§ LORD ELTISLEY
My Lords, I beg to move that the North Devon Water Bill 895 be read a second time. I am aware that under the Standing Orders of the House it is necessary for one formally to move the Second Readings of the North Devon Water Bill and the North Devon Electric Power Bill individually and separately, but I think it would be for the convenience of the House that the Second Reading debate on these two Bills should be taken in the form of a general discussion upon the merits of both taken together. The two Bills seek to make provision for comprehensive and almost interdependent schemes. Therefore I venture with respect to seek the permission of your Lordships to deal with them by way of a general discussion. The scheme is to use the high altitude and the heavy rainfall of the Taw Marsh area so as to provide primarily a water supply for certain parts of North Devon and incidentally an additional source of cheap electricity for the companies who are already authorised to distribute electricity in the North Devon area. The area which it is proposed to serve in this way comprises districts governed by six borough councils, three urban district councils and nine rural district councils. The population at the last Census was, I believe, in the neighbourhood of 130,000 but it is believed to be now approximately 142,000. That figure excludes the population in the urban district of Ilfracombe and that in the City of Exeter. Both those areas were never essential parts of the proposed scheme and directly opposition showed itself on a considerable scale the promoters, not desiring particularly to include them, left them out of the scheme.
With regard to the six boroughs and three urban districts to which I have referred there is some form of piped water supply, but in certain cases the supply is admittedly inadequate or it is inadequate in dry seasons. There is undoubtedly a demand for additional sources of water supply at certain times. In the area governed by the nine rural district councils there are 203 parishes. In 177 of those parishes there is no piped water supply at all. Only twenty-six parishes, that is about one parish in eight, have piped water supplies. Sanitary conditions on account of the absence of water supply are of the kind one would naturally expect. They are not particularly creditable to the communities in those areas at the present time, having regard 896 to the fact that water could be made available. The remedy may be looked at from two angles. There could be a pumped supply of water, because most of the villages concerned are at the top of little hills. That would be one way of dealing with the matter, but it would give a purely local supply. On the other hand, you can have what I suggest would be a better way of dealing with the matter on a bigger and wider scale by giving a proper piped supply of water drawn from the higher altitudes. That water would be taken to the villages under the gravity pressure system and the people would get a supply which in regard to both quality and quantity is excellent.
In addition to the fact that there are 177 villages in which there is no piped supply one has to take into account the industry of agriculture, which I always regard as really the primary industry of our country. Devonshire is an agricultural district devoted very largely to dairying. There are no fewer than 1,528 dairy producers registered by the local authorities and also many unregistered milk producers—how many I am not in a position to inform the House, but a very large number. I would venture to draw the attention of the House to the fact that the question of nutrition is looming larger and larger in the public mind, and, when you talk of nutrition, nothing looms more prominently than the question of an adequate milk supply in the country. It is one of the first items to which the attention of everyone is drawn when the subject of nutrition is being discussed. The question of milk supply on large and generous lines is becoming more and more the primary point in the policy of the country. For adequate milk supplies large quantities of pure water are needed. Wholesome milk is best produced where large quantities of water are available.
It is said that cows require on the average something like 15 to 20 gallons per cow every day, and the younger stock lesser amounts, and but few farmers, relatively speaking, are able to obtain all the conveniences and advantages which would be theirs under a scheme such as this if more adequate supplies of water were available. In addition to the needs of the farmers I would draw attention to the fact that there are two large milk factories concerned with the production of butter and of powdered and condensed milk which would be willing to use larger 897 quantities of water if they could obtain them. Besides that aspect of the question there is also the question of the growing residential and holiday population, for which provision is made at certain times, but all the resources which are needed are not available arid there is no doubt that the fuller development of the public services of gas, water and electricity would tend to assist the development of that kind of growth.
Now I should like to say that electricity is already extensively used in the district and is available in most of the villages. There are two large companies which distribute electricity in that area, the Exe Valley Electricity Company, Limited, and the West Devon Electricity Supply Company, Limited, but it is estimated that the demand for electricity will rapidly increase and that some 6,000,000 units can be and will be provided under the electricity side of this scheme; and provisional arrangements have already been made by which those companies who are charged with the distribution of electricity will be given bulk supplies. It is believed and anticipated that by 1939–1940 the bulk supply will amount to something like 6,000,000 units from the hydro-electric plant which will be put up for that purpose. The companies will take it on terms which it is believed will make the electrical undertaking self-supporting and, in fact, make it able to contribute somewhat towards the expense of the water undertaking, and presumably cheapen that side of the scheme. May I venture to point out also the value of electricity?
§ LORD ELTISLEY
I have the permission of the House to refer to both, for which I am more than grateful. Electrical development is very important so far as the development of rural industries is concerned, and in this area there are still many rural industries doing useful work in competition even with modern factory industries. Now may I mention the reason for the selection of this area? In the Taw Marsh an admirable site is found for a reservoir of considerable size. It would be a reservoir covering some 323 acres: that is to say, half a square mile. This would be half a square mile for making the reservoir out of the 200 square miles which are comprised in Dartmoor. 898 It is a basin surrounded by little hills with a narrow outlet, very suitable for turning into a reservoir. By the courtesy of those responsible I have been permitted to put up pictures in the Library showing both the site of the reservoir as it now is and the reservoir as it is hoped that it will be when it is developed.
§ THE EARL OF IDDESLEIGH
May I take this opportunity of saying at once that those two pictures are going to be very seriously challenged on the score of accuracy?
§ LORD ELTISLEY
I have, of course, been down to see the site, and my point of view is that the pictures depict the thing as it now is and as I hope it will be in the years to come. At any rate, they are there for every member who knows the site to form his own opinion upon the matter. The catchment area is a very good one. I believe that there are practically no human habitations at all in this area and it is therefore free from pollution. Moreover, there are no large deposits of peat and the water obtained from the area is clear and will remain colourless. The rainfall is very good in North Devon and losses from evaporation are not so large there as in other parts of the country. The elevation is over 1,000 feet: to be precise, I believe it is 1,150 feet above sea level, and that very valuable elevation provides for a gravity supply, which will obviate the need for pumps. The natural advantages of that particular outlet are remarkable.
There are no alternative proposals, so far as I am aware, which offer the same advantages. There is no doubt that it will be said, and in certain cases it is quite true, that a local scheme might be promoted for purely local communities cheaper than this scheme, but that would only be for limited areas and for particular places, probably on the flanks of the moor, where supply could be better provided in that way. As so many villages are more or less on the higher ground, a gravity system could be made to run from this high altitude reservoir to supply them with water cheaper, probably, than individual pumping systems could be provided for the locality. There is also always the added danger of pollution to a pump system taking water 899 from the vicinity of a village. Moreover, the streams draw their water, as they run, from agricultural land, and the water is not likely to be at any rate as pure as that which would be taken from the reservoir. Further, if pumping is done from local streams, these, as we know, are apt to dry up, and if you are going to give the inhabitants a storage system, it is at once expensive. It is much easier to take that storage from a properly-built reservoir, which would practically guarantee continuity of supply under any and all conditions. As I have already pointed out, there might be purely local schemes or even one or two regional schemes, but in that case you would have to find another reservoir site and it would be at a lower altitude with a lower rainfall, and a much larger catchment area would be called for.
No powers are contemplated in the Bill to compete in distribution of water with any of the existing undertakers, and the promoters disclaim any desire or wish to undertake any of the duties or responsibility of local authorities in this respect. The Bill does provide, however, for their being able to give a piped supply where the local authorities happen to be unwilling, or are not prepared, to undertake the task of local distribution. None of the boroughs, the urban district councils or rural district councils oppose the scheme—which is saying a good deal as there are six boroughs—except Okehampton, whose petition is being dealt with and I believe that the opposition they are putting forward is due to misunderstanding of the proposed Bill. On the other side of the picture we have many resolutions from local authorities, giving support to the principle contained in the Bill. I need not weary the House with a long list of individual representations, but they are considerable in number.
§ LORD ELTISLEY
If I am given permission to put the Bill before the House I hope to anticipate some of these points. The Duchy of Cornwall, who own the site of the proposed reservoir, are willing to give facilities and have not petitioned against the Bill. Certain common rights are claimed by commoners over about 176 acres, and I believe some little 900 difference has arisen between the commoners and the Duchy as to them, but nothing, I believe, is questioned which cannot be happily adjusted in Committee. The important point of finance is raised in some quarters. The promoters are largely Devonshire people. They are connected with the South-West Utilities Limited, who have behind them Associated Gas and Water Undertakings, Limited. Undertakings have been given, which I believe under examination elsewhere have proved to be quite satisfactory, to subscribe to or procure the subscription of the necessary capital for the work visualised. I hope and believe that in Committee it will be quite possible to refute and dispose of the damaging suggestion that the finance of the scheme is inadequate, or that the Bill is not a genuine and proper Bill sponsored by responsible people and that the finance is not provided in a responsible manner.
The question of amenities is a very important matter, and I would like to say that the promoters desire to work in the closest harmony and collaboration with bodies responsible for the amenities of that district. The scheme has already been explained locally to the Council for the Preservation of Rural England and the Commons and Footpaths Protection Society, and neither of those bodies have seen fit to petition against the Bill—at least I have not received or heard of any petition. As to the amenity question generally, those of your Lordships who have visited the locality, or who know the locality, will be aware that the transformation of what is sometimes a marshy basin into what I regard as a glorious sheet of water cannot detract but must, in the main, add to the sporting advantages, and above all to the scenic beauty of this moorland district.
Apart from the question of pure amenity, I think behind it and linked up with it is the economic aspect of the question—namely, the need of making the fullest use of the advantages with which any particular locality is endowed. Very few economic advantages are to be drawn from such an area, unless it be the possibility of such an area providing light, heat and power for other places where such facilities are called for. The main function of any association or of those concerned with the amenities is, it seems to me, the preservation of rural England 901 so far as it is reasonable and practicable, the preservation of those amenities by careful forethought and anticipation, while at the same time seeing that no steps are taken which are unnecessary to the proper growth and development of the countryman's heritage.
Petitions have been lodged against the Bill, and there is an important petition from the Devon County Council. I have read that petition carefully, and I do not regard it as a hostile petition. It points out certain difficulties and certain things that should be done, but I venture to suggest to the House that it is not really a hostile petition, because those things arc dealt with in it as matters to be considered in Committee, which indicates that, in the view of some of those at any rate associated with the petition, the Bill would be taken in Committee. It also points out that certain parts of the area are in urgent need of supplies of water. The promoters take the view that the petition of the County Council is merely requiring them to prove that the comprehensive scheme proposed by the Bill is going to be better than a whole series of local schemes. That is obviously a technical matter, and the promoters are prepared to prove, and I believe they can prove it to the satisfaction of your Lordships' House. Moreover, it is interesting to note that it appears to be the habit of certain bodies always to petition against proposals, not necessarily because they object to the proposals made but in order to assure themselves of a full locus when the Bill is being considered in Committee.
Then there is the Okehampton Borough's petition, which raises questions which are capable of adjustment; while the cases of Exeter and Ilfracombe have been met, as I have already stated in my opening observations, by cutting out of the area of supply those two bodies. There is too a petition from certain commoners. There are the Belstone commoners, who claim grazing and other rights over Dartmoor. What those rights are is being challenged by the Duchy of Cornwall, but they do not affect more than thirty-seven acres out of the whole of Dartmoor. The commoners of South Tawton, the commoners on the other side of the reservoir, are much more affected than those of Belstone. On the South Tawton side the population is 1,182, as 902 against only 321 on the Belstone side, but they have not petitioned against the Bill.
So far as fishery aspects are concerned, the local fishery boards are not opposing the scheme, I believe because they understand that the position would be rather improved than seriously damaged. With regard to ancient monuments, they are not going to be submerged by the proposed reservoir or affected in any way. Some mill-owners are concerned about their power on short sections of the river, and in dry periods it could be arranged to give them all the power they might require drawn from other sources—namely, electrical sources—and I think agreement could be reached on this point. One or two house owners have lodged objections, and the Southern Railway Company have objected to certain points, but so little do they fundamentally object to the scheme that they are proposing to give rights over many miles of their railway system on which the pipe can be laid for the convenience of the proposed company.
I desire to thank the House for the very generous way in which they have listened to me to-day. I know that detail of this kind is not very much appreciated. It is a purely local question, and therefore I greatly value the courtesy which the House has so kindly extended to me. I believe that there is a need for this scheme, or else I should not be trespassing on the time of the House. There is an advantage to be drawn both from the electricity and the water projects. The site is very good for the purpose. The scheme is not speculative, it is properly sponsored by responsible people. Compensation will be freely given to all those who are entitled to compensation. The two Bills do not raise any new or serious questions of principle. It is for those reasons that I venture with all humility to ask the House to grant what is very usual in such cases—a Second Reading to both these Bills, so enabling them to be considered in detail and on their merits in Committee, from which I hope they will emerge as Acts of real and lasting value and benefit to the community in that part of our country. I beg to move.
§ Moved, That the Bill be now read 2a.—(Lord Eltisley.)903
§ LORD ROCKLEY, in whose name stood a Motion for the rejection of the Bill, said: My Lords, I have some difficulty in explaining to your Lordships why I propose to take the action that I am doing after the interesting speech which we have just heard, but I have noticed as the speech proceeded that the noble Lord has, I think, entirely misconstrued the real questions at issue. Most of them are not questions of detail, which affect Committee points only. It is a cardinal principle whether you are or are not going to destroy an area which has been specially well known for centuries as an unusually beautiful district in this Kingdom. You can always bring up specious arguments representing—or misrepresenting—certain localities; but this is a much bigger question, otherwise I should not be moving the rejection of the Bill on its Second Reading at all. I am one of the last people to think that it ought to be a common practice to move rejections on Second Reading as a rule, and I am very reluctant to do it. But there are limits, and I think that the noble Lord who has just spoken has entirely ignored that fact.
§ I should like to know whether, were it possible, the noble Lord would sponsor a Bill for, let us say, building houses all over Hyde Park. We are all agreed that that is an open space which must be retained. I do not know whether the noble Lord is equally prepared to destroy the Lake District in Cumberland or the New Forest by schemes which, in spite of what he has said, are private speculative schemes. He speaks of tourists, but surely tourists revel in open spaces. They are specially attracted by them. Will they be attracted by open spaces if they are built over, or become full of manufactories? If you put manufactories all over the New Forest or the Regent's Park would that be a public advantage? It seems to me there is a very big question of principle there, and it is that the preservation of exceptional beauty spots in this Kingdom is a very desirable movement which ought not to be checked by proposals of this kind. I am not sure how far the proposers of this scheme desire to go. They seem to me rather to have blinkers over their eyes, to see only the scientific and technical aspects of such developments and entirely to ignore much broader questions.904
§ I would like to touch on the question of procedure. I do not know what exactly the Chairman of Committees, Lord Onslow, would say, but I cannot believe that a Second Reading of any Private Bill is always to be taken as a matter of course. What is the use of having second Readings at all if that stage is to be passed as a matter of course? And there are precedents for throwing out Private Bills on Second Reading. It was seven years ago that a very forcible precedent was given in another place. A Private Bill was brought forward, under which it was proposed to build a huge bridge over the mouth of Poole Harbour, about 250 yards wide. It was a private company's speculation. The Bill was called the Bournemouth and Swanage Ferry Bill. The idea was to build a bridge and that you should motor up by circles to the top, then cross over and, so to speak, plane down on the other side. The Bill was violently attacked in the House of Commons as being a quite improper project. It was not wanted in the least. I believe that the private speculating company which brought it forward thought that they were going to make a good deal of money out of it by taxing every motor car which used the bridge. They were going, as they thought, to make a large fortune. If they failed the bridge would be left as a permanent eyesore. It would be nobody's business to take it down, and it would have remained there to make a beautiful place hideous. I am glad to tell your Lordships that that Bill has not been revived since the House of Commons decisively defeated it on Second Reading, and I think that no one in the neighbourhood wishes to hear of it again. To-day we have a similar position, and I should have thought that either your Lordships' House or the other House ought sooner or later to take this question in hand quite as severely.
§ I rather fancy that my noble friend who has moved the Second Reading has been interested in doing so because he takes the scientific attitude rather than that of those who wish to preserve our beauty spots. He has done so much good work as Chairman of the Water Companies Association (I think it is) and he is also interested in electricity. But there is a much wider aspect, which I hope this House will consider. In Dartmoor, which is a beauty spot reputed for 905 many centuries, we have a place which is visited not only by tourists from other parts of Great Britain but from the Empire, and it is pre-eminently a place that ought not to be subjected to engineering experiments. There is plenty of literature to be found from eminent men who take a strong view on this subject of destroying natural amenities. I remember that the late Rector of Exeter College, Dr. Farnell, was one of them. A fellow members of this House, Lord Conway, is another. Professor G. M. Trevelyan also takes the same line.
§ I do not want to detain your Lordships, but there arc two or three other points about which I ought to say a few words. I have had letters from this district, with which, I should explain, I am in no sense connected and in which I have no special interest. Letters from commoners complain that their rights are going to be infringed and I have had opposition written to me from farmers and others. I do not think that some of the general observations made by the promoters of these Bills are at all accurate. To say that their intentions are not speculative but are merely designed to meet local needs is simply belied by the facts. To say that the finance is sound is to make a statement which is very severely questioned by some of the local authorities who have gone into it. To talk about these Bills not involving any question of principle seems to me so incorrect that that assertion deserves stern censure. If the demand for electricity is rapidly to increase, as the noble Lord, Lord Eltisley, has said, that only means that instead of having a beautiful country for tourists and others to enjoy, it will be replaced by factories everywhere consuming the electricity which the promoters of these Bills desire to sell. One point I wish to bring out is that the Devon County Council itself is entirely against the scheme. Why should we put through a Bill of this kind, or even let it go to Second Reading, if that is the condition of affairs?
§ I have some information about what the Devon County Council have done. They take objection quite as much to the finance matters as to some of the others which have been referred to. The Devon County Council have been examining this question for a considerable time. They have consulted engineers and others about the matter. They found 906 that at the beginning—this was as far back as July, 1936—the ostensible object of the scheme was the supply of water to local authorities. The Council arranged for a conference in consequence. They held their conference, but then it began to emerge that it was not only a water scheme, as at first stated, but that an electric power scheme was to be fastened on to the water scheme. A portion of the water was to be used for generating electricity at Sticklepath in the immediate vicinity of the water reservoir, and it was intended to sell electricity in bulk to authorised distributors. That represented a very serious change of front on the part of the promoters. It was not the innocent water scheme which they talked about. It means that they want to become suppliers of electricity to factories and to develop the neighbourhood as a manufacturing district. Nothing definite resulted from the conference as there was nothing tangible in the way of figures to warrant any expression of opinion as to whether advantage could be taken of the water scheme; but there was strong local and other opposition—it is being displayed every day—and societies such as the Council for the Preservation of Rural England and the Commons Preservation Society have taken very decided action on this matter.
§ In due course these two Bills were lodged. With every desire to look fairly into them the Devon County Council came to the conclusion that, had the Water Bill stood alone, and had the Council been satisfied that the only intention was to perform a public service; that it could be satisfactorily financed; and that local authorities interested had expressed their readiness to avail themselves of such terms as the promoters might have offered them; then on public grounds it might have merited support. As the matter stands, no evidence was given of any contractual engagements having been entered into by those whom the water was supposed to benefit. Besides that, the Electric Power Bill is now brought in as an integral part of the scheme. The water scheme is subsidiary to the power scheme, and the County Council feel that this is an indirect method of starting a commercial enterprise. They are strongly of the opinion that the potential water rights of the County should not he utilised for such a purpose without strong opposition on their 907 part. It is on that ground in particular, I think, that I am perfectly justified in moving the rejection of these Bills on Second Reading. There has also been professional advice taken and petitions have been lodged against these Bills. I must vigorously protest against this tendency to distort natural beauty for speculative purposes and to promote schemes unwanted by the public and disfiguring to the country. I beg to move.
Leave out ("now") and at the end of the Motion insert ("this day six months").—(Lord Rockley.)
§ THE EARL OF IDDESLEIGH
My Lords, I also have a Motion in connection with these Bills on the Order Paper. I am afraid I must commence with a little art criticism. The noble Lord, Lord Eltisley, has seen fit to place in your Lordships' Library two very charmingly painted water colours—charming as works of imagination. One of them shows, with quite reasonable accuracy, the Taw Marsh valley as it is to-day and the other one shows the same valley with the reservoir placed in it. I only arrived at the House in time to give a cursory glance at this picture which shows the "shape of things to come," and I noticed that the reservoir was bounded by an almost invisible, very low wall which appeared to be, at its greatest height, some twelve feet high, as far as one can judge scale from this water colour. I understand that, in fact, the wall contemplated will be sixty-five feet high, and I cannot believe that the picture which many of your Lordships have seen in any way accurately represents a dam of that character.
I turn to the statement which has been circulated on behalf of the promoters of this scheme in support of the Second Reading. Your Lordships have all had a copy of this statement and I think it is due to the promoters to pay some attention to the points which it contains. It begins by telling your Lordships that the Bill proposes to authorise the construction of a reservoir on Dartmoor for impounding the head waters of the River Taw and the East Okement River with a line of pipes (approximately thirty-four miles in length) and certain other waterworks. Let us consider what these waterworks are. There is to be an intake on the 908 Back-a-ven Brook, which is a singularly lovely little stream running through the most charming Dartmoor surroundings. There is to be a channel for the diversion of that brook into the East Okement River and also an intake on the East Okement River, and then a very considerable work of engineering. I must tell your Lordships that these two little brooks, the Black-a-ven and the East Okement, are separated from the proposed reservoir by the vast granite mass of Belstone Tor. Belstone Tor is, I understand, to be tunnelled through in order to conduct the impounded waters of the East Okement River into the reservoir. That is an engineering work of considerble magnitude, and I find it impossible to believe that it can be undertaken with-out doing irreparable damage, or at any rate damage that will leave traces for many years upon the surroundings. There are various other works which will be necessary. There will be a considerable pipe line and a high-pressure pipe line, and there is to be an electric generating station to which I will advert in a moment.
In the third paragraph of this statement which I am asking your Lordships to consider, we find the words: "The intended reservoir will form a lake." I think the intended reservoir w ill form a reservoir. There is a considerable difference between a reservoir and a lake. The word lake as normally used means a pool of water formed by natural means with natural contours. We all understand what a reservoir means. It means that at least one side is cut off by a perfectly straight artificial barrier, and I do not think that the essentially artificial character of the reservoir is sufficiently described by saying it will form a lake. It is represented that this lake will be approximately 323 acres in extent—that is to say, half a square mile out of the 200 square miles of Dartmoor. It is true that only a comparatively small area of Dartmoor is actually going to be flooded, but the view from the principal peaks of northern Dartmoor is going to be very seriously changed. Some of the petitioners have pointed out that the proposed reservoir—that is to say the Taw Marsh valley—lies between famous views such as those from Belstone. I may add that this is a part of Dartmoor which has singularly well preserved its natural beauty from encroachments, and is in the 909 summer much visited by those who love the moorland scenery of Devonshire. In the very middle of this lovely area the promoters intend to place an entirely artificial work. There are suggestions for concealing the exterior face of the dam by making the face a sloping one and to grow upon it tie herbage natural to Devonshire, but it is not so easy to plant heather and gorse artificially, as many of your Lordships who are agriculturists will agree.
There is a further suggestion in the statement, and also in the speech by the noble Lord, Lord Eltisley, that the Taw Marsh is merely a waterlogged swamp and that it is no great loss to Devonshire. That is not the case. I have taken some trouble to find out the true facts about the Taw Marsh valley which is to be covered with water. In the winter time the bottom part of the Taw Marsh valley naturally receives a considerable amount of rainwater, and it does become, especially just round about spring time, considerably waterlogged. In the summer, however, not only is it not waterlogged but it is in fact pasture land, and it is the favourite picknicking place of people who spend their summer holidays in Belstone and around. Okehampton. It is a well-known beauty spot and it is perfectly dry enough for families to go there to have tea.
Further, and this I think must prove my contention, on five days a week during the summer months it is the only part of Belstone Common where the commoners can drive their beasts. The upper part of Belstone Common is utilised as an artillery range by the Array, and on five days a week when use is being made of that range the beasts have to be driven off arid the only place they can be driven to is this Taw Marsh valley. The beasts go there, and the fact that they can go and pasture there must really disprove once arid for all suggestion as that this is mere waterlogged ground. As for the rights of the commoners it is suggested that they should be dealt with by compensation. That sounds very plausible in London, but it does not sound quite so plausible on the spot. If they are not to use this Taw Marsh valley during the time the artillery range is being used it is not easy to see where the beasts are to go at all. In other words the noble Lord, Lord Eltisley, with whom I entirely agree in his proposition that nutrition is of supreme import 910 ance, is going to deprive the farmers of the Belstone area of the possibility of keeping cattle at all. That is not a matter for which monetary compensation is in any degree adequate.
Now I turn to the statement that as far as practicable the pipe lines are to be put underground. That is obviously a phrase which gives one very little reassurance. Then a very extraordinary argument is used in this paper. We are told that the proposal to take water from East Okement River for a public supply is not a novel one. That is perfectly true. It is perfectly true that Dartmoor, especially southern Dartmoor, has already been very considerably exploited. In the last century and even before that, Dartmoor attracted those who desired to exploit its water resources, and I think we all admit our ancestors were too little careful of the heritage of their natural beauty with the result that very considerable encroachments upon the wild beauty of Dartmoor have already been made in the south. But there is one area which has remained unspoiled, arid on my part I find it very difficult to enter into the minds of the promoters when they use the fact that portions of Dartmoor have already been spoiled as an argument for being allowed seriously to damage the one unspoiled area.
We are informed properly that the object of the Water Bill is to supply water to various places in North Devon. I fancy the whole scheme is an echo of a matter which received considerable public attention about two years ago. It was known as the water grid scheme. It was very much discussed in London and in the national Press. Proposals were made of a more or less practical character for creating a piped water system on a national scale all over the country. There was something to be said for that scheme and there was much to be said against it, but the one thing that was always taken for granted in discussions of the scheme was that it should be a national scheme and not a source of private profit. It was to be undertaken in a manner similar to the electricity grid scheme. There was to be a definite measure of national control. That of course is very far from being the case with the present Bill. This is an entirely private scheme, and I think one might quite accurately say an irresponsible scheme.
911 We are also told that the promoters intend to ask for powers to supply water in bulk to manufacturers. I shall advert to the manufacturers later. The promoters have made much play with the fact that in certain scattered rural areas in North Devon there is a water problem of a more or less severe character. I do not think its severity should be exaggerated, but it is undoubtedly true that in the last year of drought there were certain rural parishes in North Devon where water supplies became alarmingly short and where there was some, though not great, hardship. The Devon County Council is very well aware of that problem. The Devon County Council, which is an extremely progressive body, is not likely to be negligent of that problem, and the Devon County Council is convinced that that problem can be solved on very different lines from those proposed in this Bill. I would like to refer in passing to one phrase in the speech of my noble friend Lord Eltisley, who said that a long list of local authorities could be produced who had passed resolutions supporting in principle the scheme in the Bill. According to the document circulated by the promoters six of the seventeen local authorities concerned have passed resolutions supporting in principle the scheme of the Bill.
Finally, I would like to say a word on the Electricity Bill. The site of the proposed generating station is to be Belstone Cleave. All that the promoters say about Belstone Cleave is that it is outside Dartmoor. That is true. It is nevertheless one of the loveliest valleys, I will not say in England, because I do not want to exaggerate, but one of the loveliest valleys in Devon. It is a valley of exquisite beauty. It is partly wild and rugged in character, but at the point where I understand the generating station is to be erected there is a lovely well developed wood where Skaigh Warren descends to the banks of the Taw. In that place, which is just on the outskirts of the typical Devon village of Stickle-path, we are going to see an electricity generating station and no doubt other works in connection with it. I think have said enough on this document, but there are a good many other statements in it which are most seriously challenged by that responsible body the Devon County Council. On the subject of 912 amenities, so eloquent a plea has been made by my noble friend Lord Rockley that I need not add anything on that point, but I would not leave your Lordships in any doubt of my own feelings that this part of Dartmoor will be very seriously affected indeed, and that it is one of the loveliest places in England which it is our duty to preserve.
I would like to say a few words upon the history of the Bill. A well known water engineer has for some time had his eye upon Dartmoor as a place to be exploited. Of course a water engineer is professionally trained to regard water purely as raw material or a source of power for industrial and commercial purposes. Nothing is more repellent to the eye of a water engineer than to see a little stream gurgling down a hill. He wants to see it all piped and made to do useful work. This engineer succeeded in interesting a financial group—with Devon connections, although it was centred in London—in the expectation that they would be able to make considerable profit. This group delegated representatives to meet local authorities in North Devon and those authorities considered the problem from a purely local point of view.
They had a water problem to face. They could overcome that either by sinking wells, and Devonshire is a County in which well sinking is not a difficult operation, or by taking supplies of water from their neighbours (and supplies were in fact offered by neighbouring local authorities), or by taking water from the Taw and other rivers at a lower point. They could certainly have met the position in that way, but naturally when they were offered piped water brought to their very doors they were tempted and, it being their duty to consider only local interests, they to some extent fell in with the proposal. But three things were not considered. First there was the interest of Dartmoor. Nobody thought about the interest of Dartmoor in connection with this Bill. Then there was the interest of Devonshire. The interest of Devonshire was not considered by the promoters. It was not their business to consider that, nor was it the business of the few local authorities who supported the promoters. The interest of Devonshire was considered by the Devon County Council. Finally the interest of England in its rural heritage has, I am glad to say, been most emphatically considered by societies concerned.
913 I was astonished to hear the statement of my noble friend Lord Eltisley. If I did not misunderstand him he seemed to doubt whether the Council for the Preservation of Rural England were genuinely opposed to this Bill. If I understood him correctly he suggested that their objections had been met. The noble Lord cannot have read the paper circulated to your Lordships, I think the day before yesterday, headed: "Reasons in opposition to the Bills." That document concludes:For the above reasons the societies interested in the protection of open spaces and amenities in general and of Dartmoor in particular are united in their opposition to the Bills, which they trust may not be allowed to pass into law.Can that mean anything at all but that the societies are very strongly opposed to the Bills and would wish that they should be rejected on Second Reading? The societies are the Council for the Preservation of Rural England, 4, Hobart Place, London, the Commons, Open Spaces and Footpaths Preservation Society, 71, Eccleston Square, Westminster, the Dartmoor Preservation Association, 32, Thornhill Road, Plymouth, and the Devon Branch of the Council for the Preservation of Rural England, 25, Southernhay West, Exeter. In view of this document, which has been circulated to your Lordships, I am at a loss to understand what my noble friend can mean by his reference to the societies.
Now I would say one word about the rural needs and the water problem. My own belief, and it is also the belief of the Devon County Council, which may be presumed to know a great deal about the matter, is that the problem can be solved by local methods. Each parish, by bestirring itself a little, can obtain for itself the water which it needs. But if that is not the case, then I suggest that the proper course is to ask the Ministry of Health to make a local inquiry and to relate that local inquiry to some national water scheme. A local inquiry would, if affairs are as alleged by the promoters, be of considerable value. The members would have facilities for inquiring into this problem on the spot with a great deal more readiness and ease than can a Committee sitting upstairs in this House. They can form unbiased conclusions, and there will be no suspicion that pecuniary benefit will be received as a result of their researches by anyone other than the 914 local authorities concerned. If, then, this problem has attained such a degree of magnitude, I put forward very strongly the suggestion that a local inquiry is the proper means of dealing with the matter.
We come next to the petition of the Devon County Council—a very able document. There is sitting behind me a member of the Devon County Council, and his face was a study when Lord Eltisley remarked that he did not regard the Devon County Council petition as a hostile petition. If Lord Eltisley does not regard the exceedingly damaging assertions made in the North Devonshire petition as hostile, I should indeed like to know what his measure of hostility can be. If he considers that the Devon County Council are merely dissembling their love for the Bill, let me point out some of the allegations which the County Council are bringing. They deny entirely the financial soundness of the scheme. They suggest that the promoters will not in fact receive adequate remuneration, far less the considerable dividend of 10 per cent. upon the ordinary capital which they appear to anticipate. The Council point out that Northern Devon is a rural area with a sparse population and that a sufficient number of customers will not be forthcoming. They hint that they want to keep Northern Devon a rural area and maintain the population as predominately rural. They question the estimates, and they make it fairly clear that they regard the whole scheme as a speculation. In particular, they criticise very strongly the immense borrowing powers which are a feature of the Bill.
They go on to say that if, in spite of the very cogent arguments they adduce, the Preamble is held to be proved by the Committee, they suggest certain very drastic protective clauses which they would demand in their interest. That, of course, is a common feature with Private Bills. The petition itself is completely hostile and I believe that the position of the Devon County Council ought to have, and will have, very great weight with your Lordships. Devonshire enjoys an extremely progressive administration, and they are the last people to oppose a scheme out of mere blind conservatism. There are a number of other petitioners—eight in all—against the scheme, and I will not go into each one of those petitions, though I will mention the very 915 pathetic petition of the Belstone commoners, who are in danger of their livelihood being taken away from them. They have two sources of livelihood: the pasturage of their beasts and the summer visitors whom they entertain in their farms and cottages.
I cannot help wondering whether there is not a great deal more behind this Bill than appears at first sight. I find it difficult to believe that these great engineering works, this dam, these tunnellings through Belstone Tor, this electrical generating station, are really designed solely to meet the needs of North Devon as it is at present, a predominantly rural area with a few small factories in some of the urban districts. As for electricity, I am in a position to tell the House that there is amply sufficient electricity in Devonshire and that if more is required there are many other ways of generating it quite as cheaply, if not more cheaply than by the undertaking of these vast works. North Devon, when I was down there last, was buzzing with rumours. We heard that there were to be munition factories at this town; that efforts were being made to attract industries of another character to that place. Everybody seemed to have a different story, and I should not wonder if this Bill, which provides for the generating of large quantities of commercial water and of electricity, appeared to fit most naturally into some projected scheme of large-scale industrialisation.
A few weeks ago it was decided in another place not to give further consideration to a measure which was aimed at the industrialisation of part of the Highlands. There did seem to me to be a case for the tentative industrialisation of that part of the Highlands, but I submit that there is no case whatever for any further industrialisation of North Devon and, moreover, that it is clearly contrary to the national interests. I ask your Lordships, in rejecting the Second Reading of this Bill, not only to save the petitioners—the Devonshire ratepayers and a number of other people, many of them very humble folk—from the heavy expense of a long Committee stage, during which they will feel bound to oppose the Bill to the uttermost, but I ask you to make a decision of principle to save the natural beauties of Devonshire and to maintain the rural character of the 916 northern part of the County beyond any doubt whatever.
§ THE EARL OF HALSBURY
My Lords, I am going to ask you to allow me to say a few words, because I also have a Motion down for the rejection of this Bill. I ask you to listen for a moment to what I am going to say, because since I was a child I have known all that part of the country with which this Bill deals and have walked over every foot of it all my life. I know every inch of it. When I saw this Bill I looked at it most carefully. I read it, and I read it again and again, and I put my head in my hands and wondered what on earth it meant. Finally I came to the conclusion that there was only one thing that it could mean: that it was a Bill to put money into the pockets of the promoters and to do no sort of benefit to any other soul in the world. I have never seen such a Bill and, knowing the country, I cannot conceive who was the idiot who ever produced it.
Just see where you are. Your first proposition is that you want to get water. I am not dealing with the Electricity Bill although it has been coupled with the Water Bill. I should have thought that if there were to be electricity in North Devon it might be left to the Committee which is dealing with the whole of the grid system over England from the Government point of view, instead of given to a private enterprise. But I am dealing with the Water Bill and the Water Bill only. The first thing you have is this: you are going to have a dam at Belstone in order to keep the water of the Taw there and use it for power. Very good. The number of times that I have walked up from Belstone to Taw Head at the top of the valley, along the dry bed of the Taw, are more numerous than I can count on the fingers of a dozen hands. You do not get water there. What people have apparently not realised is that the northern part of Dartmoor is a solid block of granite, and there are no springs. You rely for water entirely on the rainfall. If you get rain you get water. If you get no rain you get no water. Who on earth could have conceived the idea of running commercial power plant when you do not know perhaps for three months whether you will have any power at all, because there no rain? It is perfectly hopeless. That is the Taw. It has been spoken of as Taw Marsh, but it is not a marsh at all.
917 The noble Earl was wrong, and it is a very important point, the artillery camp is not at Belstone Common at all, but at the Black-a-ven Valley. When the artillery fires the farmers have to get their cattle and sheep out of that valley, and the only place they can drive them to is Taw Marsh. If it is filled up as a lake they will have no place to which to go. That is the beautiful Taw. You do not get any water and it is proposed to do away with the amenities that these small farmers must have. That is point one.
Now as to point number two, which is Black-a-ven, the second source of supply. From the age of nine I used to jump over it at its widest place. I hold in my hand an ordnance map of Dartmoor. On the outside is a very pretty picture. It is a picture of Black-a-ven at its widest point and in spate. If your Lordships have the slightest doubt whether you ought to vote for the Second Reading of this Bill I would like you to look at this picture and realise that that is the second source of water supply proposed for North Devon. If you look in the Bill you will find that it joins with East Okement at Cullever Steps. That is the place where the ground has become flat, and consequently the two rivers, when they come together, are spread out and are perhaps fifteen yards across. Cullever Steps are flat stones put on the bed of the river for the purpose of a crossing, and the depth of the water is about one inch and not more. That is the place where you are, going to get a waterfall for your plant! Black-a-ven and East Okement present another and rather serious difficulty which is not met by the Bill at all. They are going to turn into the Taw water that normally speaking goes into the Torridge. Hen is a big objection of Okehampton. On the lower side the town is fed by the West Okement, a much bigger water, but the West Okement is at a low level. It cannot feed the higher part of the town which takes its water entirely from the Black-a-ven and East Okement. There is nothing suggested in the Bill that is going to be done, and can you therefore wonder that Okehampton is protesting bitterly against this Bill going through? It is a hopeless Bill, and one which never ought to be passed.
There is one last thing which I want to say. I hope your Lordships will destroy this Bill on the Second Reading, 918 and I will tell you why. It is a very important point. The people who are going to be ruined by this Bill are the small farmers in the Belstone district and the districts around. They know that if this Bill passes they have got to give up; that they could not carry on their farms if their grazing country was destroyed for them. It is a poor country. They do very well in a small way, but they cannot possibly carry on if their grazing country is taken from them. Furthermore, I know this country. I have known it all my life. I have had letter after letter from these people telling me that they have not the means to come up to London, to wait about, in order to appear and give evidence before a Committee. I ask your Lordships to say that they ought not to be put into that position in regard to a Bill which is so hopeless as this ill-considered Bill—that they Aught not to be put into a position, where they are going to lose what is vital to them, and which means everything in life to them, of having to satisfy a Committee that they are right in the end. Why not say now, as I ask your Lordships to say, that this Bill ought not to go through, but ought to be here and now defeated as an ill-considered measure? I beg to support the rejection of the Bill.
THE CHAIRMAN OF COMMITTEES (THE EARL OF ONSLOW)
My Lords, I think it is usual when a Bill of this kind is before your Lordships and you are asked in powerful speeches to reject the Bill, that I, or anyone who occupies the position which your Lordships have done me the honour to entrust to me, should say a few words on the matter. Lord Rockley asked whether it is the invariable practice to give a Second Reading to Private Bills. I have my own recollection, going back to the time of the War, and I can tell him that since the War there have only been two occasions on which Bills have been rejected on Second Reading. One was the Croydon Bill, which would have done away with certain ancient buildings known as the Whitgift Almshouses. Lord Donoughmore, who occupied the position which I now hold, advised your Lordships that every opportunity should be given in Committee for consideration of the Bill, but your Lordships decided to reject it. The next Bill was the Stoke-on-Trent Extension Bill. That received a similar fate. 919 It was rejected. On the same occasion my noble friend suggested that every opportunity should be given for consideration in Committee. As a matter of fact that Bill was a good deal modified, and I believe accepted by your Lordships next year on Second Reading—whether it got through the Committee stage or not I cannot remember. Those are the two occasions on which your Lordships have decided to reject Bills on Second Reading in the last twenty years or so.
§ LORD ROCKLEY
May I ask a question: If you send a Bill to Committee do you not increase the law and other costs?
THE EARL OF ONSLOW
If you send it up to Committee you increase the law costs enormously. Of course, if the Bill goes to a Committee and counsel and witnesses are employed, counsel and witnesses' expenses will have to be met. I think that everybody will agree that the Committees of your Lordships' House are, without exception, as fine tribunals, as painstaking tribunals as can be found anywhere in this country. They give every opportunity to promoters and petitioners to state their case, and to receive the utmost and most patient consideration. Your Committees are, however, but Committees of your Lordships' House. Your Lordships as a House never lose control of a Bill. Until your Lordships have passed the Motion that the Bill do pass, that Bill is entirely within your control to do what you wish with it.
I admit that it is a matter of the utmost rarity to reject the finding of the Committee. Indeed, although I know it has occurred, it has not occurred during the time that I have been a member of your Lordships' House, and I regret to say that it is now more than twenty-five years since I first took my seat here. I have never known a case. But I think that the reason why your Lordships are so strongly inclined, or so invariably inclined, to follow the advice of Committees is not that their opinions are necessarily sacrosanct, but that you have such a great respect for their judgment. Committees very often reject Bills on the ground that the Preamble is not proved. Again, they accept Amendments where clauses are objectionable, and they reject those matters which possibly have not found favour with your Lordships, or 920 they amend them and render them less objectionable and more to your Lordships' taste. Again when matters are threshed out by counsel and witnesses—of course at the expense of the parties—the difficulties which may have seemed insurmountable before are shown to be capable of being got over. So I think that is the reason why your Lordships ate always so ready to accept the decision of your Committees. But, as I said before, your Lordships are always able on Third Reading to reject a Bill in exactly the same manner as you can on Second Reading.
I have been through these two Bills. I do not find in them anything which is contrary to precedent. I mean the clauses are not contrary to the precedents. I think they are all founded on clauses which have passed your Lordships' House before. But there is one point, and this is a very important one, to which I do not think any member of your Lordships' House who has yet spoken has addressed himself. I think that this Bill introduces a new principle. It is—and I have made very careful search—a new principle for your Lordships' House to accept that an outside group should enter an area and develop it for the benefit of that area, which is in fact what this Bill seeks to do. Analogous cases have been brought before your Lordships' House before, but I do not think there has been a case in regard to water. There was a Bill some y ears ago known as the Thames Wharf Bill. That was a Bill of a similar kind. An outside group came down to build a port somewhere on the Thames. That Bill was given a Second Reading by your Lordships, but it was subsequently rejected by the Committee, I do not know on what grounds, but very possibly on the ground that the principle which I have described to your Lordships was not accepted. So, while I think that this is an entirely new principle as regards water, I think that is a matter which requires the very earnest consideration of your Lordships' House.
I do not know whether you consider that the principle of an extraneous group coming into an area to develop it is a good one or not. It may in your Lordships' view be a good principle; it may be useful and beneficial to the area. In that case, whether this particular scheme is or is not a satisfactory one would seem 921 in my humble opinion to be a matter which can be judged by the Committee. My noble friend Lord Eltisley has drawn attention to the fact that the County Council has petitioned against the scheme. That petition which in the same way could and would be presented to the Committee, would be carefully adjudicated on by that Committee. Similarly, if your Lordships think that the principle is a right one, the details of the scheme would be equally considered and dealt with by the Committee. But if your Lordships consider that it is wrong that an extraneous group should come down arid develop that area, then it would seem to me to be scarcely right to allow the promoters and petitioners to go to the expense of a battle. Those are the matters on which your Lordships' decision is very important.
May I ask whether the principle which the noble Earl has just stated, with regard to an outside company coming into an area to develop its water facilities, would apply in the case of electricity or gas, or whether the noble Earl referred only to water?
THE EARL OF ONSLOW
I have been into the matter. I will not say I have examined every case that has been brought before your Lordships, but I cannot find a precedent for a case of this kind except in the Thames Wharf Bill, and I cannot find any precedent in regard to water. That is the result of researches made in my Department.
§ THE EARL OF HALSBURY
Does the noble Earl consider the fact that there is no water to be had in this area a matter of principle or a matter of detail?
THE EARL OF ONSLOW
I think it is a matter to consider whether there is or is not water on Dartmoor. I have been there and found a great deal of water there, far too much for my taste.
§ LORD CHARNWOOD
May I ask the noble Earl a further question? He referred to the case of the Stoke-on-Trent Bill, which was thrown out on Second Reading in your Lordships' House. I understood him to say that substantially the same Bill was afterwards introduced into this House and was carried. I was very much interested in that question, and I have the strongest impression that 922 the noble Earl is in some error. Will be tell me whether he is sure?
THE EARL OF ONSLOW
I do not think I stated that it was exactly the same Bill. I said another Bill dealing with the same matter, but, as your Lordships passed it, it could not have been the same Bill, because your Lordships do not change your minds.
§ LORD CHARNWOOD
Then may I be allowed to question very much the fairness of the description "dealing with the same matter"? That Bill was rejected on Second Reading by your Lordships' House on the broad ground that it incorporated in Stoke an adjacent borough and an adjacent urban area against the will of those districts, and certainly that decision, which was the important and interesting point dealt with on that occasion, to my certain knowledge has not been reversed.
§ LORD AMULREE
I am afraid I did not quite follow the point that the Lord Chairman made as to an outside group forming themselves into a company to promote a water scheme to develop a particular area. Surely there are many water companies throughout the country which have formed themselves into a group and supplied water to such an area and obtained Parliamentary powers for that purpose. Is not this the same case here?
THE EARL OF ONSLOW
I do not think it is. So far as I can see from the searches I have made of Bills which have been brought before your Lordships' House, they have been Bills promoted largely by the local authorities. For instance, a public utility company might formally promote a Bill, but generally the initiative comes from local authorities and the local residents. So far as I can see, the principle of this Bill is a new one. I may be wrong, but I do not think I am.
My Lords, I do not wish on behalf of the Government to try to influence your Lordships one way or the other in arriving at a conclusion as to whether the arguments put forward justify the throwing out of this Bill. We are aware of course that the interests of amenity and various public services frequently conflict, and except for remarking that it is very often difficult to judge between these merits without very 923 extensive knowledge of local conditions, I have nothing to say on that particular aspect of the Bill. My object in intervening is simply to enter one word of caution on behalf of the Ministry of Health on a purely technical matter. We are satisfied that there is an urgent need for piped water supplies in these areas. We are further satisfied, in spite of what has been said by my noble friend Lord Halsbury, that this is a feasible scheme and one which, if carried out, would meet the demand and serve the existing needs of the district, which comprises most of the county areas of Mid and North Devon. If, on the other hand, these powers are obtained and the work is not carried out, we believe that the effect might be to hamper the provision of public water supplies, because the local authorities would hesitate to proceed with alternative schemes if these powers are in existence. The powers sought are somewhat unusual. I might perhaps add to what was said by my noble friend the Lord Chairman in answer to Lord Amulree. I think the unusual part of this Bill is the provision of water in bulk to local authorities. So far as I can see, there is no duty laid on the promoters to supply water to anybody, either to local authorities or to residents. We feel it is necessary, in view of the somewhat unusual nature of this Bill, to make this point at this stage, but beyond that I have nothing to add.
§ LORD GAINFORD
My Lords, having listened to the arguments for and against this proposal and having also read very carefully the circulars which have been issued, and also having seen the pictures in the Library and having had some experience in connection with the establishment of reservoirs in moorland districts promoted by water boards which have been quite independent of local authorities, I am satisfied that where there is a local demand for water—and apparently there is some local demand for water here—it is the custom of your Lordships' House invariably to send a Bill of this kind up to a Committee where the most competent tribunal of your Lordships that can be found for the purpose hear the whole of the evidence as to whether there is an adequate water supply, whether the amenities are properly looked after, whether the compensation is adequate to protect the farming 924 interests affected, and where the question of whether there is a real case for a Bill of this kind can be thrashed out on its merits. I have listened to the arguments for and against, and it is not for me to decide these, but I consider it is for a Committee upstairs to decide them. I hope these Bills will therefore go before a Committee, where they will be considered on their merits, that all parties interested, including the County Council, will state their cases before the Committee and that we shall get a report from an independent tribunal.
§ LORD ASKWITH
My Lords, I thoroughly agree with my noble friend in the remarks he has just made. After listening very carefully to what has been said by the three noble Lords who are objecting to the Bill this, it seems to me, is eminently a case which ought to be examined by a Committee. Any difference of opinion between noble Lords and Lord Eltisley can then be decided upon evidence that can be sifted and not by statements made by individual Peers in this House as to rumours of industrialisation in North Devon or statements that there is no water to be got out of the River Taw, which other people call the Taw Marsh. I do not want to go into the facts of the case, because that is really a matter for a judicial tribunal, but I think this is a case which ought to be examined by a Committee in the usual way. With regard to the last remarks of the Lord Chairman that there is no precedent, apparently, for a Water B ill being promoted by outside persons, and that therefore that principle should be refused by this House, that would be a strong order for the House to take. Devon County Council are said to be strong opponents of the Bill. If they are, they will have examined the financial provisions of the Bill, and if the financial position of the promoters, contrary to what they themselves say, is found to be too weak to carry forward of scheme of this kind, then the Committee will naturally say the Bill ought not to proceed. I shall naturally vote in favour of Lord Eltisley's Motion.
§ VISCOUNT CECIL OF CHELWOOD
My Lords, having had at one period of my life a very considerable experience in the Committee rooms upstairs, and in spite of my natural prejudice in favour of promoting litigation in these rooms, 925 I do not think this is a Bill that ought to be accepted on Second Reading by your Lordships' House. The reason I take that view I can state in a very few words. Here, we are told, is a great possession of the country—Dartmoor. Everybody knows it is. It is threatened by a scheme which is promoted, not by any public authority, but by those who propose to make money, perfectly legitimately, out of the scheme. It seems to me that there are parties to this controversy much greater and much more important than the County of Devon. The whole country is a party to this controversy. We have to consider whether we will sanction an injury to a great possession of the country. I do not think that ought to be done at the request of a company which is acting from motives of private gain. If it was a scheme promoted by a great local authority who said that in the interests of the locality it was essential that it should be done, that would be a strong case, but I do not think anything less than that ought to justify your Lordships in passing a Bill of this kind.
§ LORD BAYFORD
My Lords, I want to say just a word, if I might be allowed, from the County Council point of view. I happen to be Chairman of the Council of a neighbouring county to Devon. As the Chairman of Committees has said, this is a new precedent, and it is a precedent against which I want to protest as one who is interested in local government. If it is going to be the customary practice in future that private enterprise should be able to bring forward public utility schemes of this sort, and to bring them forward against the wishes and in spite of the opposition of the local authorities, then you put the local authorities in a very much more difficult position than they have ever been put in before. It is a precedent that I do not want to see established and, in the interests of local government, I want to take this opportunity of protesting against it.
§ LORD AMULREE
My Lords, may I say a few words in reply to statements that have been made in regard to a joint board? I wish to point out that it was long considered whether there should not be a joint board consisting of the county council and the various local authorities to promote a scheme of this kind. That was under consideration for a number of years. I understand that the county 926 council was willing, and that several local authorities were willing, but that certain other local authorities, who were anxious to get water, did not wish to join a joint board because they did not want to incur the debt which would have been incurred by their doing so. They said that they would much rather obtain water through some means such as those proposed by the promoters of this Bill. In regard to what has been said about the promoters, I would point out that they are public-spirited men and women of Devonshire and not outsiders. They are local people whose parishes are without water, and the failure to secure a joint board such as I have indicated left them with this, scheme as the only means of obtaining the water they desire. Whilst thoroughly agreeing with the principle of a joint board composed of the county council and local authorities, these unfortunate people living in rural parishes were unable to afford the expense of obtaining a supply of water by means of a joint board.
It has been said that those responsible for issuing the circular which has been referred to are private persons who are promoting the Bill for their own objects. If that means that they are promoting it for their own profit, then it is a great mistake to say that. It is untrue. But that is a matter which can be determined by the Committee upstairs. I only wish to say, in answer to the noble Viscount, Lord Cecil, that this Bill is promoted simply because there has been a failure to form a joint board with the local authorities. The Bill itself is quite straight-forward and simple. It means simply this, that where local authorities have an inadequate supply of water, this company shall be in a position to supply them with water, or, where there is no supply of water at all, then the local authority, with the assistance of the supply company, shall be able to get a supply. Power is also taken in the Bill in certain cases to supply to distributors if the local authority is willing to distribute and if its locality is without any supply of water at all. That can only be done through the Provisional Order which is provided in the Bill and not otherwise. Thus you have in the first place this simple case of the company supplying water in bulk, which it can do with great efficiency, and in the second place, at a later date, if the local authority does not supply water required by a 927 particular rural parish or area in its district, then this company may obtain a Provisional Order for that purpose. I hope, therefore, that your Lordships will give the Bill a Second Reading.
§ THE EARL OF HALSBURY
My Lords, I only want to refer to one statement which was made by the noble Lord who has just sat down. I cannot accept that statement. He said the promoters of this Bill were all local people. I absolutely deny it. I know where their properties are and they are nowhere near Dartmoor.
§ THE EARL OF HALSBURY
Yes, but in entirely different parts of Devonshire, and nowhere near this area.
§ LORD ELTISLEY
My Lords, as I have the right to reply, I would, by the courtesy of your Lordships, say one more word. May I express my thanks to those who have objected to the Bill for the way in which they have put their side of the case? I endeavoured to meet most of the objections in my opening speech,
§ Resolved in the negative, and Motion disagreed to. Bill to be read 2a this day six months accordingly.928
§ but I am grateful to those who have been good enough to put their side so courteously against mine. There are just one or two points that I would like to make. The noble Earl, Lord Halsbury, has challenged the engineering side, and has said that there is practically no water. Engineers of great eminence have assured the promoters of the scheme that there will be a daily average flow of 13,500,000 gallons available for the purposes of the scheme after ample compensation water has been taken. Another point raised was the question of local groups promoting schemes of this kind. I happen to reside in a district where an outside group cane in and provided me—and I have never ceased thanking them for doing so—with ample supplies of electricity. May I, in conclusion, quote the statement of the noble Viscount, Lord Gage, who, speaking on behalf of the Ministry, said that the Department was satisfied that there was an urgent need of piped water and that this scheme would serve that need.
§ On Question, Whether the word "now" shall stand part of the Motion?
§ Their Lordships divided: —Contents, 24; Not-Contents, 48.927
|Devonport, V.||Blythswood, L.||Grimthorpe, L.|
|Elibank, V.||Catto, L.||Hare, L. (E. Listowel.)|
|Mersey, V.||Clwyd, L.||Ker, L. (M. Lothian.)|
|Cochrane of Cults, L.||Lamington, L.|
|Addington, L.||Craigmyle, L.||Mount Temple, L.|
|Amulree, L. [Teller.]||Eltisley, L. [Teller.]||Newton, L.|
|Askwith, L.||Forteviot, L.||O'Hagan, L.|
|Bethell, L.||Gainford, L.||Saltoun, L.|
|Halifax, V. (L. Privy Seal.)||Winchester, L. Bp.||Jessel, L.|
|Dufferin and Ava, M.||Bayford, L.||Mancroft, L.|
|Zetland, M.||Carrington, L.||Marks, L.|
|Charnwood, L.||Rankeillour, L.|
|Halsbury, E.||Clanwilliam, L. (E Clanwilliam.)||Redesdale, L.|
|Iddesleigh, E. [Teller.]||Rennell, L.|
|Lucan, E.||Denman, L.||Rockley, L. [Teller.]|
|Midleton, E.||Dudley, L.||St. Just, L.|
|Munster, E.||Ellenborough, L.||St. Levan, L.|
|Fairlie, L. (E. Glasgow.)||Sandhurst, L.|
|Bertie of Thame, V.||Fermanagh, L. (E. Erne.)||Stonehaven, L.|
|Cecil of Chelwood, V.||Gifford, L.||Strabolgi, L.|
|Chaplin, V.||Gorell, L.||Strathcona and Mount Royal, L.|
|Colville of Culross, V.||Hampton, L.|
|Exmouth, V.||Harris, L.||Templemore, L.|
|FitzAlan of Derwent, V.||Hay, L. (E. Kinnoull.)||Wardington, L.|
|Hereford, V.||Hutchison of Montiose, L.||Windlesham, L.|