and Local Government to a similar question by him on 11th April. It will be for the Water Resources Board to co-ordinate the several parts of the study including any undertaken by Government Departments.—[Vol. 762, c. 326–7.]

Mr. Page

How can my right hon. Friend justify the spending of public money on an investigation concerned primarily with water when everyone knows that other factors such as port facilities and land reclamation are of the greatest importance? Does not he agree that the time has come to transfer the study to the Department of Economic Affairs?

The Prime Minister

My hon. Friend has followed this matter from the beginning and has taken a leading part. He has discussed it with me several times and he will be aware that, whatever ambitious scheme might be proposed on some future occasion in relation to this area, it will still be essential to have a study of the water resources, such as that being done by agreement of my right hon. Friend and which my right hon. Friend told my hon. Friend about recently.

Sir D. Renton

But if there is to be a separate study of each of the advantages of this vital scheme, will it not take many years for any Government to reach a decision? Is that the purpose of the Government?

The Prime Minister

The right hon. and learned Gentleman will be aware that the original study by the consulting engineers involved an extremely high cost on their estimate, which was very much a speculative estimate, as to what the whole water scheme would involve. For that reason, my right hon. Friend did not feel able to go forward even with the feasibility study then considered, but he has sanctioned a much smaller study and we had better see how that goes.