HC Deb 01 May 1973 vol 855 cc1074-99


Mr. Rowlands

I beg to move Amendment No. 5, in page 3, line 12 leave out paragraph (b) and insert 'the Welsh Authority shall exercise their functions as respects the whole of Wales in full consultation with the Severn/Trent Water Authority and other appropriate regional water authorities '.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

With this amendment we shall discuss the following:

Amendment No. 6, in page 3, line 15 after ' Authorities ', insert 'and the area of the Severn River Authority situated in the Principality of Wales'. Amendment No. 50, in Clause 19, page 23, line 1, leave out 'after consultation with the Severn-Trent Water Authority'. Amendment No. 51, in page 23, line 3 leave out 'of the rights of both authorities to the use '. Amendment No. 52, in page 23, line 5, at end insert 'and shall carry out any such plan after further consultation with Severn-Trent Water Authority'. Amendment No. 53, in page 23, line 6, leave out subsection (5).

Amendment No. 54, in page 23, line 7, leave out' Severn-Trent Water Authority' and insert ' Severn River Authority'.

Amendment No. 55, in page 23, line 8, leave out ' agreed between them' and insert 'laid down by the Welsh Water Authority'. Amendment No. 56, in page 23, line 9, leave out from ' authority ' to end of subsection.

Mr. Rowlands

It has been the boast of the Government, and of the Secretary of State in particular, that in the Bill the Government are establishing a truly Welsh national water authority to deal with all the water resources in Wales. In one of his brief interventions on Second Reading, the Secretary of State said that all the water resources in Wales would be put under the control of the Welsh National Water Development Authority. Unless our amendment is accepted, that statement and the boasts about the authority will grossly mislead hon. Members and the Welsh people.

The proposed area that the authority covers leaves out a major and most publicly sensitive area of water resources in Wales—the Severn Basin—which will remain under the authority of the Severn-Trent Water Authority. Unless the Government accept the amendment, the Welsh people will feel that they have been misled by the establishment of the Welsh National Water Development Authority.

The arguments for leaving out the area were rehearsed in Committee by the Minister of State, who said that he wanted to maintain the so-called hydrological principles in the Bill. But the Government have never faced the practical problems and the problem of the relationship between the Severn-Trent Authority and the new Welsh National Water Development Authority. There was a promise in Committee that the Severn-Trent Authority would be restricted, but its area remains unchanged.

Many basic services in mid-Wales— sewage disposal and the sewerage services, and the water supplies of Montgomeryshire—that are now the responsibility of local water boards and local authorities not only will not belong to and be the responsibility of the Welsh National Water Development Authority but will belong to and be the responsibility of a river authority stretching from Llanidloes to Scunthorpe. I made that point in Committee, but no change has been made. The responsibility for this, the most sensitive water area in Wales, will remain with a monolithic and incredibly remote and powerful authority. The fact that the Government have not changed the boundaries or scope of the Severn-Trent Authority is an additional practical reason why we should partition the area of that authority within the Welsh border and make it the responsibility of our National Water Development Authority.

There is a further practical point with which Amendment No. 52 in particular is concerned. One of the simplest and most reasonable requests we made in Committee was that if it could not have the whole responsibility for water in the area the Welsh National Water Development Authority should have the executive responsibility for recreational development of water resources in the area. We quoted the concession made by the Government on London, and said that although the areas were very different in nature the arguments were the same.

The Welsh authority has the responsibility for drawing up an overall plan for the recreational use of water in Wales, but it will not have executive responsibility for carrying out that plan in one of the areas where there are the greatest opportunities of recreational development, and where the greatest advantages can be gained, particularly in relation to Clwedog and other water resources in the area left outside the scope of the authority. The Government's failure to make amendments giving the Welsh authority executive responsibility for at least the recreational aspects of water resources in the area adds a point to the case we made in Committee.

Not to change the boundaries is to make a nonsense of the idea of a Welsh water authority. The Minster presented the so-called hydrological argument, which he claims to be the basic principle of the Bill, and which he says he does not wish to break. He has argued that he has left parts of England—the Dee and the Wye Valley—under the Welsh water authority to preserve that principle. But in every other respect the Welsh authority destroys the principle of the Bill. We see no reason why he cannot go one stage further and complete the process.

The general argument advanced in favour of the proposed unified, one-tier regional water authority is that it will plan everything from the source to the tap and have a common, unified administration. That principle is broken by the Welsh water authority. We make no complaint about that. We agree that in trying to create a national authority the principle should be broken for special Welsh reasons. But we note that the principle is broken. We shall, for example, have the absurd situation in which Liverpool's water supplies in Wales, in Lake Bala, will be the responsibility of the Welsh water authority, whereas down the road at Lake Vyrnwy, which is also Liverpool's water, the responsibility is that of the Severn-Trent Authority. We see no rationale behind the proposals. We see the destruction of some of the principles on which the Bill is generally based, in the special interest of Wales. If other principles can be broken to accommodate special Welsh interests, surely the water resources of an area about which there has probably been more public debate in Wales than any other should be the responsibility of the Welsh national authority.

On this basis we ask the Secretary of State to review his decision and to accept our amendments, which are drawn from hon. Members representing all parts of Wales. If the right hon. Gentleman accepts them he may be able to boast with the full support of a consensus throughout Wales that he will have establish a Welsh national authority. If he does not accept the amendments I fear that he will be selling basic, fundamental Welsh interests down the river. We ask the right hon. Gentleman to change his mind, to reverse the decisions made in Committee and to agree now that the only way he can establish a Welsh water authority is by ensuring that the whole of Wales is included in that authority.

7.30 p.m.

Sir Clive Bossom (Leominster)

Now that we are discussing this new Welsh authority in respect of the whole of Wales there is another point that must be made, namely, that an English authority is being tacked on to this new Welsh authority. The Wye River Authority and the Hereford Water Board have been run extremely efficiently and smoothly in past years, and I am sure that my hon. Friend the Minister of State knows that they are against the Bill in principle.

Now that the Bill is almost a fait accompli I know that Herefordshire will work closely and co-operate in full with the new Welsh National Water Development Authority. However, although the exact constitution of that new authority is not being determined in the Bill, I hope that my hon. Friend the Minister of State, who has personal knowledge of the problem, will confirm that Herefordshire will have full representation on the new Welsh authority.

We require a local man who has local knowledge, who is familiar with our area and with our very special problems, and who will be able to put forward the English case and speak for Herefordshire. I do not say anything against our Welsh colleagues. However, we feel strongly that we want an English voice on the new Welsh authority.

Mr. Cledwyn Hughes

I recognise and sympathise with the very reasonable point made by the hon. Member for Leominster (Sir Give Bossom). I am sure that he will be given reasonable English representation on the authority. I might add that the Opposition would be more than prepared to exchange the small bit of England being tacked on to Wales for the vast area of Wales which is to be given over to the Severn-Trent Water Authority.

I warmly support the well-argued case put forward by my hon. Friend the Member for Merthyr Tydvil (Mr. Rowlands). One of the great advantages that we enjoy in Wales, apart from the quality of the inhabitants, is the amplitude of our water resources. It is one of our great national assets. As I said on Second Reading, if we were paid properly for the water that we export, Mid-Wales would be as rich as some of the Gulf sheikhdoms.

We have never been selfish about our water in Wales. Over the years water has been piped from Wales to meet the needs of the great industrial centres of England. However in the past we have resented the fact that this was done without regard to a coherent plan, without adequate local consultation and on occasion against the wishes of hon. Members representing Welsh constituencies in this House and against Welsh public opinion.

Private Bill procedure has been used in this House to flout the aspirations of the Welsh people. Some of our grievances were removed by the Water Resources Act 1963. Others were removed by the appointment of a Secretary of State for Wales who could resist schemes which were offensive to the Welsh people. I pay tribute to the present Secretary of State for Wales for resisting the proposal to drown the Dulas Valley. It is worth pointing out that during the time when James Griffiths, then the right hon. Member for Llanelly, my right hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, West (Mr. George Thomas) and I were Secretaries of State for Wales no Welsh valley was inundated. In other words, a Secretary of State who is sensitive to the mood and aspirations of the Welsh people can now resist the drowning of Welsh valleys.

This matter was debated in detail nearly ten years ago, on 18th July 1963. The Government of the day rejected the plea that Wales should be treated as one unit. Now, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Merthyr Tydvil pointed out, we have trotted out again the same old arguments that we heard then. The Minister of State made these old points in his speech in Committee. We are told that geography is against us. We are told that for hydrological reasons Wales cannot be dealt with as a national entity. But there is good authority for the contrary view. The Welsh Water Advisory Committee prepared a report some years ago at the Government's request and conducted a detailed hydro-logical survey of Wales. The Committee found that there was no overriding argument for not dealing with Wales as one hydrological unit.

The Secretary of State and the Minister should go back to that report and read it carefully before the Bill concludes all its stages. It seems incredible that after the years since that report was made available to the Government and the debates on the Water Resources Bill took place, the Government should persist with this scheme for an elephantine Severn-Trent authority. Like the Bourbons, they have learned nothing and forgotten nothing. They propose to detach from Wales the most sensitive, and in terms of water the most valuable, area of mid-Wales. They propose to set up a Welsh National Water Development Authority and at the same time to emasculate it by depriving it of authority over a large part of the Principality. The Indians have been protesting in Wounded Knee about something far less during past weeks.

Functions which are enormously important to the communities of mid-Wales are to be determined and operated by an authority the majority of whose members have no knowledge of them and no community of interest at all. Nottingham, Scunthorpe and Birmingham will dominate the villages of mid-Wales. The land of Howell Harris and Ann Griffiths will be at the mercy of the heirs of Robin Hood. But in any case, this is a piece of political banditry.

It is inconceivable that sewerage schemes in Montgomeryshire should be decided by this vast authority. It is offensive that amenity and recreation in the beautiful upper Severn Valley is to be outside the jurisdiction of the Welsh Authority. I understand that a Welsh plan for recreation and amenity is to be drawn up by the Welsh Authority in consultation with the Severn-Trent Authority. But the execution of that plan for mid-Wales will be the responsibility of the Severn-Trent Authority. This is an unnecessary insult to Wales which the Government will regret. At the very least, this function should have been retained fully in Wales. That would have been administratively quite practicable.

I cannot understand how the Secretary of State and the Minister of State came to agree to this. They and their officials had ample opportunity when the Bill was being drafted to consider the implications. They must have considered the Welsh aspects of the Bill, yet in cold blood they have decided to hand over a vast area of our country to this enormous, English-dominated authority. How did they ever come to do it, when all the trends and tendencies in Wales, Scotland and parts of England are towards decentralisation? I cannot understand it.

We appreciate the difficulties of Ministers, who frequently have to make compromises, but, on an issue like this, when they are responsible for representing the Welsh point of view in Cabinet and in Cabinet Committees, they have surrendered something of enormous value to Wales to an authority with scanty Welsh membership. They have sold the pass in a disgraceful way. This shows an insensitivity to Welsh feeling that is quite shocking. Where there is a will to do something in Government, there is a way.

The hydrological argument, although is has sound validity, is not over-riding. The rivers of Europe as well as those of Britain run East and West. It is perfectly practicable to devise administrative methods of overcoming the difficulty. There is neither the will nor the imagination in the Government to meet Welsh wishes and we shall demonstrate our disgust at what they have done in the Lobby.

Sir Anthony Meyer (Flint, West)

The right hon. Member for Anglesey (Mr. Cledwyn Hughes) spoils a good case by overdoing it. It is difficult not to have a good deal of sympathy with his view that Welsh water nationalism should receive all the respect due it. I was delighted that the Government chose a solution of an all-Wales water authority—

Mr. Gwynoro Jones (Carmarthen)

It is not all-Wales.

Sir A. Meyer

But the plain fact is that rivers are no respecters of frontiers. They run across frontiers. Wherever the Government decided to draw the line, it would have upset a lot of Welshmen or a lot of Englishmen. If we are honest, we must admit that the solution that the Government have chosen, although obviously open to criticism from English or Welsh, is about the most sensible which could be devised.

What matters above all, surely, is that we should make the best possible use of our scarce water resources. It would be tragic if, by elevating water nationalism into some kind of sacred principle, we placed any obstacles in the way of schemes which could improve the water supplies generally and, in particular, if this kind of reasoning were used to delay one of the most urgent decisions that the Government have to take—namely, to go ahead with the Dee Barrage scheme, which can provide a vast quantity of new water supplies without flooding any more Welsh valleys. Therefore, I hope that, from now on, a little common sense will prevail in this debate.

7.45 p.m.

Mr. Gwynoro Jones

Normally, one would listen to the hon. Member for Flint, West (Sir A. Meyer) with some attentiveness on various issues, but since some time ago he saw the solution to the economic problems of Wales in transporting more people to Slough, I am not interested in his defence of this Government's policy towards water administration in Wales.

This is clearly an important matter and has been for a generation or more. It is a problem that has aroused tremendous feeling and has been manipulated and played upon by people of a certain political persuasion in Wales when the situation was ripe for that kind of development. What is remarkable is the tremendous silence from the so-called patriots of Wales over the last few months when a part of Wales was being handed over to an English authority.

Mr. Emlyn Hooson (Montgomery)

Would the hon. Member agree that the Nationalists have had a good deal to be silent about?

Mr. Jones

One could follow that interesting remark in some detail. When that body of people has lost its president, its chairman and Mr. Emrys Roberts in local elections, it should certainly be silent.

If this situation had arisen under the Labour Government, one could just imagine the outcry in Wales from these people. Now, the situation is completely different. The Secretary of State and the Minister of State can count themselves lucky on having allies, for some reason known only to members in that movement in Wales who have shouted on this issue for a generation or more.

I am not greatly enamoured of the concept of the Welsh National Water Development Authority, because it is a nominated authority. In addition even the chairman will be at the mercy and the whims of the Secretary of State. He will be the Secretary of State's appointee. This kind of situation in the Principality has to end. One looks forward to the day when water resources, conservation, distribution and development in Wales will be under the aegis and control of an elected authority.

My right hon. Friend the Member for Anglesey (Mr. Cledwyn Hughes) mentioned the insensitivity of Ministers but when they have seats in England that is understandable. The hon. Member for Flint, West said that rivers were no respecters of frontiers. This is true, but I am not sure why the Minister of State for Wales has taken it upon himself to defend an English interest in terms of the frontier rather than defend, as he should, that part of Wales which is now to be attached to an English authority.

It is ridiculous that Lake Vyrnwy and Lake Clywedog, which everyone accept are in the heartland of Wales, are to be the responsibility of the Severn-Trent Authority, that the execution of plans for recreation and water resources in a significant and important part of mid-Wales will be the responsibility of that authority.

My hon. Friends have mentioned the community of interest in this matter. The Severn and Trent Authority, which stretches to the east coast of Britain will have to deal with the problems of mid-Wales. I trust that in his reply the Minister of State will tell us how he imagines that authority will give equal time to the needs of mid-Wales in the vast areas with which it is concerned and over which it has control. Clearly if the Government are not prepared to accept an all-Wales authority they can change the priorities and change the onus of proof.

As I read the situation the Severn and Trent authority will administer the water resources of this part of mid-Wales after consultation with the Welsh Development Authority. Surely it would have been just as possible for the Welsh authority to have been responsible for that part of mid-Wales afte consultation with the Severn and Trent Authority. Why should the Severn and Trent Authority make the running and possibly over-rule the Welsh Authority on a part of Wales, when clearly the situation could just as easily have been the other way round? This part of Wales should also be under the control of the Welsh Authority and where there was a clash of interests involving the Severn and Trent Authority obviously commonsense would prevail and the Severn and Trent Authority would have to be consulted.

A plan is to be prepared for all Wales in connection with recreation. The Severn and Trent Authority is responsible for making sure the plan is carried out in areas of mid-Wales. I trust that the Minister of State will tell us why he thinks this is advisable and how he considers it to be to the benefit of mid-Wales. Where will the Secretary of State's interest lie in any collision course or in any difference of opinion between the Severn and Trent Authority and the Welsh Authority?

Perhaps I could remind the Minister of State of his record over the last two or three years. I am not sure that he will act on the side of the Welsh Authority because he significantly failed to defend Welsh interests on this issue in the Cabinet. The onus of proof clearly lies with him to tell the people of the Principality why a portion of mid-Wales—as hon. Members have said, a politically sensitive areas of mid-Wales and of Wales generally in terms of water distribution, development and so on—

Sir A. Meyer

Like so many other Labour Members the hon. Member for Carmarthen (Mr. Gwynoro Jones) keeps talking about a politically sensitive part of Mid-Wales. Does he mean a seat that his party is frightened of losing to the Welsh Nationalists?

Mr. Jones

The hon. Member for Flint, West has not been in Wales long enough. Before we can discuss this matter with him at any serious level he will have to read up Welsh history of the last 20 years to find out what we mean by "politically sensitive ". Perhaps he can take a crash course on this subject from some of his allies in other organisations in Wales.

The Welsh people feel, and they have felt for a long time, that the valuable resources we have at our disposal are a part of our heritage and should be planned by a Welsh authority. While we have been prepared to share water with Liverpool and Birmingham there is a fear that areas have been manipulated for various reasons. In reply the Minister of State must say why he wants to hand over this particular area to an English-dominated authority and what justification he has for believing that such a move will ultimately be in the best interests of the people of mid-Wales.

Mr. John M. Temple (City of Chester)

Representing the constituency that I do I am forced to admit that on Second Reading I said that I was perfectly happy that the City of Chester should have its water administered by an all-Welsh water authority. However, my anxiety is growing because I had not realised the extreme nationalist views which would be expressed in the debate, and I must ask the Opposition to make it perfectly clear that they will be generous and kind to the City of Chester. Following the views that have been expressed there will be anxiety that the city will be dominated entirely by Welsh thinking. I cannot think that that could happen, but I am anxious. The speech of the hon. Member for Carmarthen (Mr. Gwynoro Jones) was extreme and nationalistic about this issue and I hope that in due course whoever speaks from the Opposition Front Bench will allay our fears on the matter.

Mr. Gwynoro Jones

I thank the hon. Member for giving way—

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. E. L. Mallalieu)

The hon. Member has sat down. Mr. Hooson.

Mr. Emlyn Hooson

The area under discussion is entirely within my constituency. It is easy to have a great deal of levity in the debate, but we are discussing a serious matter. The long-term consequences could be serious and I believe that the Government are making a grave error in what they are doing. It is not so much an error of common-sense when viewed dispassionately, but it is a grave psychological error. Even at the eleventh hour it would be wise for them to accept the amendment or something like it and to change the pattern. If they do not the Secretary of State could go down in Welsh history not as the man who introduced a Welsh water authority for Wales but as the man who excluded the Severn basin from that authority.

This is not an easy problem and of course rivers are not respecters of national boundaries. However, I do not believe there has been any difficulty, for example, in the administration of the Rhine, which rises in Switzerland, flows through Germany and goes out to the sea through Holland. There never has been any difficulty in administering those rivers which run between Canada and the United States. There has been no difficulty about the Danube. All water development in the past decade has taken place in the upper Severn basin. The Clywedog reservoir was established there. The next proposition, the Dulas reservoir, which was not accepted, was again in the upper Severn basin.

It makes for administrative convenience to have water authorities following a hydrological pattern. Thus a river basin is put under one administration. But to adopt that approach in this context is to ignore the reality of political life. I live in an area where it is impossible in most parts to receive reasonable television. Some parts receive only BBC Midlands or ITV Midlands and it is even impossible to receive BBC Wales. In other parts it is possible to receive only BBC Wales. We are constantly told it will cost far too much to improve reception and yet the people there see their highly valuable resource of water leaving the area without payment.

While I believe in sharing resources in this country so that the Midlands and Liverpool can have cheap water, I also believe it is equally right that in areas such as mine there should be some reciprocal benefit—for example, decent television reception. If that balance is not maintained and if there is no reciprocity, what are people to think? They see this valuable resource leaving the area but not paid for and the Government handing over control of it to the Severn and Trent Authority.

I want to be completely fair on this. When the Clywedog Reservoir Bill was before the House, with the aid of hon. Members on both sides I succeeded in pressing two amendments which provided that the sporting amenities of the Clywedog project was under the control of local people to a great extent. There are entrenched clauses in the Clywedog Reservoir Act.

8.0 p.m.

I have to say that I have found in my dealings with the Clywedog Joint Authority and its Chairman, Alderman Johnstone, a great deal of sensitivity concerning Welsh interests. I have found the authority to be extremely sensitive over the issue of local people benefiting from the recreational facilities available there and over the erection of Welsh names and such things. Nevertheless, psychologically it is important that the final control of these matters should be in the hands of a Welsh authority.

It is no substitute to say that there will be adequate consultation. The Government will never get over this psychological point. They are in great danger of turning moderate opinion against them. I know people from all parties in Mid-Wales who think that the Government are making a fundamental error. They should be wise and change their course before it is too late. It is not possible to argue, as the hon. Member for Flint, West (Sir A. Meyer) argued, that common sense and a dispassionate view suggest that all these authorities should ignore national boundaries and so on. Life is not like that, as the Secretary of State well knows. When we put the sewage disposal of Montgomeryshire and the amenity of a considerable part of Mid-Wales under the control of the Severn-Trent Authority we are asking for political resistance.

I do not believe that there should be a Severn-Trent Authority. It will be far too big. I am all for two separate authorities, even under the Government's plans. The Upper Severn is a small part of the Severn-Trent area, unimportant to the Authority save that it is probably the most valuable source of amenity, recreation and water. For Wales the Upper Severn is a vitally important area. Without doubt it is the most politically sensitive area on this issue.

The Government have made such an error here that they will pay dearly for it for years. There has to be a compromise. I accept the need for some joint administration but the final say on the Upper Severn should be entirely in the hands of the Welsh Authority. There is no reason to think that it would be insensitive to representations made to it by the Severn-Trent Authority. There would be no difficulty about adequate consultations. The psychological issue in Wales is who will have the final say.

This measure, if enacted, will govern the relationship between England and Wales on this subject for many years to come. The Government will reap a harvest from it which is quite unnecessary. They need not take this step. All that they need to do is to ensure that the final say in water development lies with the Welsh authority.

Mr. Elystan Morgan (Cardigan)

We have had a vigorous debate in which strong and compelling arguments have been advanced for the inclusion of the Upper Severn basin in the area of jurisdiction of the Welsh authority. Although the Opposition could easily discharge such a task if it were placed upon us it is not for us to show proof that this locality should form part of the Welsh water authority. Rather it is for the Government to show the contrary. It is a heavy onus, which lies clearly upon the Government's shoulders.

This stems from the fact that Wales is a national entity, a phenomenon which this House understands, respects and sympathises with. This is a factor which has been strengthened ever since the establishment of the Welsh Office in 1964. Since then we have had a constitutional status, which we lacked for many centuries. Everyone would agree that since 1964 a clear principle has developed, namely, that the territorial integrity of Wales in relation to any legal or administrative development should be maintained unless there are strong reasons to the contrary.

Those reasons have to be of such strength as to be compelling and irresistible, and must be shown clearly and convincingly to the public. The arguments deployed in favour of inclusion are woefully weak. The main argument to which Ministers have sedulously clung over the past months turn on the question of the development of a river basin as one entity. We agree that there is such an argument. It is a great temptation for Ministers to succumb to this argument but it is for Ministers, like all other faltering mortals, to resist temptation. The physical and technical difficulties are not insurmountable.

As my right hon. Friend the Member for Anglesey (Mr. Cledwyn Hughes) has pointed out, rivers have an understandable propensity for meandering across national boundaries. They are no respecters of such artificial limits. But we are not talking about the Welsh people seizing every drop of water which would otherwise flow eastward across Offa's Dyke. It is not a question of ownership to the complete exclusion of any other community. It is merely a matter of jurisdiction over planning and control.

In such a situation it should not be said that the fact that a river crosses a national boundary makes it impossible for that boundary to be recognised in this context. Everyone appreciates that there are three or four rivers, including the Tweed and the Esk, and the Liddell which flow through the boundary between England and Scotland. Nevertheless, the Scottish National Water Authority exists. So far as I know, no Minister has said that such an authority should not continue because of this phenomenon.

The hon. Member for Leominster (Sir Clive Bossom) and, presumably, the hon. Member for City of Chester (Mr. Temple) say that because part of Herefordshire and Cheshire are to be added to the Welsh authority there can be no claim whatever on the basis of the territorial integrity argument. That argument has a certain superficial attraction. If we look deeper we can see that the dominant point of the argument has been completely missed.

The exploitation factor which dominates the water situation has tended to be rather one-sided over the past few decades. Of course, if, standing on the Welsh border at Chester or at Hereford, one were to peer into the mists of history through the eyes of imagination, one could well imagine, many many centuries ago, the occasional drove of cattle or the occasional flock of sheep being taken and driven back across the Welsh border to Offa's Dyke. But for better or for worse, for richer or for poorer, such robust exercises are no longer indulged in, and in so far as the exploitation of natural resources is concerned it is the exploitation by powerful interests lying to the eastwards of areas and features in Wales that we have seen in past decades.

It is the very fear of over-exploitation in relation to this area that has run like a refrain through the whole of this debate. I believe I am right in saying that 95 per cent. of the water conserved in Mid-Wales each year finds its way out to England. As we have been told by so many Opposition Members there is no area where there is so much tension— where there is the possibility and, indeed, the probability of so many embarrassing and agonising conflicts which are bound to present themselves in the future. If this area is excluded from the authority of a Welsh water body, it will be a case not merely of Hamlet without the Prince, but Hamlet without the Castle of Elsinore as well. For it is here that the conflicts, the drama and the rapacity over water in future years will take place. If this area is excluded, a Welsh water authority can never be either an effective or a credible body. Not only will that body itself have been emasculated if the amendment is not carried; the very authority of the Welsh Office will have been greatly imperilled, for no one in Wales will believe that the Welsh Office any longer has the capacity to be an effective, genuine and courageous trustee of the interests of people living in the Principality.

There is no need for me or anyone else to impress upon the House how crucially the development of water and other allied services affects the future of Wales. It has been calculated by the Welsh Council itself that the needs of the Principality are such that if they are to be reasonably met then the developments of the next 30 years, in terms of water exploitation in Wales for native purposes, will have to equal, and more than equal, the devlopments of the past 100 years.

It has also been authoritatively calculated that by 1990, in South Wales— and about half the people of Wales live in that area—the shortfall of industrial and domestic water will be in excess of 175 million gallons per day. That, broadly, is the test, and it is against such a consideration that we have to ask a pertinent question of the Minister of State, who will be replying to the debate. After all is said and done about the amendment—which I assume the Government will use their majority to defeat— and after all the arguments, who will have the final say in terms of the area which is the subject of this debate? Who will have the final say on questions of development, sewage, and recreational facilities?

8.15 p.m.

If an authority within the area of the Severn-Trent body outside Wales was minded to exploit a valley in Wales, would the final and absolute veto lie with the Secretary of State for Wales, the Secretary of State for the Environment, or the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food? That is a question which the Minister of State must answer if the House is to have any confidence at all in the Government's integrity in this matter.

As has been said by my right hon. Friend the Member for Anglesey (Mr. Cledwyn Hughes) and my hon. Friend the Member for Merthyr Tydvil (Mr. Rowlands) in their very powerful interventions, a great opportunity has been lost—the opportunity of developing this vital resource in a comprehensive way to serve the interests of the Welsh people. This has been impressed in report after report in the last 20 years in Wales. In 1961 the advisory committee on Welsh water resources, in Cmnd. 1331, para. 78, said: it is important that development of water resources should be conceived as a whole and that the legitimate interests of Wales be safeguarded. Again in "Wales: The Way Ahead", Cmnd. 3334—whose words were endorsed by the Welsh Council's report on water in 1970—it was advocated that the water resources of Wales are used and controlled to the widest public benefit, and with the fullest safeguards for Welsh interests. It is the measure of failure of Ministers opposite that they have failed completely to bring this vital area into such consideration, and that it should be regulated by a Welsh jurisdiction. They have squandered a great opportunity. They have made suspect the position of the Welsh Office. They have chosen to hide behind the skirt of technical arguments. But what they cannot gainsay is the fact that without this area of vital significance a Welsh water authority will be a pitiable eunuch.

The Minister of State, Welsh Office (Mr. David Gibson-Watt)

I shall endeavour to answer most of the points that have been made by hon. Members on both sides of the House. As my neighbour, my hon. Friend the Member for Leominster (Sir Clive Bossom) has spoken, it might be reasonable if I first replied to his point and said that I am grateful for what he has said about Herefordshire. I do not think that Herefordshire has been entirely happy about the proposals for water. I accept that, but I am grateful for what my hon. Friend says in regard to co-operation. That is necessary in setting up this new water authority. I can give to him, and to my hon. Friend the Member for City of Chester (Mr. Temple) the reassurances about representation which I have already given both on Second Reading and in Committee. I am grateful to my hon. Friend the Member for Flint, West (Sir A. Meyer), who had recognised that whatever Government had to make a final decision upon this complicated water issue—and it is complicated, hon. Members on both sides of the House admitted that—we have got just about the most sensible solution. I believe that is right. I do not believe that any solution would be perfect, because it is a human solution which we are trying to find.

I congratulate the right hon. Member for Anglesey (Mr. Cledwyn Hughes). He made one of the funniest speeches I have ever heard in this House, but quite rightly made one or two serious points. He delighted his hon. Friends and my hon. Friends by his references to selling water, the sheikhdoms, and this and that.

If I may, I shall reply in like vein. During the passage of the Bill through the House there has been a lot of discussion with local authorities. On one occasion I was in a local authority area—I shall not say which one—and on going to the lavatory after lunch I found upon the wall a notice which said: Flush energetically. Every bit of your water is needed in Birmingham. I shall be careful not to stray any further on that line.

Mr. Denis Howell

Hear, hear. This is a serious matter.

Mr. Gibson-Watt

I hope that no one will ask me which local authority that was.

Mr. Denis Howell

Be careful. Birmingham has been good to Wales in providing rates and jobs.

Mr. Gibson-Watt

I think that I can agree with the hon. Gentleman, and perhaps I may take up the point made by the hon. and learned Member for Montgomery (Mr. Hooson). He said that none of the Welsh authorities had benefited from any of the water that had been taken from Wales. It is arguable that in the past water has been sold across the border at too cheap a price, but let us not forget that Birmingham, part of which the hon. Gentleman represents, has made a great difference to the rate burden in certain rural district councils, to give but one example.

We have heard speeches from nearly every Opposition Member, but there is one right hon. Gentleman who has not taken part in the debate. I am sure that he will take no offence if I tell him that if one looks at the works of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle one finds that it was Sherlock Holmes who said that the significant part about the case was that during the night the dog did not bark. The fact that the right hon. Gentleman had nothing to say is significant.

I think that the right hon. Gentleman to whom I have referred—the right hon. Member for Cardiff, West (Mr. George Thomas)—enjoys a joke as much as anybody does, and it is a fact that he was the one person who, during the time he held office, having considered the matter at considerable length, came down on the side of the water basin or hydrological pattern.

I referred to this fact in Committee. The right hon. Gentleman made a speech to the Institution of Water Engineers at a meeting in Cardiff on 14th May, 1969 when he said: One cannot take a sample and say' This is Welsh water or this is English water'. We simply cannot talk about Welsh water and try to deal with the Anglo-Welsh rivers in two parts divided by an administrative boundary. Rivers themselves do not recognise these boundaries. As your President said, 'We are very conscious of Clause 2 of the European Water Charter, which says that the management of water resources should be based on their natural basins rather than on political and administrative boundaries'.

Mr. George Thomas (Cardiff, West)

I always like to hear my speeches quoted. Is the hon. Gentleman aware that he produced this threadbare argument in Committee and that, having demolished him up there, and having seen him leave the Committee room crippled by the answer that I gave, I saw no point in repeating the argument tonight? In any case, I was not prepared to set up this monstrosity of a Severn-Trent Authority.

Mr. Gibson-Watt

I thought that certain hon. Members had not had the benefit of hearing what had gone on upstairs in Committee. I understand the point made by the right hon. Gentleman. There is a considerable difference between the water basin theory and the size of the authority. That is a fair point.

There was a certain amount of discussion about selling Wales down the river. Let us have a little less of that. I ask right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite to consider who has best helped Wales over the years with regard to this water problem. My right hon. and learned Friend will go down in history in Wales as the man who saved the Dulas Valley and made it possible for the Senni Valley to be saved, and no one in the House can contradict that. I agree with the right hon. Member for Cardiff, West that no valleys were flooded during his time in office, but the fact remains that when we took office in June 1970 Dulas was in danger and the order on Senni was still standing. Nobody can deny that, and it is to the credit of my right hon. and learned Friend that he was able to save Wales in that respect.

The other point that has been made is that Wales will be hurt more than the English parts which are brought into the Welsh National Water Authority. The hon. Member for Carmarthen (Mr. Gwynoro Jones) asked why I defended England and not Wales. I repeat what I said earlier. This has been a highly difficult problem for me personally but, having decided that the matter must be considered on the water basin principle, however unpopular that might have been in my constituency I had to stand by that principle, and that is what I have done.

Mr. Gwynoro Jones

; How does the hon. Gentleman pursue that policy with regard to the north-east section of Wales, Chester, and so on?

Mr. Gibson-Watt

This is also a problem for Chester. Let it not be said that this is just a problem for Wales, because it is not. It is a problem for parts of Cheshire and of Herefordshire, too.

The hon. Member for Cardigan (Mr. Elystan Morgan) referred to the exploitation of Welsh water. Hon. Members who come from Herefordshire and Cheshire see the other side of the coin when their land is flooded with water coming from Wales. The hon. Gentleman laughs, but there is this other side to this question.

The answer to the question asked by the hon. and learned Member for Montgomery is that the final say will lie with the Secretary of State for Wales. I say that assuredly.

Mr. Elystan Morgan

It may be that the hon. Gentleman's answer is very much wider than he intended. Will that be the case in respect of the four main functions, or only with regard to water development itself? Is there any distinction between any of those functions, or is that a blanket reply relating to all the jurisdictions?

Mr. Gibson-Watt

That is a complete reply, and I do not go back on one jot of it.

The hon. and learned Member for Montgomery said that all the recent reservoirs in Welsh valleys had been built in his constituency. That is not so. There is the Llyn Brianne in Carmarthen, Llysyfran in Pembrokeshire and the proposed Brenig reservoir in Denbighshire, which will come under the Welsh National Water Development Authority.

I thought it right to make that point. The amendment would be directly contrary to the basic principle that a river basin should be managed as a whole. This principle was accepted both by the Central Advisory Water Committee and by the Welsh Council in its report "Water in Wales". In basing administrative areas on natural catchments, even where they cross the Anglo-Welsh border, the Bill follows the Water Resources Act 1963.

Although the Bill provides that the Severn-Trent authority will provide water services in a part of Wales, it will do so in consultation with the Welsh authority, and the responsibility of the Secretary of States for Wales for this area in Wales will not be affected in any way. In the same way, the Welsh authority will provide water services in virtually the whole of Herefordshire and an important part of Cheshire without affecting the responsibilities of the Secretary of State for the Environment.

The Government are sure that the proposals in the Bill are consistent with good water management on a river basin basis and with safeguarding the interests of Wales. Paragraphs 41 and 42 of Schedule 3 ensure that there will be full consultation on any substantial development in the Upper Severn basin and that any land or interest in land in connection with the construction or operation of reservoirs will be held by the Welsh authority.

I come now to the second lot of amendments, which I can describe as Amendment No. 52. It is because the recreational use of water space figures so prominently in Wales that the Bill specifies that the Welsh authority should prepare a plan and I am confident that the Welsh authority will execute the plan in accordance with the provisions of Clause 19(1) in a manner which will be beneficial to all those with interests in the recreational use of water space.

The Government take the view that it is by far the better course in management terms that the authority that is responsible for other water services should also be responsible for carrying out recreational functions. This approach will ensure that all the functions of the water authorities will be collectively performed to the best advantage. Thus, it makes sense that the Welsh authority should be responsible for executing the plan in the area for which it is the responsible water authority and the Severn-Trent authority in the Upper Severn area in Wales.

There is no fear of disagreement about the nature of the recreational plan or its execution in the area of the Upper Severn between the Welsh authority and the Severn-Trent authority being the cause of inaction on the recreational side in this area. It is fully expected that the two authorities will be able in the majority of circumstances to come to an amicable agreement both as to the plan and its implementation. But if disagreement does occur, it can be swiftly resolved by a direction from the Secretary of State for Wales, as is provided for in Clause 19(5).

I hope that having heard these arguments on that sequence of amendments by the Opposition, as on the amendments put down by the hon. and learned Member for Montgomery, the House may see fit to reject the amendments.

Question put, That the amendment be made:—

The House divided: Ayes 142, Noes 169.

Division No. 113.] AYES [8.32 p.m.
Allaun, Frank (Salford, E.) Hamling, William Ogden, Eric
Barren, Guy (Greenwich) Hannan, William (G'gow, Maryhill) Orbach, Maurice
Barnett, Joel (Heywood and Royton) Hardy, Peter Oswald, Thomas
Baxter, William Harper, Joseph Owen, Dr. David (Plymouth, Sutton)
Bidwell, Sydney Harrison, Walter (Wakefield) Parker, John (Dagenham)
Bishop, E. S. Hooson, Emlyn Parry, Robert (Liverpool, Exchange)
Blenklnsop, Arthur Houghlon, Rt. Hn. Douglas Peart, Rt. Hn. Fred
Soardman, H. (Leigh) Howell, Denis (Small Health) Pendry, Tom
Boltomley, Rt. Hn. Arthur Hucklleld, Leslie Prentice, Rt. Hn. Reg
Broughton, Sir Alfred Hughes, Rt. Hn. Cledwyn (Anglesey) Prescott,John
Brown, Hugh D. (G'gow, Provan) Hughes, Mark (Durham) Probert, William (Rugby)
Brown, Ronald(Shoreditch & F'bury) Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen, N.) Probert, Arthur
Butler, Mrs. Joyce (Wood Green) Hughes, Roy (Newport) Roberts, Albert (Normanton)
Callaghan, Rt. Hn. James John, Brynmor Roberts, Rt. Hn. Gorowny (Caerarvon)
Campbell, I. (Dunbartonshire, W.) Johnson, Walter (Derby, S.) Roderick Caerwyn E. (Brc n&'R' dnor)
Carmichael, Neil jones, Barry (Flint, E.) Roper, John
Clark, David (Coine Valley) Jones Rt. Hn. Sir Elwyn (W. Ham, S.) Rose, Paul B.
Cocks, Michael (Bristol, S.) Jones, Gwynoro (Carmarthen) Ross, Rt. Hn. William (Kilmarnock)
Concannon, J. D. Jones, T Alec (Rhondda, W.) Rowlands, Ted
Crawshaw, Richard Kaufman, Gerald Sheldon, Robert (Ashton-Under-Lyne)
Cunningham, Dr. J.A. (Whitehave) Lamborn, Harry Silkin, Rt. Hn. John (Depitford)
Davis, Clinton (Hackney, C.) Lamond, James Sillars, James
Davis, Terry (Bromagrove) Leonard', Dick Silverman, Jullus
Deaklns, Eric Lestor, Miss Joan Smith, Cyril (Rochdale)
de Frellas, Rt. Hn. Sir Geoffrey Lewis, Ron (Carlisle) Spearing, Nigel (Rochdale)
Dell, Rt. Hn. Edmund Lomas, Kenneth Spriggs, Leslie
Dolg, Peter Lyon, Alexander W.(York) Stallard, A. W.
Dormand, J. D. Lyons, Edward (Bradford, E.) Stell, David
Douglas, Dick (Stirlingshire, E.) Mabon, Dr. J. Dickson Stewart, Rt. Hn. Michael (Fulham)
Duffy, A. E. P. McBride Neil Stewart, Rt. Hn. Michael (Fulham)
Dunn, James A. McGuire', Michael Stoddart, David (Swindon)
Dunnett, Jack Mackenzie, Gregor Stonehouse, Rt. Hn. John
Ellis, Tom Mackie, John Thomas.Rt.Hn.George (Cardiff.W.)
Ewing, Harry McMillan, Tom (Glasgow, C.) Thomas, Jeffrey (Abertillery)
Faulds, Andrew Mahon, Simon (Bootle) Tinn, James
Fisher,Mrs.Dorls(B'ham,Ladywood) Marks, Kenneth Walker, Harold (Doncaster)
Fitch, Alan (Wlgan) Marquand, David Wallace, George
Fletcher, Raymond (Ilkeston) Marsden, F. Wa kins, David
Ford Ben Marshall, Dr. Edmund Weitzman, David
GalDern Sir Myer Mason, Rt. Hn. Roy White, James (Glasgow, Pollok)
Garrett, W.E. Meacher, Michael Whitehead, Phillip
Gilbert, Dr. John Mikardo, Ian Whitlock, William
Gourlay, Harry Mitchell, R. C. (S'hampton, Itchen) Wilson, Alexander (Hamilton)
Grant, George (Morpeth) Molloy, William Wilson, William (Covenrty, S.)
Grant, John D. (Islington, E.) Morgan, Elystan (Cardiganshire) Woof, Robert
Morris, Charles R. (Openshaw)
Grlmond, Rt. Hn. J. Morris, Rt. Hn. John (Aberavon) TELLERS FOR THE AYES
Hamilton, James (Bothwell) Moyle, Roland Mr. Donald Coleman and
Hamilton, William (Fife, W.) Oakes, Gordon Mr. Ernest G. Perry.
Adley Robert Crouch, David Gummer, J. Selwyn
Allason James (Hemel Hempstead) d'Avigdor-Goldsmld.Mal.-Gen.Jack Gurden, Harold
Aikins, Humphrey Dean, Paul Hall, John (Wycombe)
Awdry, Daniel Deedes, Rt Hn. W. F. Hamilton, Michael (Salisbury)
Baker' Kenneth (St. Marylebone) Dodds-Parker, Sir Douglas Hannam, John (Exeter)
Baker, W. H. K. (Banff) Drayson, G. B. Harrison, Col. Sir Harwood (Eye)
BalnlelRt. Hn. Lord du Cann, Rt. Hn. Edward Haaelhurst, Alan
Benyon', W. Edwards, Nicholas (Pembroke) Hawkins, Paul
Berry, Hn. Anthony Emery, Peter Hayhoe, Barney
BlffenJohn Farr, John Hicks, Robert
Blggs-Davison, John Fenner, Mrs. Peggy Hiley, Joseph
Body, Richard Fidler, Michael Hill, John E. B. (Norfolk, S.)
Boscawen, Hn. Robert Finsberg, Geoffrey (Hampstead) Holt, Miss Mary
Bray, Ronald Fisher, Nigel (Surblton) Hornby, Richard
Bruce-Gardyne, J. Fletcher-Cooke, Charles Hunt, John
Burden, F. A. Fookes, Miss Janet Hutchison, Michael Clark
Carlisle, Mark Fowler, Norman James, David
Chapman Sydney Fraser,Rt.Hn.Hugh(St'fford & Stone) Jones, Arthur (Northants, S.)
Churchill, W. S. Gardner, Edward Jopling, Michael
Clarke, Kenneth (Rushcliffe) Gibson-Watt, David Kimball, Marcus
Clegg, Walter Gower, Raymond King, Evelyn (Dorset, S.)
Cooke, Robert Grant, Anthony (Harrow. C.) King, Tom (Bridgwater)
Cooper, A. E. Gray, Hamish Kinsey, J. R.
Corfield, Rt. Hn. Sir Frederick Green, Alan Kirk, Peter
Cormack, Patrick Grieve, Percy Kitson, Timothy
Coslaln, A. P. Griffiths, Eldon (Bury St. Edmunds) Knox, David
Crilchley, Julian Grylls, Michael Lamont, Norman
Lane, David Owen, Idris (Stockport, N.) Stoddart-Scott, Col. Sir M.
Le Marchant, Spencer Page, Rt. Hn. Graham (Crosby) Stuttaford, Dr. Tom
Lloyd, Ian (P'tsm'th, Langslone) Page, John (Harrow, W.) Sutcllfle, John
Longden, Sir Gilbert Parkinson, Cecil Taylor, Frank (Moss Side)
Loverldge, John Pounder, Ration Tebblt, Norman
Luce, R. N. Powell, Rt. Hn. J. Enoch Temple, John M.
MacArthur, Ian Price, David (Eastleigh) Thomas, John Slradllng (Monmouth)
McCrindle, R. A. Proudfoot, Wilfred Thomas, Rt. Hn. Peter (Hendon, S.)
McLaren, Martin Pym, Rt. Hn. Francis Traflord, Dr. Anthony
Maclean, Sir Fltzroy Raison, Timothy Turton, Rt. Hn. Sir Robin
Madel, David Ramsden, Rt. Hn. James Vaughan, Dr. Gerard
Maglnnls, John E. Redmond, Robert Waddinglon, David
Marten, Nell Reed, Laurance (Bolton, E.) Walder, David (Clitheroe)
Mather, Carol Rhys Williams, Sir Brandon Walker-Smith, Rt. Hn. Sir Derek
Mawby, Ray Ridley, Hn. Nicholas Ward, Dame Irene
Maxwell-Hyslop, R. J. Rlppon, Rt. Hn. Geoffrey Weatherill, Bernard
Meyer, Sir Anthony Roberts, Michael (Cardiff, N.) Wells, John (Maldstone)
Mills, Peter (Torrlngton) Roberts, Wyn (Conway) White, Roger (Gravesend)
Miscampbell, Norman Host, Peter Wiggln, Jerry
Mitchell, David (Basingstoke) Shaw, Michael (Sc'b'gh & Whitby) Wilkinson, John
Moate, Roger Shersby, Michael Winterton, Nicholas
Money, Ernle Simeons, Charles Wolrige-Gordon, Patrick
Monks, Mrs. Connie Sinclair, Sir George Woodhouse, Hn. Christopher
Monro, Hector Skeet, T. H. H. Woodnutt, Mark
Montgomery, Fergus Soref, Harold Worsley Marcus
Morrison, Charles Speed, Keith Younger, Hn. George
Mudd, David Spence, John
Murton, Oscar Sproat, lain TELLERS FOR THE NOES:
Nabarro, Sir Gerald Stanbrook, fvor Mr. Tim Fortescue and
Normanton, Tom Stodart, Anthony (Edinburgh, W.)

Question accordingly negatived.

Mr. Graham Page

I beg to move Amendment No. 7, in page 3, line 37, leave out from 'order' to end of line 40.

In Committee I disputed the allegation that the words which the amendment omits gave Ministers wholly excessive powers, but, I did not disguise the fact that I did not like the words very much. Some provision for amending the Act will be needed and it is not unusual to have a provision of that sort in a Bill. For example, if an order is duly made under Clause 2 altering the area of a water authority, it may in consequence be necessary to amend the description of the areas of water authorities in Schedule 1.

Having further examined the clause, and as an earnest of my good intentions —my intentions, of course, are always good—I feel that it is right to omit these words, although at a later stage we may have to think of some better words.

Amendment agreed to.

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