HL Deb 12 May 1959 vol 216 cc282-4

My Lords, may I now put the Question Standing in my name on the Order Paper.

[The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government whether they can now institute hydrological surveys in the three South-Eastern statistical areas where Fig. 7, Appendix II, shows that the surplus of supply over demand is lowest. (Reference is to the first report from the Central Advisory Water Committee's Sub-Committee on The Growing Demand for Water.)]


My Lords, I must apologise to the noble Earl for not having earlier the Answer to his Question. Again, I regret that owing to a factor of post I have no further details beyond those which, with your Lordships' leave, I shall read to the noble Lord in answer. Should he have any further question, shall, of course, be only too pleased to take it up with my right honourable friend the Minister.

The problems of supply and demand in the three South-Eastern statistical areas are already being examined by other means. Hydrological surveys are now in hand, however, for the Severn and Great Ouse to assess the capacity of these rivers to meet the large additional and urgent demands. The experience gained from these surveys will enable my right honourable friend to decide whether such surveys should be undertaken in other areas.


My Lords, may I thank the noble Earl for that Answer, which does not at all go to the root of the matter as expressed in the Report referred to on the Paper. I should like to ask whether the expressed policy of the right honourable gentleman the Minister of Housing and Local Government is that before we can do any good in assessing the needs for future demands for water we must have 400 river gauges. We now have only about 120 or 130, and I understand that that is the expressed policy of the Ministry. The recommendations of the Report show perfectly clearly that by 1965 three areas in the South-East of England will be on a very narrow margin of supply over demand—a matter which the Report begs should be attended to before the much larger task of undertaking hydrological surveys all over England, or on the Severn or anywhere else, is considered.


My Lords. I assure the noble Earl that I will look into what he says, and will write to him after I have consulted with my right honourable friend.


My Lords, may I ask the noble Earl whether he is aware. as I pointed out in this House not long ago, that an adequate supply of water is one of the pressing national needs, and whether there is any reason why these other inquiries should not go on independently of the Severn inquiry to which the noble Earl has drawn attention?


My Lords, I am sure that my right honourable friend will consider what the noble Viscount has said.


My Lords, I should like to put this point to the noble Earl, the Leader of the House. We know that accidents will sometimes happen, such as happened about Questions to-day, but we are a little concerned about the fact that it should come back to a question of posts. That, I understood, was the explanation. We are very anxious and we hope that such economies are not going on as to prevent a proper private secretary service to Ministers who have to answer for other Departments in this House, whose private secretaries would have the duty of seeing that the Minister is duly notified of the time, place and substance of an Answer for his consideration before he has to submit it.


My Lords, I should like to look into the question of this particular breakdown in our machinery. I am not sure whether it is a matter of the post. I was told that it was "communications" which caused the delay in the Answers. I will look into this matter, and I hope I can guarantee to the House that it will not happen again. I certainly take the point made by the noble Viscount the Leader of the Opposition.