HL Deb 08 November 1966 vol 277 cc786-868

2.47 p.m.


My Lords, I beg to move that this Bill be now read a second time. Your Lordships will be aware that the development of Tees-side has been stimulated in the last few years by its declaration as a development area in 1963 and by its inclusion in the North-East growth zone under the then Government's White Paper of November, 1963. Special incentives have been given to industry to foster the development of the area and to provide employment in the North-East.

This Bill, promoted by the Tees Valley and Cleveland Water Board, would authorise the construction of a new, large impounding reservoir at Cow Green in Upper Teesdale. The reservoir is required to enable the Board to provide a reliable supply of water of up to 25 million gallons per day to Imperial Chemical Industries Limited for the purpose of major extensions of their chemical work sat Billingham and Wilton and for a new refinery at North Tees. A further 10 million gallons per day is required for other industries, particularly Dorman Long & Company, the Shell Refining Company and the Industrial Estates Management, together with additional provision for domestic consumers.

There is some urgency. The construction of the reservoir would take three years, and the earliest date by which it could supply water to meet these industrial and domestic demands would be the mid-1970s. If the water required for industrial use on Tees-side is not available as a reliable supply by the end of 1970, production, particularly at the I.C.I. works, would be at risk if there were a drought. A drought such as we had in 1959, which lasted for five months, could cause loss of production amounting to many millions of pounds. Loss of this magnitude in the chemical industry would affect other British industry, and also, of course, our export trade.

May I now turn to consultation with other interests prior to the promotion of the Bill? I.C.I. informed the Water Board of their need for an additional supply in July, 1964. The Board instructed their engineers, and from the autumn of 1964 there have been extensive discussions between the Board, their engineers, the Nature Conservancy, the North Umbrian River Authority and many other interested bodies, including, of course, the local planning authorities.

My Lords, to a scheme of this magnitude there are almost bound to be some objections, and it is the duty of the promoters to meet those objections so far as is humanly possible. I would claim that that has been done in this instance. There is an objection to this Bill by certain botanists. I think it only fair to point out that when consulted in 1964 the Nature Conservancy encouraged the Water Board to think that the Cow Green site would be acceptable, and as I understand it this was still the case in October, 1966. However, they now feel that they have cause for reservations.


October, 1966—thisyear?


Yes, my Lords, this year; in fact when the Bill was before a Select Committee of the House of Commons.

It would be foolish not to admit that there are not alternative sites. To the engineer, given enough money, almost anything is possible. There are three practical possibilities: first, the Cow Green site now proposed; second, a much larger reservoir near Middleton-in-Teesdale; and, third, a reservoir higher up Cow Green Valley. There are, of course, arguments for and against all these sites. The Water Resources Board concluded that the site at Cow Green was to be preferred, for the reason that development of either the Upper Cow Green site or the Middleton site would involve considerable extra cost in money, labour and materials, and that neither of the two alternatives could be completed by the time the additional water is required.

Your Lordships may have received a statement issued by the National Farmers' Union, but in case there are those who have not had it I should like, with your Lordships' permission, to read one or two extracts from it. The National Farmers' Union recognise that the need for and urgency of a further reservoir in Teesdale has been clearly established, both in the Report of the Water Resources Board and in evidence to the Commons Select Committee. Because of this, and for the reasons mentioned below, the Union is in the rather unusual position of advocating the construction of a reservoir on agricultural land—but land of low agricultural value—at the Cow Green site as proposed in the Bill". They go on later to say: If it is proper to consider the botanical arguments related to a small sector of the proposed site, it is surely also pertinent to consider the main human and farming implications of the siting of a reservoir at Cow Green by comparison to one at Middleton-in-Teesdale. This latter site is perhaps most often cited as the most suitable alternative, but in any case it provides a fairly representative example of the kind of damage which would be caused on the alternative sites generally. My Lords, the Union also say in this statement: In terms of hardship to families, a reservoir at Middleton would affect 39 agricultural holdings, of which 34 are full-time and 5 part-time. Of these, 30 would virtually lose their whole identity and 20 families would have their homes submerged. The homes of 10 families would be just clear of the top water level but it is doubtful, because of the drastically reduced acreages, whether these families could continue to live and farm there. By contrast, no homes at all would be submerged by Cow Green". This statement concluded: In terms of human disruption and hardship, and the permanent and unnecessary waste of the valuable natural resource of agricultural land, it is, therefore, clear that the most likely alternative to the Cow Green site is highly objectionable. It is accordingly hoped that members of the House of Lords will feel able to support the reservoir site as proposed in this Bill". In addition, the Bill is supported by the Durham County Council, the West-morland County Council, the North-East Development Council and the North Umbrian River Authority. And, my Lords, since arriving here to-day I have had five letters from urban district councils in the area all urging support for the Bill. I understand, too, that the Bill has the support of the Ministry of Housing and Local Government, and of the Board of Trade. I would also call attention to the fact that, after a hearing lasting thirteen days, the Bill was approved by a Select Committee of the House of Commons.

My Lords, I have tried briefly, and I am afraid inadequately, to set out the purpose of the Bill. Few of us are skilled advocates, and in the time available, whether we are for or against the Bill, we cannot assimilate and develop all the arguments and facts. This can be done only by a Select Committee. I urge your Lordships, therefore, to give a Second Reading to the Bill, for it is only before the Select Committee that the promoters of the Bill can make their case and be challenged on it, and it is only before the Select Committee that the objectors can fully make their case and be questioned on it. Your Lordships will have seen that there is on the Order Paper a Motion in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Molson, for an Instruction to the Committee. On behalf of the promoters of this Bill, I gladly accept that Instruction to the Committee. We take pride in the quality of our Select Committees; they provide the proper place for ascertaining the facts, and the House will be able to judge the future course of this Bill on their Report. I beg to move that this Bill be now read a second time.

Moved, That the Bill be now read 2a.—(Lord Lindgren.)

2.58 p.m.

LORD MOLSON had given Notice of his intention to move, in the event of the Bill being read a second time, That in view of the scientific and amenity importance of the site proposed to be submerged, it be an Instruction to the Select Committee that they give special consideration to—

  1. (a) the need to provide a supply of water which will meet the foreseeable needs of Teesside for at least the next twenty years; and
  2. (b) other sites for reservoirs, and other methods of supplying water to meet the needs of the more immediate future,
and whether in the light of those considerations the proposals in the Bill provide the best solution to the problem of water supplies in the area.

The noble Lord said: My Lords, the noble Lord who has moved the Second Reading of this Bill has been good enough to say that he is prepared to accept the Instruction standing in my name, which I shall move on behalf of a number of my noble friends. After consulting the authorities of the House, I understand that it might be convenient for us to have the general debate upon this large and important issue upon the Second Reading of the Bill, and so I propose to move the Instruction formally after the Second Reading has been carried. I would ask your Lordships' permission to reply briefly at the end of the debate as an alternative to my recapitulating the general arguments in favour of the Instruction, which would be unnecessary. I would prefer to reply to the general debate on the Second Reading, and merely to move the Instruction formally; and I am very glad that the noble Lord has indicated that he would be glad to accept it.

My Lords, we are not opposing the Second Reading of this Bill. We are in entire agreement with the noble Lord, Lord Lindgren, that it is most desirable that a Bill of this great importance and wide extent should be fully probed by a Select Committee upstairs. The investigation that took place in another place could not be described as entirely adequate. There were a number of matters that were raised upon which the promoters of the Bill were not able at that time to give a final answer, and I hope that by the time the Bill has been considered by a Select Committee of your Lordships' House a good deal will have been discovered about the effect of this Bill. It is, of course, noteworthy that in another place, of the four Members who sat upon the Select Committee, one came out strongly against the Bill. So strong, indeed, was the feeling in another place that what occurred on that occasion was not customary and the Third Reading of the Bill was opposed. A large number of Labour Members, despite their anxious concern about employment on Tees-side, were among the 82 Members of that place who voted against the Bill, as compared with the 112 who supported it.

The proposals in this Bill are that Cow Green should be submerged under a reservoir. This area is a site of special scientific interest. I am not going to develop the argument about its unique botanical interest and importance; I shall leave that to my noble friend Lord Hurcomb. I would only say that it is clear that there must be great substance in the botanical arguments that have been put forward, for this reason. I.C.I. have offered a grant of £100,000 for what is called "a crash programme of research" into the unique botanical specimens growing there before that site, if this Bill be carried, is submerged under water. I.C.I. are not only a great industrial concern but have on their board and among their employees men of the greatest scientific distinction. If I.C.I. are prepared to vote £100,000 of their shareholders' money for "a crash programme of scientific research" that surely is conclusive proof that what is going to be submerged is of great scientific value.

In the second place, it is among the unspoiled wild scenery of Upper Teasdale, just above Caldron Snout which is generally admitted to be one of the two finest waterfalls in the United Kingdom. Also, the Pennine Way—that attractive and rather romantic track along the Pennines which was completed only last year—would have to be diverted. If I may be permitted a personal note, I may say that it leads from my late constituency to the village in Scotland where I live at the present time. The main argument against these proposals is once more that they are a short-time expedient to deal with a need which was not foreseen. When the Balder head Reservoir Scheme obtained Parliamentary approval in 1959 an assurance was given by the Tees-side Water Board that it would meet their requirements up to 1980. After it has been completed, Cow Green will meet the requirements of Tees-side for only from four to ten years.

I should like to quote what was said by the chief engineer of the Water Board on this subject. It is a clear indication that the Tees-side Water Board have not taken a long view of the future, that they are going on from hand to mouth. He said (Page 23 of the evidence): The allowance we are making for future industrial use is quite modest in respect of industrial demands and nothing at all for I.C.I. It has long been the accepted policy of both political Parties to have a national water policy in which all the water resources of this country are surveyed and made available where and when they are required. As one of the Labour speakers in the House of Commons pointed out in the debate, that is why the Labour Party have for long fought for nationalisation of water supplies. They believe that is the only way in which there can be a national long-term water policy.

The late Conservative Government did not advocate nationalisation; but they also were anxious that there should be a national water policy. It was largely as a result of the initiative of my noble friend Lord Brooke of Cumnor, when Minister of Housing and Local Government, that the Water Resources Act was passed and that we now have the Water Resources Board. They were asked to look at this problem, but because of the short-term way in which it has been dealt with they did not have time to make any proper survey. Further, when the Minister of Land and Natural Resources was recommending this Bill to the House of Commons—as he did in what perhaps was one of the most apologetic speeches I can remember reading on the part of a sponsoring Minister—he said: I realise that in this case the advice I have to give to the House is partial and hurried because we have been working against time and all that the Board has been able to do is to give the best advice it could in the time."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, Vol. 732 (No. 64), Commons, col. 2018; 28/7/66.] My Lords, here we are being invited at short notice to authorise the building of a reservoir, which is going to do great harm to scientific and amenity interests, in order to deal with the short-term requirements of I.C.I. and, to a very much smaller extent, of Dorman Long. The time-table in this is a matter of great interest. As the noble Lord, Lord Lindgren, admitted, it was not until July, 1964, that I.C.I. indicated to the Tees-side Water Board that in the fairly near future, by 1969, if possible, they required an extra 25 million gallons of water a day. They had, in fact the previous January placed the orders for the plant which would require this water. Therefore they had gone ahead with their plans without making certain that the water they required would be available. There are, as the noble Lord, Lord Lindgren, indicated, alternative possibilities for the resorvoir. It is not my purpose to-day necessarily to say which is the right scheme to adopt. That is what my Instruction instructs the Select Committee to go into very carefully.

But here we have this proposal for Cow Green which, on the admission of the Water Resources Board, in the hurried investigation that they have been able to make, supported by the Ministry of Housing and Local Government, would not be likely to meet the total requirements of Tees-side for more than four to a maximum of ten years after the completion of that reservoir. Surely, it would be far better to wait for the promised report of the Water Resources Board; and it may well be that they would recommend the Middleton reservoir in place of the Cow Green reservoir. It might take longer to build—it probably would. It might cost more—it probably would. But it would make available to Tees-side twice the volume of water that will be available from Cow Green; and there is really no reason why Imperial Chemical Industries should not be prepared to pay a reasonably economic price for the water that they and other dwellers on Tees-side require.

The great attraction of this reservoir from their point of view is that it is estimated that the cost of the water will be 1s. 1d. per 1,000 gallons, compared with an average price of industrial water throughout this country of 3s. per 1,000 gallons. There is clearly in that margin ample opportunity for I.C.I. to pay a higher price for the water in order to preserve amenities and to ensure that an adequate supply of water is provided for the future.

There is another reason why the policy of the Tees-side Water Board has been a hand-to-mouth one. They have come to Parliament three times in twelve years for authority to build a new reservoir, and all the indications are that they will have to come again in the fairly near future. The policy of the Tees-side Water Board has been to obtain advances of capital from the large industrial water consumers so as to avoid their having to incur a heavy capital debt for that planned large-scale and comprehensive development of the water resources of Tees-side which is what is required. Again I quote from the speech of the Minister of Land and Natural Resources upon this subject. He said of the Water Resources Board: It is now conducting a survey of the North, and I hope to get at any rate an interim report by the end of the year. The Minister goes on to say, as regards the future: We must see that we have proper information so that, in future."— and he is contrasting the future with this Bill before us now— we find ourselves less and less forced into making ad hoc decisions."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, Commons, Vol. 732 (No. 64), col. 2018, 28/7/66.] My Lords, I would conclude by summarising my argument. We should not allow ourselves to be hustled into submerging for all time a site of unique scientific value and of unspoiled loveliness, simply to avert a danger, if there were three or four dry summers between 1970 and 1975, of the temporary stoppage of industrial plant ordered before any request had been made to the Water Board for the water that would be needed. It is very important to realise exactly what is the risk against which this Bill is intended to provide. I quote again from the Minister: There would be a grave risk if there were a succession of three or four dry summers. My Lords, can those of us who have lived through the last few summers really feel that there is any great danger of three or four successive dry summers in the near future? In preference to this panic measure, which will do so much harm, we should, in my submission, invite the Select Committee to go into the matter and we should await the promised assessment by the Water Resources Board of the estimated needs of Tees-side, including I.C.I., over the next twenty years, taking into account factors relating to preservation, water policy, industry and finance.

3.17 p.m.


My Lords, I think that it might be for the convenience of the House were I to intervene at this stage in the debate, very briefly, in order to indicate to your Lordships certain procedural considerations in relation both to the Bill and to the Instruction which the noble Lord, Lord Molson, proposes to move if this Bill is given a Second Reading. As in the case of certain other Private Bills over which controversy has arisen, I feel that it might be an advantage to the House, and in particular to those of your Lordships who are not normally much concerned with Private Bills, were I to mention as briefly as possible certain procedural considerations which affect this Bill.

I should like first to emphasise that in giving a Second Reading to a Private Bill the House does not, as in the case of a Public Bill, affirm the principle of the Bill. The normal practice in the present century is that the House contents itself with giving a formal Second Reading to a Private Bill, for there are few issues on Private Bills which the House can properly decide without the benefit of hearing parties and witnesses: the promoters, the petitioners and any witnesses whom they may wish to call to evidence on their behalf. It is therefore accepted practice by your Lordships to leave the consideration of, and the effective adjudication on, opposed Private Bills to Select Committees set up for the purpose.

I will come now, if I may, to the Instruction standing in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Molson. I should like to start by saying that in my view its terms are unobjectionable and would not unduly influence or fetter in any way the Committee to which the Bill may be committed by your Lordships. Therefore, from the procedural point of view, the Motion would be acceptable to the House. However, I should like to draw the attention of the House to the fact that all the matters raised in the Instruction will be considered by the Select Committee on the Bill in the normal course of events.

There are two petitions against the Bill, presented by a number of societies interested in nature conservation and the preservation of amenities; and without going into any detail, I can say that both of them specifically refer to the necessity to find a long-term solution to the problem of the water supply of Tees-side rather than, as they submit, the short-term solution contained in the provisions of the Bill. This covers the first part of the Instruction. Both petitions also contend that if, in default of any other solution, a reservoir has ultimately to be built, the site proposed in the Bill is not the most suitable, and the necessary reservoir should be constructed elsewhere and of sufficient capacity to meet the future demands of the area. This, I think your Lordships will agree, covers the second part of the Instruction.

In view of what I have said, I think it will be apparent to the House that the attention of the Committee will be drawn by the petitions to all the matters referred to in the Instruction. However, I should like to point out to your Lordships that whereas the Select Committee of this House on Private Bills do not normally set out in their Report the considerations and reasons which have led to their recommendations, in cases where an Instruction to the Select Committee has been passed by the House the Committee usually makes a special report dealing with the points raised in the Instruction. I think I have dealt with the main procedural points arising out of the Bill and the Instruction.

3.22 p.m.


My Lords, as I am a native of North Yorkshire and know all this area very well, and as I have been at considerable pains to try to ascertain all the major facts about this proposal, I should like to intervene for a few moments because I think that I may be able to give some assistance to the House. I believe that we shall all agree that in order to form a right judgment on any proposal it is the facts that matter and must weigh with us. Fortunately, here nearly all the important facts are not in dispute. Of course, there can be a difference of opinion as to what are the right conclusions to be drawn from those facts, but I think I shall be able, as briefly as I can, to satisfy your Lordships that there really is no dispute about the main facts.

The need for a large supply of water in Tees-side is urgent. For many years this has been a great, developing industrial area. It is fortunate it has been, because we have all been gravely anxious about unemployment on the North-East Coast, and to-day in addition to the great developments which have already taken place vast new industrial enterprises are under construction. It was said by my noble friend Lord Molson, rather pontifically, if he will forgive my saying so, that I.C.I. had no business to engage in those great enterprises until they had made sure that the water would be available. Well, I.C.I. are not only a great company, but also a generous employer. And, knowing Tees-side as I do, I cannot think that it was wrong to go ahead with these vast schemes, which will give employment to thousands of men on Tees-side.

To give your Lordships some idea of the size of these new enterprises—which, it is said, should not have been undertaken—I.C.I. alone (and there are other industries also involved) have invested over £300 million of new capital in this area. This should increase the already great production of I.C.I. in the area from £230 million a year to over £400 million. And for this and other developments (the noble Lord, Lord Lindgren, referred to Dorman Long, among others) at least 35 million gallons a day extra will be required by 1970. Unless new extra supplies are forthcoming before that date, the new undertakings, it is almost certain, will be unable to work to capacity. If they were not able to work to capacity, that would have the most damaging effect, not only on the economy of Tees-side, in itself very important, but also on the nation-wide production of a vast variety of industries which draws essential supplies from Tees-side. It would also have—and how important this is going to be for us, not only now but in the years to come!—a grave and damaging effect upon an already great and what should be a growing export trade; and thousands of men who should find work would be unemployed. Of course, it is for the Committee to go into all this, and promoters must always prove their case.

It has been said that we need not worry, because it would require a succession of dry years before serious difficulties would arise. My information is different from that. I know that my noble friend Lord Molson based himself on something which was said by a Minister, but even Ministers, to whichever side they belong, are not necessarily always right. I am advised that even if we had as unpleasant and wet year as this year has been, although we had water pouring down the hills all the time, even if there were enough to maintain the level of the other reservoirs which serve Tees-side, there would still be a grave risk that there would not be enough water unless this reservoir was constructed.

We certainly, please God! cannot count on having the sort of awful year we have had this year. My mind goes back only a few years to one dry summer, when the great Leeds reservoir, which is on my home—and which, I may say, has added greatly to the beauty and amenity of a part of the country, I think not less beautiful than the upper lines of Tees-side—fell 80 feet. It was practically dry. And that was the summer in which Leeds had been more foreseeing than others and had several reservoirs to draw upon. Noble Lords who come from Yorkshire will remember that the strictest and most painful rationing had to be imposed in many of the Yorkshire towns. So I do not think that we can lightly say that it is only if we have a succession of dry years that difficulties will arise.

Not only the interests of the North-East coast but also the national interest will be affected by what we do to-day. If it is right to construct a reservoir, and if this water is necessary and nobody really disputes that—time is of the essence of the contract. It is said that the promoters ought to have started on this scheme earlier and ought to have been more foreseeing. That may be so; and I am not concerned to deny it. But if that be so, is it not all the more reason for going full steam ahead with this plan to-day?

What is unquestionable, and unquestioned, is that, if it is necessary to have this water by 1970, then there is no other site except Cow Green which can give the water within the time. Apart from enormously increased cost (and I am in favour of people paying the right price for water), alternative sites would take years longer. None of these facts is in dispute. It is true that there is an alternative site—in fact, there is more than one. There is an alternative site a good deal to the North, but again this would not only be more expensive, but take years longer to construct. There is also the alternative to which my noble friend appears to be greatly attached, and which was advocated by opponents when the Bill was in Committee in another place; that is, a reservoir in Middleton-in-Teesdale. I know the farming of all this area pretty well. It does not quite march with me, but it is the same sort of land, and not far from me.

If a reservoir were to be constructed at Middleton-in-Teesdale it would ruin a very prosperous agricultural community. There is no doubt about this. Twenty farms, all of them doing well, would be wholly and completely submerged. Another nineteen farms would be injuriously affected, so much so that a number of them, if not all, would cease to be viable or economic holdings. If Cow Green is used there is no agricultural interest involved: or, rather—I must be accurate—there is a gate, as we call it in Yorkshire, a run for 500 moor sheep on the moor; but that is all the agricultural interest there is at Cow Green. And do let us remember, my Lords, that Cow Green is the only place which can supply the water in time.

The opposition to the Bill, as we have heard to-day—and I do not underrate it—comes from some, but by no means all, the botanists who know the area. Here again, just as on the industrial side, it is equally important to get our facts right. I know well and greatly enjoy—I visit the area every year—the Upper Teesdale waters, and I enjoy these fields of gentian, trollius, primula and bog violet: they are perfectly lovely. When I heard the outcry, I thought that these lovely areas must be going to be destroyed. But nothing of the sort. On going into the matter, I found that nothing is going to be touched—not a flower. These Elysian Fields we like so much lie much further down the river and will be entirely unaffected.

However, in addition to the flowers that so many of us know and love (I fully admit this), there are a number of small, insignificant flowers and grasses which are not of interest to the ordinary, unintelligent visitor like myself, who just loves beauty, but are of considerable botanical and scientific interest. The flora in this area, whether great or small, exist and flourish because of the nature of the limestone and soil. I speak here in this way as a layman. But, happily, this soil and this rock are of vast extent. One would think, to hear the speech of the noble Lord, that the whole of this was going to be jeopardised or destroyed.

Let us get the facts right. There are four major botanical areas in Teesdale, totalling about 5,000 acres. Of this great acreage some 17 acres will be submerged by the reservoir on Cow Green. Special importance is attached, and rightly so, to the species of rock called sugar limestone. The 17 acres which will be submerged by the reservoir is one-fifth of the sugar limestone area on Widdybank Fell. I am assured (and this was not denied, I understand, when evidence was given in Committee) that all the rare small plants which grow in the area to be submerged grow also in the sugar limestone on the remaining four-fifths of Widdybank Fell. But the sugar limestone story does not end there. There is another great area of sugar limestone, a long way from the proposed reservoir, further down the river on the right bank, a place called Cronkley Fell. I understand that Cronkley Fell, which will not be affected at all, is from the point of view of botanical and scientific interest much more important than Widdybank Fell.

There is one other factor on the botanical side which I ought to mention. When the Bill was in Committee—and I agree that some evidence was then incomplete—great anxiety was expressed as to what grouting might be necessary in the construction of this reservoir, and what effect that might have. In this connection, importance was rightly attached to a series of boreholes which were being sunk to make the necessary tests of the rock. I have been at pains to ascertain the latest information about this. The result of these boreholes is now available and is entirely satisfactory. It shows that from the point of view of constructing a reservoir the rock is admirable and that the only grouting which will be necessary will be the ordinary grouting which always takes place in the construction of a reservoir, back in the whinstone at the base, which is not on this sugar limestone area at all. That, of course, could not affect any botanical interest.

It will, of course, be up to the promoters to establish these facts to the full satisfaction of the Select Committee of this House. They will be subject to examination and cross-examination, and we shall see whether the final report of the Committee bears out what I have said to-day. But I have done my best to make an impartial investigation. I have no interest in this except the national interest and my interest in Yorkshire and Tees-side. Unfortunately, I do not hold—I wish I did—a single share in I.C.I. or in Dorman Long, because I gather that under nationalisation I should make some money.

I have tried to get and to state the botanical facts as fairly as I have stated the industrial facts. I know that your Lordships, as you always do, will look at this problem without prejudice, in true perspective, and weigh fully and fairly the national interests involved. That is what I have tried to do, and I trust that what I have said to-day may have been of some help to your Lordships in arriving at the right conclusion.


My Lords, before the noble Earl resumes his seat, would he mind me putting a question to him? Did he say 17 acres out of 3,000?


Three hundred.


I am sorry, I was not quite sure what the figure was.


The area affected? Of the sugar limestone in Widdybank Fell, 17 acres, that is, one-fifth of the total amount, will be affected because it will be submerged. None of the sugar limestone in Cronkley Fell—that is, about 130 acres—can be affected at all.


It sounded as though the noble Earl said 17 out of 3,000 acres. I am not quite sure whether that is what he said.


I did not say 17 out of 3,000. The total botanical area in the nature reserve is about 5,000 acres. What will be affected, and the area on which interest was concentrated by the botanists and scientists, is the sugar limestone, and therefore we have to go particularly into that aspect. Of the sugar limestone—if the noble Lord knows what that is—17 acres, that is one-fifth of the total amount in Widdybank Fell, will be affected. In addition to that, there are 130 acres of sugar limestone in Cronkley Fell which will not be affected. I hope I have made that clear.

3.43 p.m.


My Lords, I am not going to be rash enough to embark upon controversy with the noble Earl, Lord Swinton, but I am sure that even his authority and his skill in advocacy will not have persuaded your Lordships that he has made an impartial or anything except an ex parte statement of the scientific case against the choice of this site. With regard to one or two of the points the noble Earl made, I think it was fair to say that I.C.I. had some good reason for going ahead with their plans. But what they said was that it was reasonable to assume, knowing the water resources of the whole of this area, that they would be able to get authority to use a sufficiency of them. What they did not say was that they would demand this particular site, and then, some three years later, come along and say, "This site, and this only, we must have or else we shall be embarrassed". If there is any controversy on this point, I think it is for that reason.

There is one other point which perhaps I might get out of the way. I think in a way this is the strongest in the promoters' argument. They say that if there were a succession of droughts in the early 1970s they would be in difficulty if they did not get the particular source of supply for which they were asking. There is at the disposal of the Government the best meteorological and climatological advice in the world from our own Meteorological Office, and a statement from that organisation, rather than evidence before the Committee from this witness or from that, would be much more satisfying to those who feel doubts on that point.

Your Lordships must have been wondering why there is so strong an opposition to this Bill. The opposition arises, first, from the quite exceptional scientific importance of the site proposed for submergence and, secondly, from the unwillingness of the objectors to accept the easy argument that there is no practicable alternative. I am bound to take a little time in emphasising the scientific importance of the site. In the course of controversy the promoters, naturally enough, have gone too far in attempting to write off that importance. They say that the scientific importance is "much exaggerated" by "certain" botanists. Of course I should be the first to acquit I.C.I. of brushing aside scientific opinion or, at any rate, brushing it aside lightly. As one would expect, a body in which such distinguished men of science as Lord Fleck are influential is anxious not to appear to do that and in some respects, which I will mention later, they have offered to be helpful.

The issue is not that of a few flowers—lichens and dandelions as they were miscalled in another place—against water supplies so vital for industry and employment. The scientific case is very different from that, and language of that sort is merely the appeal of ignorance to prejudice. Naturalists are not opposed to, and do not wish to obstruct, the choice of another site which, we are convinced, could be found in Teesdale itself. But the Teesdale assemblage of rare plants is unique. It is made up of a remarkable mixture of diverse elements, some Alpine, some Arctic, others still widespread in parts of North and Central Europe. It is indeed a relict flora surviving from an ancient type of vegetation, now very largely obliterated from temperate Europe.

This precarious assemblage is irreplaceable. That is a point to which I shall have to refer. If, on the other hand, it is allowed to survive, scientists believe that we can still learn something from these plants about evolution on the small scale and that some of those researches in time may even have practical value. But the effects of any such research must be cumulative, and can be secured only over decades or even centuries of observation. The Teesdale flora represents, as Professor Godwin of Cambridge has said: a stock of scientific capital the destruction of which would be a quite irreparable loss. Three other areas, one in Cornwall, one in Scotland and one in the West of Ireland, contain some of these features, but I am assured that all these three areas differ from Upper Teesdale in significant respects, and that the value of the continued possibility of comparison and contrast between them is in itself an enhancement of their scientific value. All this, as the noble Lord said, can be established before a Select Committee if the Bill goes to one, though I hope that Parliamentary time will not be spent in disputing too long what is really beyond dispute.

There is no British botanist of repute, academic or amateur, who does not agree as to the uniqueness of the Teesdale flora, not taking one plant here and another plant there, but as an association of plants in an "unparalleled conjunction of circumstances". In that last phrase I am quoting from Professor Clapham of Sheffield, a most distinguished botanist who knows the area very well, and I regret that the promoters should have seen fit to suggest that he was not opposed to their scheme because he had not given evidence against it. His letter to The Times a few days ago made it clear that he is wholeheartedly opposed. But scientific opposition is not confined to this country. In Lucerne last July at a meeting of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources I met many of the leading botanists and ecologists of Europe and from other countries further a field. They were all dismayed at this proposal. I have just received from their president a copy of a resolution which they passed and which I will venture to read to your Lordships. It runs as follows: Scientists of undoubted international reputation are unanimous in attesting to the extreme importance of the relict communities of plants on the threatened site; an important part of these communities will be completely destroyed, and a much larger area damaged or destroyed by secondary, consequential changes if the reservoir were constructed. Britain has played a most important role in the development of international concern for the intelligent conservation of natural resources. The short-sighted destruction of such a unique site for a short-term economic gain would seriously set back the world movement for the conservation of nature and natural resources. And the Council decided to urge the members of this House of the British Parliament to reject the Bill on these grounds.

Further than that, most of your Lordships will have seen the appeal from Prince Bernhard of the Netherlands, President of the World Wild Life Fund, urging for the same reasons the preservation of this site and urging that the reputation of this country of ours for having led the movement for conservation will be seriously damaged if we lightly obliterate this particular site. It is in that sense a test case, and scientists all over the world are wondering whether, if a stand cannot be made against this particular proposal and some alternative found, the views of Her Majesty's Government and of all Parties in the State in regard to preserving our countryside can any longer be taken seriously.

I shall say nothing about amenity, with which other speakers will deal. In their case, to my amazement, the promoters dismiss as a mere "desolate stretch of moorland and bog" the Cow Green valley. When I have had the good fortune to enter that valley it has always struck me as a magnificient and invigorating stretch of unviolated countryside with an entrancing river running through it. I hope sincerely that the noble Lord, Lord Kennet, does not share the views of the promotors on this particular point at any rate, and if he does, Leisure in the Countryside has a poor outlook before it.

The promotors again—and here I am in no way criticising the noble Lord who moved the Second Reading of the Bill, because I thought his statement was very moderate and very fair—questioned whether the National Parks Commission support the objection to this submergence. Not content with having insinuated that Professor Clapham did not support it, they are insinuating also that the National Parks Commission do not support the objections to the submergence of the Cow Green site. On that I think they will find themselves undeceived. I understand that the National Parks Commission do support the objections, and support them very strongly, and indeed are much in favour of using a site lower down the valley at Middleton.

That brings me to my second point. Is there no practicable alternative to the Cow Green site? There may be some additional cost, even some delay, but surely it is impossible to accept the argument that there is no practicable alternative. I agree with my noble friend Lord Molson that it is not for the petitioners themselves to find or to attempt to dictate that alternative site, and the suggestion of Upper Cow Green, which has been made, may very well not be the best. One reason for the suggestion of that site some eighteen months ago was that higher up the valley the geological foundations are good. The dam would be on the whinstone and not on the fissured limestone, and some people have doubted (and indeed still doubt) whether this enormous weight of water put on a bed of fissured limestone is going to be safe from leakage. But the promoters may be right in contending that there will be no leakage, and they may be right that in any case it could be cured by grouting; but, contrary to what has been said, grouting might, and perhaps would, have serious effects on the drainage of the surrounding areas and, again, upset the ecology. Also, if grouting proved necessary it would add to the cost and alter the comparison between the cost of Cow Green and other sites.

Then there is the site at Middleton. A reservoir at this point would be accept- able to the Nature Conservancy, and, though I know the difficulty in which my noble friend Lord Howick is placed when people make statements about the Nature Conservancy which he is not free under our Rules to debate, I cannot think for one moment that the suggestion that the Nature Conservancy concurred, or failed to maintain its objections to the Cow Green site only last month, can be correct. However that may be, a site at Middleton would be acceptable to the Nature Conservancy. It would provide a much larger storage of water—double the capacity, as the promoters themselves admit—and it would provide great opportunities for new recreational uses and in this way would increase the business and the life of the attractive town of Middleton. Of course, as the noble Lord, Lord Hawke, recently pointed out, we have reached a stage where great reservoirs can no longer be constructed without detriment to some interest or other, and at Middleton there would admittedly be some loss of agricultural land. For this, compensation can be found by developing other areas, and compensation can be paid, though I recognise that cash is not always complete compensation. But have not far greater agricultural sacrifices of far more valuable land been demanded of agricultural communities recently in Wales and elsewhere in the interests of water supply? We are convinced that if the promoters are denied Cow Green they will find an alternative, and a satisfactory alternative, site.

May I touch very briefly on two other points? At the moment desalination is no doubt costly and requires some time yet for development. But is it not becoming clearer every year that we must have recourse to desalination in the next few years?—and, I think, sooner than most people imagine. Our chemists and our engineers have led the way in discovering the know-how. I ask Her Majesty's Government whether our industry on its part is able to supply the steel and other materials required if the process of desalination is to be resorted to. Unless great industrial concerns like I.C.I. and Dorman Long are compelled now to face the fact that they will have to desalinate, is there not the great risk that we shall find ourselves in the position of having to go abroad, where the problem is already being faced, to import much of the material required?

The other expedient is to draw on underground sources, and the Water Resources Board themselves consider that such exploitation would be a most useful step in augmenting water resources in the lower Tees Valley. Indeed, this is a step with which the Board are said to be currently proceeding. Is this not at least part of the answer to the apprehension, which I realise is a serious one, that drought conditions in the early 'seventies may be "disastrous", to use the promoters' own word. I should like to ask the noble Lord who will reply for the Government whether this useful exploitation of underground water resources is being pressed forward as a matter of great urgency.

The Water Resources Board have also said that the Cow Green reservoir is the next logical step in the development of the water resources of the Tees Valley. What is the next logical step after that? I ask that question very seriously of Her Majesty's Government. If the answer is, or is likely to be, Middleton, why not go there now? Logic proceeds by looking more than one step ahead, and I think the House is entitled to know what is the chain of reservoirs in the Upper Teesdale valley with which we must be prepared to deal in the course of the next few years.

May I conclude by summarising my points in this way? The scientific damage which will result from use of the Cow Green site is very great. It is quite irreparable and it is incapable of being compensated by cession of land elsewhere or by payment of money. I.C.I. have helpfully agreed to minimise any damage caused by access roads or other temporary interference during construction if they are granted their powers, and they have offered, as has been said, to finance research during that period. I appreciate the genuine motives which have led to their making that offer, but it goes no way at all to meeting the real scientific requirements, any more than does the argument that only 17 acres of really highest importance are involved. It is much as if the owner of some masterpiece of mural painting desired to deface it in the course of alterations to a building and were to plead that he merely proposed to remove the faces of a few of the principal persons depicted and was willing to pay for a good photograph of them before they were removed.

As to the alternatives, as has been said more than once, there is at least one—possibly there are more—at which the reservoir could be constructed in Teesdale which would not be open to scientific objection, where any damage could be largely compensated by money and where, if Middleton at least were selected, a bigger storage capacity to meet the needs over a much longer period ahead could be secured and where new and conveniently placed facilities for public sport and recreation could be provided. I hope if the Bill goes to a Committee it will be rejected there on all these grounds. But if not and if it comes back to this House, as the Lord Chairman has pointed out, the House will still be free to consider it as an issue of policy and principle. In an ordinary case of a Bill which goes to a Select Committee the issues are perhaps disputes between parties, sometimes on clauses rather than on the principle of the Bill, and I agree that in those cases the practice of your Lordships' House in accepting automatically the views of the Select Committee is the right one. But this is a very different case indeed, and though I was glad to hear the noble Lord, Lord Lindgren, say that he did not propose to resist the Instruction moved by my noble friend, Lord Molson, I think those for whom I am speaking would like to make it clear that they hold themselves completely free to offer the most strenuous opposition to the Bill if it emerges in its present form.

4.8 p.m.


My Lords, my noble friend, Lord Molson, made a strong attack on the Bill in his most vehement style. But my noble friend Lord Swinton, if I may say so, was in unparalleled form and every one of those arguments was refuted in its turn; and in fact my noble friend refuted a great many of the arguments of the noble Lord, Lord Hurcomb, before he ever made them. I think if Lord Hurcomb had had the opportunity of hearing Lord Swinton's speech before he wrote his, he would have made a different one. Most of the botanical arguments were refuted. I should like to refer to the final one, where I think Lord Hurcomb was speaking more from his heart than from his head, when he likened the taking of a few acres out of this area with the cutting out of a great masterpiece painting. I think that is overstating one's case.

In our debate in October on future water supplies we came to the conclusion that in the South-East, at any rate, we were going to require to double our supplies by the end of the century. In the rest of the country great increases were also expected, but surveys had not yet been completed. Here in Tees-side the need has come to a crisis in advance of the general survey, on account of the industrial expansion there of I.C.I., which is completely in line with the national policy. In fact, if I remember rightly the Conservative Government sent either Lord Hailsham or Mr. Hogg—I cannot remember which—up there on a special mission to try to do precisely what Lord Beeching and his friends are doing at this very moment to rehabilitate Tees-side. The fact that they have chosen to do it in a way that requires a great deal of water is not relevant except to this particular policy. It might have been some chemical which did not require great water supplies, though most do nowadays. But to compete in world markets one requires cheap water for industry. My noble friend Lord Molson seemed to think it wrong that water should be cheap. The cheaper the water is the lower your prices and the bigger your market can be, so it is a great advantage to have cheap water.

The Cow Green site to produce 30 million gallons a day is, I would point out, equal to only about one-third of the annual increase expected to be required in England over the next quarter of a century; and the methods of obtaining it at Cow Green are in accordance with the latest thinking; that is, to try to hold up the water near the top of the river, to hold up the winter floods, and regulate its flow throughout the summer. The Middleton scheme lower down is much more like the old-fashioned scheme, where the consumption reservoirs were nearer the consuming point lower down and you did not get the regulation of the flow. So the scheme, as a water scheme, is considered a good one. The capital works are not large, which means that they can be carried out in a reasonable time, and the land to be flooded is of remarkably low value. This means that the water will become available soon and, moreover, it can be cheap.

Everyman-made lake always arouses the most intense opposition from someone. This time it is the botanists, some of whom make great claims, though I have been told that their presence in that area was not particularly noticeable before this scheme came to be talked about. But we cannot really evaluate botanical evidence here. That we must leave to our Select Committee. But I sometimes wonder whether we are not in danger of becoming a little bemused by science. After all, what is science? Science is knowledge, and knowledge is all very well—we all like knowledge; we want to acquire knowledge the whole time—but whether the national interest is served by that knowledge depends whether it conduces to the health and happiness of the human race. Judged on that particular standard, I should have thought that some of the scientific case here looks a little thin.

No plant is going to be wiped out; only an area of combination of plants is going to be wiped out. But the same combination is freely available elsewhere. I wonder what message was sent to Geneva. After all, if you send an alarmist message to a body of scientists you may be quite certain that you will get a twice-as-alarmist resolution back again. One must not pay too much heed to that unless one hears what they would like to tell. Various amenity societies are objecting, too. That is to be expected. They rarely agree to any change of the landscape without putting up a fight. I personally like walking, and I like coming upon sheets of water when I am walking; I think it greatly improves the landscape. My noble friend Lord Swinton seems to think the same. I personally regret that my modest subscription to one of these amenity societies is being used to try to thwart this Bill. I wish people would take a little less negative attitude towards this scheme. We in this country shall be needing something like the equivalent of three Cow Greens a year for the next 33 years if we are to provide the water which increasing standards of living and increasing industrial consumption require.

There may be some alleviation, as the noble Lord, Lord Hurcomb, said, by the greater use of underground water. But if you pump out the underground water heavily in the summer, as it is proposed to do in some places, and replace it by winter rains, not only do you get problems at the replacement end, but you are also going to inflict a certain amount of hardship on the people who rely on the water level in those summer sources. So that method is not free from possible objectors. Then, if you are going to resort in the long term to big barrages, which will take a great many years to survey and complete, again I am quite certain there will be strong objections when the plans come before Parliament.

I cannot really accept the idea that the noble Lord, Lord Hurcomb, put forward, that in this well-watered country we should resort to the absurd and expensive solution of distilling our water from the sea. Apart from the problem of putting distilled water into the existing circulation of pipes, in which they wreak a certain amount of havoc, there is also the grave objection that will be taken by every amenity society in the land to the siting of the atomic power stations which have to provide the necessary heat to do the distillation. So that that solution is not free from objections.

Cannot we accept the fact that we have got to turn a great many of our valleys into lakes, and try to see that the minimum of disturbance is done to the people living there, that we use the best landscaping techniques and ensure that, so far as we possibly can, the lakes provide amenities such as sailing, fishing, bathing and the like? For instance, Cow Green, as a special protégé of I.C.I., might well become a wonderful experimental ground for fish growing, and within a generation we might go there as a source of monster trout. This would be a more positive approach to all these problems than the purely negative one which always says, "Not here; further up the line". One of the reasons why I think Britain tends to lag and everything happens so slowly is that our national motto has become, "You can't do that there 'ere", and there are a hundred-and-one societies to see that you cannot.

4.18 p.m.


My Lords, as a former Chairman of the National Parks Commission, I support the various objec- tions that have been expressed to this Bill in the course of the debate. I am in full agreement with what has been said by the noble Lords, Lord Molson and Lord Hurcomb, and I will not take up your Lordships' time by repeating the case which they have made. As the noble Lord, Lord Hurcomb, has said, I think this is a test case, and the question is whether, for the sake of what would appear to be a temporary and a partial, short-term solution of an industrial water problem, it is necessary to do permanent damage to a remote landscape and to destroy forever a unique botanical heritage from the long-distant past which holds the promise of practical research results for the future. I hope that when your Lordships' Select Committee have concluded their examination of this matter your Lordships will be able to give a clear answer to that question, and I hope the answer will be, No.

There is, however, one matter to which I should like to draw attention. In April last, when I was Chairman of the National Parks Commission, the Commission addressed a memorandum to the Ministry of Housing and Local Government stating their objections to the Bill now before your Lordships' House. The Commission wrote to the Ministry in the expectation that the text of their memorandum would, in accordance with established practice, be communicated to the Select Committee of the other place, as an annex to the Report on the Bill which the Minister would make to the Select Committee. The Commission's memorandum was passed, I understand, by the Ministry of Housing and Local Government to the Ministry of Land and Natural Resources. By an oversight in that Ministry, the Ministry of Land and Natural Resources, for which oversight the Minister very kindly expressed regret, the Commission's memorandum was not communicated to the Select Committtee, and to that extent the views of the National Parks Commission went by default.

This omission was the more serious in that the Minister's own Report was, on the whole, favourable to the Bill. The result was that the Bill went through all its stages in another place without the views of the National Parks Commission being known. Had the Commission's memorandum gone to the Select Committee, it would long ago have become a public document. It is, I understand, to be published in full in the forthcoming Annual Report of the Commission next month. That being so, it seems to me to be right, and I hope not objectionable, that your Lordships' House should not at this important stage in the consideration of the Bill be denied acquaintance with the purport of the Commission's memorandum. I propose, therefore, to make this known. I will not read the text of the memorandum, but I will refer to the salient passages.

The Commission started off by stating that there was a growing realisation, not only in this country, but world-wide, of the danger of industrial man destroying his environment for purely material needs. Then they went on to say that, although there was much poor and uncultivated land in England and Wales, there was little where the walker could find himself out of sight and sound of industry and the motor car, and that what remained free of such reminders of man was an important reserve for the enjoyment of recreation of an adventuring kind. They stressed that such reserves should so far as possible be kept in their present state in order to provide for appropriate use and public enjoyment compatible with protection and conservation of the natural environment. They then explained that in giving advice to the Minister on the Bill they had therefore to balance the claims of maximum extraction of water against the claims of beauty and enjoyment by the public. In the result, they had decided that they must advise the Minister that the proposed reservoir at Cow Green was not acceptable.

They then gave their reasons for reaching that conclusion. In the first place, they said that the area of the North Pennines that included Upper Teesdale and Cross Fell was one of the largest and most remote areas of upland Britain. Its qualities, they said, would justify it as a National Park, and the Commission had had in mind for some years its possible designation as such when administrative problems could be overcome. They went on to say that in a rough rectangle of about 100 square miles the only inhabited houses were the Nature Conservancy's research station at Moor House and the Air Ministry's radio station at Great Dun Fell. There was, they insisted, no other such area in England. The making of a reservoir would, they argued, introduce civilisation and artificiality into an essentially wild area.

They then turned to the scientific side. They explained that the flora of Upper Teesdale had been famous since the 17th century. It was not only of interest to the ordinary amateur botanist for its rarities, but important for the study of changes in the ecology and climates of Britain since the Ice Age. As a place where Artic plants grew in temperate latitudes and relatively low altitudes it was unique not only in Britain but in Europe. The Commission therefore accepted the advice of the Nature Conservancy that the construction of the reservoir would damage the unique flora; and they supported the Conservancy in opposing such construction on these grounds.

Finally, they had something to say about waterfalls. Observing that Great Britain is poorly supplied by nature with waterfalls, they pointed out that two of the largest and best known were at Caldron Snout and High Force, where the Tees falls over the Whin Sill. Here, they said, were some of the most outstanding natural features of the landscape of Great Britain. Since both these falls were below the proposed reservoir, which was essentially for maintaining a steady flow of the river, its construction would mean that the falls would seldom or never be at their natural maximum volume and they would thus lose their untamed character.

That is what the Commission said in their memorandum. Your Lordships will note that the Commission have placed the weight of their representations upon those aspects of the question which fall more specifically within their competence under the Act of 1949, namely the invasion of a remote and wild area by industrial development. This does not mean that they did not support other objections to the Bill stated from the scientific and other points of view. They did indeed share these views, as their memorandum shows.

I understand that the present National Parks Commission, our successors, are of one mind with the old Commission on this Bill. I gather that they have recently addressed a memorandum to the Ministry reaffirming their predecessors'views—our views—with some supplementary observations, in the hope that this time the memorandum will reach the Select Committee of your Lordships' House, if the Bill receives a Second Reading to-day. That concludes my remarks. It remains for me to say that I am not intending to oppose the Second Reading of this Bill. If the Bill receives a Second Reading, I will support Lord Molson's Motion for an Instruction. For the rest, we must wait and see what the Select Committee reports. Like the noble Lord, Lord Hurcomb, I reserve the liberty to oppose the Bill if it returns to this House from the Select Committee, which, let me say, I hope it will not.

4.29 p.m.


My Lords, as one who has lived in the North-East all my life and who resides in the County of Durham, through which the River Tees flows, I rise to support this Bill. For many years in the North-East we have pleaded for new industries; we have asked for our economy to be diversified so as to make us less dependent upon the heavy industries which has been our lot in the past. We in the North-East have had more than our share of unemployment, particularly when a slump has occurred in heavy industry. I look on this Bill as being essential to ensure the jobs of our people in the future, and also to give facilities to new employers to bring new industries into our area.

The Bill will authorize the construction of a large impounding reservoir of 9,000 million gallons at Cow Green, in Upper Teesdale, and it will be operated in conjunction with the existing reservoirs of the Board. It has been necessary for the Water Board to come to Parliament for powers to construct, because part of the site includes certain lands which are subject to common able rights. The reservoir is required to ensure a water supply to I.C.I. I am not here to present a Bill for big business, but I agree that I.C.I. were entitled to plan ahead, with a view to getting this water, because large units in the chemical world cannot be built inside five, six or seven months; it takes a long time.

The major extensions are to be at Billingham and Wilton, and there is to be a new refinery at North Tees connected with these works. The water will also be needed for other industrial consumers, particularly Dorman Long and the Shell Refinery, and to meet the estimated needs of the domestic consumers in the future. In order to achieve this expansion which we want in our area, it is essential that the construction of this reservoir should begin in May of next year. The water required has to be available by the end of 1970 or, as the noble Earl said, the production of the I.C.I. will be at risk. In any year drought may occur, and it is no good trying to cast the question aside, because we had a drought in 1949 and again in 1959. If this happened, it is estimated that the loss to I.C.I. would be around £45 million. Production losses of this order in the chemical industry in any year would affect other industries, and the export trade not only of I.C.I. but of other industries as well.

Why is this Bill necessary? Between 1960 and 1964 a major advance was made in the chemical industry. I.C.I. discovered, and successfully developed, an entirely new process for manufacturing the gases needed for ammonia, menthol and hydrogen production from oil. This process, the naphtha steam reforming process, provided I.C.I. with the opportunity to convert and expand their traditional production processes at Billingham, in the county of Durham, and to put the operation of these works on a basis on which they could compete in international markets. This new process also enables the works at Billingham and Wilton-on-Tees to expand, and this expansion is being done rather than developing these processes overseas. The production of ammonia at Billingham is to be increased, and three of the world's largest plants are being built at Billingham in County Durham.

This ammonia provides for the much-needed production of fertilisers, for which there is a demand both here and abroad, and also of raw materials for plastics, much of which is used for the manufacture of goods for the export market. The production of the works at Wilton is to be increased by one-and-a-half times, and the works will make the necessary polymers for nylon, Terylene and other petrochemicals. Through the expansion of these works, this water is expected to give us in the North-East the opportunity of diversifying our economy after many years. The Shell Company is also to build a major refinery on the opposite bank of the river. The port is to be deepened so as to meet the needs of all this development which is taking place. In addition, the needs of the Industrial Estates Management Committee have to be met in future years.

In 1963 the Government themselves made this a growth area for development. Special incentives were given to industry to develop the area and provide employment for our people. Therefore it is of paramount importance to the North-East that this industrial growth should continue unimpeded, not only for the benefit of the inhabitants to-day but also in the interests of our national economy. It is also essential that the migration of our people from the North-East should cease, and that work should be ensured not only for the present generation but for those who follow them.

In 1959 the Water Board came to Parliament to seek power to construct the Balder head reservoir which is now completed, and at that time it was estimated that it would provide sufficient water to meet the industrial needs for some time to come. The present expansion was not foreseen by anyone in 1959, for the reasons I have stated, and, having regard to the special factors which have induced this expansion programme, the vastly increased amount of water needed on Tees-side could not reasonably have been foreseen at that time on any rational basis of forward planning.

I should like to deal for a moment or two with the consultation which took place with the opponents of the Bill. The Water Board were informed by I.C.I. in July, 1964, of the need for this additional water. Their consultant engineers advised the Board on their additional need of 35 million gallons per day. The River Board were then consulted and they agreed. The engineers reported that a new reservoir would probably have to be in the area of the 82 square miles covering substantially the whole of the Upper Teesdale area. This was declared by the Nature Conservancy to be an area of special scientific interest, and the Conservancy were consulted in the very early stages. From the very beginning of the investigations leading to the promotion of the present Bill there have been consultations and discussions with the Board, their engineers, the Nature Conservancy and the Northumbrian River Authority, as well as with the county councils and all the local planning authorities in the area.

In September and October the Board's consulting engineers had discussions with the Director General of the Nature Conservancy and showed him 17 sites. The Director General then indicated that, of the 17 sites submitted to him, 4 were to be preferred, from their point of view. Cow Green was one of them, and this is the area dealt with in this Bill. On October 23, 1964, the Director General wrote to the Board's consulting engineers and said that he had had an opportunity of sounding out opinion among the members of the Nature Conservancy who would be responsible for determining their attitude. As a result, the Director General said, in a letter to the consulting engineers (I have it here, but I shall not read it) that they could go ahead a little further and could inform the Board that he had reason to believe that, if the difficulties of the Cow Green site could be overcome, it was most unlikely that it would be objected to by the Conservancy.

This letter also indicated that if the reservoir at the Cow Green site could be used for recreational purposes, and so attract visitors who would otherwise be straying about the more scientifically vulnerable areas of Upper Teesdale, the Nature Conservancy might feel justified in actively supporting the Bill. Subsequently, the Nature Conservancy changed their mind. However, this letter of October 23, 1964, shows clearly that the Conservancy did not regard the Cow Green site as a site of particular scientific importance. On receipt of this letter, the Board authorised a £50,000 geological investigation into the site.

What has been done to protect botanical interests in this area? A reservoir could have been built at a level of 1,615 feet above the ordnance datum, this being the highest practicable level at which water could be impounded in the area. This level has been kept down to 1,603 feet in order to protect the areas of botanical interests adjoining the reservoir. For the same reasons it is also proposed that the access route for construction purposes should be built down the bed of the reservoir instead of along an existing route across the adjoining land on Widdybank Fell. This special route for construction purposes in the area which will be flooded by the reservoir adds £75,000 to the cost, and this course is being adopted by the Board to avoid heavy traffic passing over those areas of Widdybank Fell which are of great botanical interest.

The Board has also given an undertaking to the Nature Conservancy to provide fences around the whole of the construction site in order to prevent damage to adjoining areas, and to pay the cost of a nature warden during the period of construction to watch botanical interests. Furthermore, the Board is at present discussing with the Nature Conservancy means by which scientific investigation of the small area of botanical interest to be inundated can be facilitated during the period of construction. On top of this, as the noble Lord has said, I.C.I. have offered to finance botanical research in the area affected by the reservoir. So it cannot be said in this House that the botanical interests have not been looked after.

The Water Resources Board were then brought in, and they reported. The gist of their report was that they concluded that the site at Cow Green was to be preferred, for the reason that the development of either the Upper Cow Green site or the Middleton-in-Teesdale site would involve considerable cost in money, labour and materials which could be otherwise used elsewhere, and that neither of the two alternatives could be completed by the time at which the additional water would be required. They also stated that the Cow Green site was the next logical step in the development of the Tees-side catchment area. The other two sites would take good agricultural land, as has been stated, and would displace farmers, whereas no one would be affected at Cow Green.

As to the alternative sites that have been suggested, I will not go into them at any length but will merely say that if the reservoir were built at either of the other two sites it would cost £9 million, as against the cost at Cow Green of £2½ million. That means a saving of £6½ million. The Middleton-in-Teesdale site would be half a mile above the town of Middleton, and would make available a quantity of water twice that available at the Cow Green reservoir; but the National Farmers' Union would strenuously oppose the construction of any reservoir there. As your Lordships have been told, 39 families would be displaced and good arable would be flooded, as well as good bottom land used in the winter by the sheep which run on the moors in the summer. Therefore, even the Middleton-in-Teesdale site, which has been argued for to-day by those opposing the Bill, would meet terrific opposition from the National Farmers' Union.

As to the Cow Green site, I wish some of your Lordships could see this area which we are discussing. It is the most desolate place you ever saw. It is where the lead mines used to be, and there is nothing there except dilapidated buildings left over from the days of those old lead mines—days which are now gone. The Cow Green site proposed in the Bill is an area in the Upper Tees where the river flows through bog and marshland, bordered by the open moorland of Dufton Fell to the West and the heather-covered slopes of Widdybank Fell to the East. It is remote from human habitation, and, as I have already said, is subject to erosion, due to the mine workings that have taken place in days which have gone. I am somewhat surprised to find that this Bill is supported by the local farming community and by the Parish Council of Forest and Frith, one of the councils concerned in the area in which the reservoir is to be built. Therefore, it seems to me to make good sense to develop the cheaper site at Cow Green now—it is £6½ million cheaper—in preference to the more expensive sites that have been urged upon your Lordships this afternoon.

I should like now to say a word or two about the botanists' objection to this Bill. The principal objection is from botanists and certain scientists whose interests are in the study of wild flowers and other plants. They claim that the reservoir would destroy plant communities of international importance. I feel, however, that this is a gross exaggeration. The principal effect of the reservoir, so far as botany is concerned, is that it would flood a small area of a particular sugar limestone formation on which certain communities, comprising some of the lesser known Tees-side plants, are to be found. This area of sugar limestone, as a previous speaker has told the House, amounts to 17 acres out of a total of 300 acres. The limestone stretches along Cronkley Fell and Widdybank Fell right across this valley. There are certain areas of active blanket bog in the reservoir site, but the same kind of bog can be found elsewhere in Upper Teesdale. The total area in Upper Teesdale of special interest to botanical science amounts to 5,000 acres and the proposed reservoir area would cover only a small portion of it. The Upper Teesdale area of special scientific interest declared by the Nature Conservancy comprises 82 square miles.

In the Committee of the House of Commons it was established that there are no plants growing below the top water level of the proposed reservoir which are not found elsewhere in Upper Teesdale. The pamphlets issued by the Upper Teesdale Defence Committee and the letters written by botanists all seem to give the impression that the whole of the Upper Teesdale is threatened by this reservoir. This, not unnaturally, has aroused the concern of persons not familiar with the area or with the facts of the case. The objections of the botanists seem to me to be mainly emotional, and this is understandable if opportunities for botanical study are regarded as an amenity. But it seems more questionable to assert a scientific basis for the objections as expressed.

I can say to the House that as a part of our national heritage Cow Green received scant attention before the proposals of this Bill were made known. Upper Teesdale as a whole is certainly an area of international importance to botanical scientists, but there is considerable doubt as to whether an argument based on this point can carry any weight in relation to the very small area which would be affected by the reservoir. Again, when the Nature Conservancy recently fixed the boundaries for their reserve these 17 acres were not shown on their map; they did not regard them at that time as of any international importance. The boundary was later adjusted to include this area, but this was done at the instance of a landowner to conform to his boundary.

My Lords, if this small area affected was recognised as being of such importance as is now claimed for it, it is inconceivable that the Nature Conservancy should have given the Board early encouragement to proceed with this scheme, or that they should subsequently have excluded the main part of this area from their proposed nature reserve. I concede that the land to be flooded includes a very small area of scientific interest to botanists. It is, however, an area that is seriously affected by mining and erosion. Whether or not the plants grown in this area, in the place in which they are now found, are relics of the Ice Age seems to many scientists open to doubt; but if they are then there are also other comparable relics of the Ice Age grown in other parts of Teesdale, in the Craven area in the Yorkshire Pennines, in the Burren district of Ireland and at Ben Lowers in Scotland.

A knowledge of the factors which determine the constitution of natural vegetation could be gained from work on many different plant communities in many different parts of England and elsewhere; it is not necessary for this purpose to preserve these 17 acres of sugar limestone at Cow Green. The botanists say that if the reservoir is constructed it will destroy a unique open-air laboratory. It is possibly true that the reservoir may slightly inhibit the possibilities for teaching botany at the local universities, but the research potential of the Cow Green area is very limited. The area is scarred by mineral workings. The fact that it is also relatively accessible to students, to amateur botanists and to the general public limits its value very much as a laboratory. From this point of view, Cronkley Fell, which is not so disturbed by mineral workings and which can be reached only after a two-mile walk, is very much better. The destruction of interesting plant communities in this small area of Cow Green is regrettable, but it cannot be shown to be of outstanding practical significance to the science of botany. While benefits to agriculture certainly arise from the pursuit of pure research in the whole field of botany, it is unrealistic to argue that such benefits may arise from research on a particular small community of plants. To me, such an argument is akin to a gross exaggeration of the case.

My Lords, what is the economic case for the people of the North-East on this reservoir? All Parties in this House have accepted that increased production is essential for the nation and for the full employment of our people. Tees-side was declared a growth area, and that is the policy of the present Government. We cannot have industrial growth if we deny to industrialists who are in the North-East and to those who are to be encouraged to go there the water their industries will need. In the North-East area mining is rapidly declining—especially so in Durham, my own county—and the extension of the works at Billingham in the years that lie ahead will provide an outlet for the miners in need of work in the South of the county.

Over the years I have seen my people migrate and come to the South for work. Any proposal that comes before your Lordships' House that will keep my people in the North-East and give them employment will have my support. For years we have been neglected in relation to new industries. Now that we have the opportunity, I ask your Lordships not to spoil it by throwing out this Bill. Who supports the Bill? We have been told about the preservation of the countryside, and about the scientists and the botanists, so I should tell your Lordships about who supports this Bill. It is supported by the two county councils, Durham and Westmorland, and they are both concerned as planning authorities also. There are no local authorities in the area opposed to the Bill, and many of them support it. The National Farmers' Union supports the Bill; the North-East Development Council supports the Bill. The Bill was passed in the Commons and was investigated for thirteen days by a Select Committee. It was then given a Third Reading in the House of Commons, and is supported by the Government Departments concerned and by the Government.

My Lords, I have received this letter—which to me is the most important matter—from the trade unionists of the North-East. It is dated Friday, October 28, 1966, and headed "The Cow Green Reservoir": A meeting of trade union officials representative of the members in every major industry in the Tees-side development area was held to-day to consider the above project. It was resolved that every effort be made to bring this project to a successful conclusion. The meeting had regard to the fact that if our present industries are to expand and new industries be attracted, the prerequisite is an adequate water supply. Apart from this, the needs of the domestic consumers continue to rise, and these requirements far outweigh other factors. The sting is in the tail.

In modern society jobs are dependent on the availability of water, and given a choice of expanding employment or preserving the flora and fauna, work-people will opt for employment. This letter is signed by the Amalgamated Engineering Union; the Amalgamated Society of Boilermakers, Shipwrights, Blacksmiths and Structural Workers; the Amalgamated Society of Painters and Decorators; the Amalgamated Society of Woodworkers; the Transport Workers' Union; the National Federation of Building Trades Operatives and the Amalgamated Union of Building Trade Workers. That is the letter they have sent to me and the resolution they have passed. I wish to say that the resolution expresses entirely my sentiments and my attitude to this Bill. I therefore conclude by asking your Lordships to give this Bill a Second Reading.

5.3 p.m.


My Lords, perhaps the noble Lord, Lord Blyton, and the noble Lord, Lord Hawke, go too far in suggesting that there is very great dispute about the scientific value of Cow Green. I do not think that is the issue to-day; and it would not even be fair to the promotors—it certainly would not be fair to I.C.I.—to suggest that there is a great deal of dispute about the scientific matter here. I.C.I. are themselves scientists, and I think the point really is—and it was never challenged very seriously before the Select Committee in the House of Commons—that what you are going to lose here is a living genetic laboratory. This is the sort of thing that will disappear irrevocably if you take away Cow Green.

The noble Lord, Lord Hawke, said it was rather odd that it was recently that scientists, botanists, ecologists and biologists had started to take note of this. That is not true. I think it was in 1905 that my father, who was a chemist, and the father of the present noble Lord, Lord Rothschild, who was a biologist, listed Cow Green as something of paramount importance from this particular aspect: that is, the genetic aspect. It was not a matter of one or two rare plants, but a whole complex of rare plants which had grown up over 20,000 years, and if you want to go on studying what the biological significance of this is you destroy such a thing at your peril. I do not believe there is any dispute as to the great scientific value of Cow Green and the most unfortunate consequences that would come from destroying it. This is not in dispute; the real issue is, can we afford to preserve it, and if so how much?

Secondly, what are the alternatives, and have they really been considered? This is the central point of the whole case, or so it seems to me: that they have not really been considered with the close attention to detail that they ought to have been. We all know that the viability of Tees-side and of I.C.I. is of paramount importance, not only all the time but here and now. After all, I.C.I. is one of the most important companies, one of the most forward-looking and one of the greatest moneymakers. This applies to Tees-side as well, so again it is not in dispute that what happens to Tees-side is of vital importance to us all.

But I think that too much has been made—I felt this during the speech of the noble Earl, Lord Swinton, and again during the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Blyton—of how much this particular issue would damage Tees-side. I do not really believe that this is true. Tees-side as a whole is not going to be seriously injured; thousands of men are not going to be thrown out of work as the noble Earl, Lord Swinton, suggested; millions of pounds of money are not going to be wasted. All that I see is going to happen there is that I.C.I., and one or two other companies, will be put to slightly greater expense and a certain amount of inconvenience. That, on the face of it, is what it looks like to me, and that is why I feel that, despite thirteen days' consideration by the Select Committee in another place, this matter has not been examined properly.

It is all very well for the noble Lord, Lord Hawke, to say it is quite right for I.C.I. to want to have their water cheaply. I entirely agree. But there is a very great difference between despoiling something of great scientific value in order to have water at 1s. 1d., and paying—shall we say?—something nearer the average cost of water in this country, which is somewhere between 2s. and 3s. a thousand gallons. Even if I.C.I. were to be made to take the most expensive alternative at present before them, it seems to me that they would still be paying less for their water than the average price over the whole country. What I and a great many of those who think like me feel about this, is that it has come about through short-term thinking and bad water planning. Again this is not in dispute. One of the most interesting and curious things about the evidence before the Select Committee was the way in which the evidence produced by the Cleveland Water Board was not always in agreement with the propositions, suggestions and estimates put forward by the new Water Resources Board. I think that this is partly due to the fact that the Water Resources Board has only just come into being and this problem was rather thrust at it at the last minute. It may well be that it has not yet produced the answer itself.

Again, in connection with bad planning not nearly enough has been made of the way in which I.C.I. started this operation six months before going to the water authority and suggesting that they would need another 25 million gallons of water a day. All this, it seems to me, adds up to the fact of bad planning, short-term planning, and improper consideration of the evidence; and what we are being asked to do in this Bill is to accept a short-term measure to get I.C.I. out of a hole, or alternatively to cause them some inconvenience and expense. It is not an alternative between ruination, depression and gloom on Tees-side and the cost of saving the county. This is not so at all. The alternative before us is to make I.C.I. pay a more realistic figure for their water, put them to some inconvenience and save this site of unique value.

I, and those noble Lords who think like me, have been persuaded not to vote against this Bill on Second Reading, for the reasons which have been put before the House. It is possible that enough noble Lords might have been persuaded to throw the Bill out on Second Reading on the ground that it was bad in principle, but we have been persuaded against it, partly because it has been suggested that the principle of Private Bills does not really arise on Second Reading, which is normally formal, and partly that this is the sort of thing that can only be considered in Committee, with proper evidence adduced, which I think is justifiable.

But suppose we dislike the views of the Select Committee and feel that again they have arrived at a wrong conclusion, I hope that it will not be said that there is no principle at issue because it has been before the Select Committee and passed. Because there is a slight danger here, in not trying to throw the Bill out on Second Reading on the ground that it must be properly examined in Committee, that afterwards, on Third Reading, although we might still think, in spite of the details argued in Committee, that the principle was bad, it might be said that there was no principle here as it had already been agreed in the Select Committee. The noble Lord, Lord Hurcomb, touched upon this point, but I want to make it clear that we regard this Bill as bad in principle, because it is short-term and bad planning. We object strongly; but we are letting it go through without dividing the House and we are supporting the Instruction to the Committee to be moved by the noble Lord, Lord Molson, because we think that this is the right thing to do. But in the view of many of us, this Bill is an example of what comes about if we do not think for a long time ahead in terms of water.


My Lords, the noble Lord has constantly used the words "we" and "us". Do they mean the Liberal Party?


No, indeed, my Lords. This is not a Party issue in any shape or form. I am sorry I did not make myself clear. What I meant was, "I and other noble Lords on both sides of the House who think like me".

5.14 p.m.


My Lords, I must first declare a personal interest in some of the matters affected by this Bill. Until recently I was a Director of I.C.I. and still have a connection with and interest in that company. This perhaps has not altogether been a disadvantage to me, because it has enabled me to take some interest in the North East of England and to learn something about the matters which are affected by this Bill. I hope that it will not detract from the value of anything I say to your Lordships.

Anybody who has followed over the last ten years or so developments in the North East of England must realise, as I am sure every noble Lord does realise, that it is essential that the water supply in Teesdale and on Tees-side should be increased, and that it should also be increased within a few years. A number of noble Lords who are objecting to this measure have, I think rather lightly, brushed aside the timing factor and, in doing that, have overlooked how this country lives—what makes it tick. We earn our living, not by admiring or even studying botanical specimens, but by keeping ahead of our competitors in the struggle—and it is a hard struggle, getting much more difficult to keep ahead in—for production and new methods of production.

On Tees-side, we have an example of how that should be done. We have had the scientists of I.C.I. and of other companies engaged in devising and perfecting new techniques for the production of a great many essential commodities, and we have had technicians who have been able to translate these into industrial production. This is exactly what this country wants. And if I.C.I. has taken a risk and gone ratherahead—well, for the love of Mike! that is worth having. What we want in this country is somebody prepared to back his opinion and take a risk. I.C.I. have done that and so have several of the other companies on Tees-side.

Nobody can deny that water is wanted. We can discuss how water is obtained. All suggestions of desalting sea water by nuclear means are in the future. Even the protagonists of this method will not suggest that we can do it to-morrow on an economic and large scale. The same applies to the borehole water, which has also been suggested. I agree that that is an admirable supplement, but even its most enthusiastic supporters do not suggest that it can produce the amount of water required, quite apart from the fact that borehole water, as I have discovered in other parts of the world, is liable to flow back on itself.

In fact, it is essential that we should go back to the older methods of water conservation—which means reservoirs. We are not really arguing about whether we want a reservoir for Tees-side. That is agreed. What we are arguing about is where it should be. The suggestion in the Bill is that it should go into a part of the moorland called Cow Green. There are objections to that. I do not think that we ought to brush aside these objections. Least of all, should we expect anybody from I.C.I. to disregard scientific considerations; because I.C.I. live on them. I.C.I. do more, I think, than almost any other organisation to support scientific research, without any tags attached to it.

The objections to the site of this reservoir come under three heads. The first is that it will destroy the natural beauties and amenities of an open space. The second is that there are suitable alternative sites, which should be, at any rate, explored. The last one is that this reservoir will inflict grave damage on scientific research. I have a great deal of sympathy with the scenic objection. The area of moorland in the summer—I would not recommend it in the winter—is most attractive, especially if you like walking or rambling. I have done a good bit of walking in my time, but I must confess that a lot of it was not with pleasure.

Before we go off at half cock about how much the amenities and the scenery will be destroyed, I think we ought to consider exactly what it means—and if I am repeating what the noble Earl, Lord Swinton, said I hope your Lordships will forgive me. The whole area of open moorland is 5,000 acres. The proposed lake to be constructed comprises something under 800 acres. This leaves 4,200 acres untouched for recreation. I do not think the loss of 800 acres over which to walk will be very noticeable to the ramblers. If you went up in an aeroplane and looked down on it, I do not think you would be able to tell the difference between 5,000 and 4,200 acres. Therefore I do not consider that this is a very serious objection.

Then there is the lake. I have seen these artificial lakes made in a good many places, and I have never yet seen one that did not improve the scenery and amenities. I lived on the banks of a river in a very nice valley for several years, and it was proposed to flood the valley. I opposed the flooding, largely, I think, because I was fond of the valley and I loved the view, and I was rather sentimental about it. I went away, and eight or nine years later, after the lake had been made, I returned, and I had to eat my own words. It vastly improved the whole area, both in scenery and in amenities. So I do not think the claim that this is an outrage against open air amenities and scenery can be maintained.

The second objection, that there are alternative sites, has been dealt with quite often. There are only two that I feel could be seriously considered. One of them is Upper Cow Green. If you put a lake there it would be a much bigger lake; it would have a much greater effect on the scenery, if you do not like lakes; and the dam would have to be much higher, much bigger and more conspicuous. Therefore, so far as the scenery is concerned, there is no advantage. It has, also, the disadvantage that it would cost about £6 million more, as an estimate—and estimates in my experience are always underestimates—and it would take three to four years longer to build. This is the most serious of all the objections, because if you are going to delay by three or four years the putting on the international market of a new project made in a new way, you are going to lose your market. In these days you cannot afford to mark time. That is why I object so strongly when people say: "What does it matter? I.C.I. may have to spend a little more money, and they may have a little inconvenience". But it is not just inconvenience if you put several thousand men out of work. It is necessary that the water should be produced in a reasonable time, and a reasonable time is something under four years.

The other alternative has been dealt with. It means the flooding of good agricultural land and the dispossessing and turning away of a whole agricultural community. I think this is a more serious objection than destroying even the most interesting plants. The third objection is a scientific one. We need to keep rather an objective view of this. There are 5,000 acres of moorland, of which the lake takes 700. But in that 5,000 acres there are the four particularly valuable botanical plants. Only one of those is in any way affected by the lake, and of the area in which it grows only one-fifth—17 acres actually, out of 5,000—will be submerged. I have a great deal of sympathy with those who shed tears at the submersion of this 17 acres, but not because it contains these plants. These plants, while they are rare, are not unique. They grow in several other places. They grow on the 4,200 acres that are left; they grow in other places in the Pennines and at other sites in England and Scotland, and they grow a great deal in Northern Europe. But the objection, I think—and I hope that my botanist friends and my noble friend Lord Hurcomb will agree withme—is that we have here, growing together, a remarkable collection of plants which, though not unique, is rare, and it is a great pity to submerge them.

The question for decision is whether we are prepared to let that community of plants go (and it has been there, I am told, since the Stone Age, and has been under botanical research for 200 years), in the hope that we get some compensation. If I.C.I. provide the money for a "blitz" on this problem—and they can provide some pretty good botanists and scientists to help—it seems to me that we may learn as much in the four years available as has been learned in a long time before. And I would recommend that this should be done.

It is also worth inquiring what is the scientific effort that is being put into this study at present. I do not know how many qualified scientists—not students—are engaged in this research, and how many of them are full-time. I do not think there are many; in fact, I am fairly sure that it is quite a small number. I know very well that results of scientific research do not depend so much on the numbers employed as on the quality of those employed, and I have no hesitation in accepting that the quality of these botanists is of the highest. But it is not a very great scientific effort.

Let us now look at the other side of this scientific medal that is being flickered about before our very eyes. Here are these scientists, the botanists, none of whom will have to give up botany or give up their researches. The most that will happen to them is that they will be retarded a little, and inconvenienced; but not seriously. On the other side of the medal are literally many times the number of scientists—qualified scientists of the highest type—who are employed in Billingham and Wilton and elsewhere in the area. I think we might have a little thought for them. They are equally good scientists, and I think it would be a very bold man who said their researches had not produced results as equally valuable as those of the botanists on this seventeen acres. They are working there now, but if the water they now have fails (because it is all very well to brush on one side the likelihood of water failing, but it does fail; it very largely failed in 1949 and again in 1959, and the Meteorological Office cannot tell us whether it will fail in 1969; that is the decision of the Almighty alone), many of these scientists, unlike the botanists who depend on these plants, will run a pretty good risk of losing their jobs, and that means much more than being inconvenienced. If we do not get the extra water that is required within time, we can say goodbye to all ideas of further development, prosperity and the standard of living, and the increase in population in a very important part of this country whose prosperity Governments of both complexions have urged people to do everything they can to forward.

Although one might not think it from what we have heard to-day, I think the scientific argument, the weight of science and productive scientific effort, is immeasurably on the side of the Bill. I hope, and I am confident, that your Lordships will give this Bill a Second Reading, and that it will go before the Select Committee. I have no fear about its going before the Select Committee, where, with a little less sentiment and emotion than we have sometimes heard, all the expert evidence can be considered and weighed.

I would ask your Lordships to remember what we are holding in the balance. It is not the beauty of our countryside, because I do not think that will be affected; we are holding in the balance the convenience—because it is convenience—of a certain small number of scientists, eminent as they may be, against many more scientists. But this is not an argument between scientists. The people most concerned are the 40,000 people who now directly earn their living in the industry of the district. There are 40,000 of them now, in addition to 6,000 or 7,000 contractors' labourers employed, upon whom depends the whole community, the shopkeepers, the local government officials, the transport workers. I suppose they number 100,000 more. We should take into consideration their prospects of improvement and of a better standard of living—and it is now a pretty good standard of living for those employed in those works. I think we should have a commonsense balance when we consider those two aspects. With that, I hope your Lordships will give the Bill a Second Reading, and let it go to the Select Committee.


My Lords, after that powerful speech of the noble and gallant Viscount, may I ask him, and also his noble friend who is to follow, whether he also accepts the Instruction to the Select Committee of my noble friend Lord Molson, as did the noble Lord, Lord Lindgren, when he moved the Second Reading? I believe many of your Lordships will be interested to know that.


My Lords, to be perfectly honest, I was not here when the terms of the Motion were proposed, but I am quite prepared for the Bill to go to the Select Committee and to be considered by them, because I think that as Englishmen and sensible people they cannot fail to come down on the side of the 100,000 people who will depend upon it.

5.36 p.m.


My Lords, I believe I am the thirteenth speaker on the list. That is a fortunate number for your Lordships and not an unfortunate one, because I shall be very brief. All the relevant points in this matter have been exhaustively debated and will be continued to be so after I have made the few remarks that I have to make. Principally I wish to bring in the support of Scotland to those who oppose this Bill. The Scottish Wild Life Trust are wholeheartedly opposed to this Bill, and they have asked me to rise in your Lordships' House and say so. After all, we are all equally conservationists (if that is the correct word: I hope it is), and we feel sure that if a similar threat arose to such an important research site in Scotland, the English Trust would interest themselves in our problem just as we are interesting ourselves in theirs.

I do not believe that we can conscientiously allow such a scheme just because a reservoir can be built more cheaply and more quickly on this site; that we can allow it to destroy, perhaps in a few days, and certainly for all time and for ever more, what has survived for 15,000 years and which still holds who knows what scientific interest for the world to come. Is it wise planning to throw away, for immediate utility, this unique heritage of research? I wonder what not only the scientists but all the world will think of us if we do a thing like that? To my mind, it is not a question of flora versus employment, as the noble Lord, Lord Blyton, said, because there are alternatives which have been clearly stated. We are not going to put forward alternatives—that is for the Select Committee, as the noble Lord, Lord Molson, has so clearly stated.

Now just a word about the amenity aspect, because I think that is hardly less important. The noble and gallant Viscount who has just spoken said, I think, that he has never seen a loch or a sheet of water which did not improve the scenery. Sometimes that is so, because nobody likes looking at a great big concrete dam instead of the beautiful waterfall which is there at present—a "snout," I believe it is called. Our lovely countryside has suffered grievously at the hands of industry. It is shrinking every day, sometimes imperceptibly, but fewer and fewer areas of real landscape value are being left for mankind to enjoy and to uplift his soul and spirit.

Much of the harm done has been unavoidable with the expansion of industry, but a little more forethought in planning, a little more patience, a little more sense of our national responsibility and the spending of more money—and we cannot escape that—might have avoided it. Must the cost always be the deciding factor as to whether a great national heritage is saved or lost? I believe that until each and every one of the avenues has been explored—and of course they will be explored by this Select Committee—the promoters should not have free rein for their proposals as they stand. I align myself with those noble Lords who think that the wisest course is that your Lordships should agree to the Second Reading of this Bill, but I warmly support the Instruction to the Select Committee which has been indicated by the noble Lord, Lord Molson.

5.41 p.m.


My Lords, when my noble friend Lord Molson spoke this afternoon I thought he spoke rather contemptuously of this Bill. He described it as a "panic measure"; a "short-term expedient the need for which was not foreseen". The noble Lord, Lord Henley, described it as bad planning. The truth is a long way from that. The I.C.I. has been engaged in research upon a new process, the purpose of which is to manufacture by artificial means the gas which is used in the making of ammonia. The research of the company was not complete until 1963 or 1964 and it was not until then that they realised that they would require this very large amount of additional water.

The spur of competition has worked in this matter, too. The I.C.I. is manufacturing ammonia in competition with manufacturers in the United States, in the Netherlands, in Japan, in the Middle East and in various parts of Africa. In all these places a supply of natural gas is available which can be used for the manufacture of ammonia. The I.C.I., if it is to maintain its place in overseas markets, must compete with these countries in which one of the essential ingredients is provided by nature. It is for that reason that the time factor is of so much importance. Three or four years, which some of your Lordships have spoken of lightly, is a very important interval if you are working in competition with an active foreign competitor, as the I.C.I. is doing. The naphtha steam reforming process, which is, I think, the right name for this particular process, is an important factor in the development of the business at Middles rough. I think it would be a most unfortunate result if, by anything that was done in your Lordships' House, the necessary water that was required for the success of this process should not be forthcoming.

The issue of this Bill will ultimately be determined by the answer to the question, "Is there a suitable alternative site?" A letter appeared yesterday in The Times from a gentleman who is, I think, the chairman of the Teesdale Defence Committee, Mr. Lousley. In the course of that letter he said: Alternative short-term means exist of satisfying the immediate water needs of I.C.I. and other industries, and then he went on to say that these alternative means were more reliable than what he calls the hazardous Cow Green procedure". I think that part of Mr. Lousley's letter is a little misleading. It suggests that some satisfactory alternative site is available. A number of alternative sites have been mentioned and I think it would help your Lordships if, for a moment, I were to enumerate the sites which have been suggested. There is a site at a place called Upper Cow Green. At Upper Cow Green the period of construction would be six years, as against three years at Cow Green. To give the same yield as the Cow Green reservoir the top water level would require to be 1,750 feet and the dam would be twice as high and three times as long. A reservoir at Upper Cow Green would cost £9 million as against the £2½ million for the reservoir at Cow Green. My Lords, the promoters and the public would be paying pretty handsomely for this exceptionally rare plant, and to justify such expenditure this plant would have to be very rare indeed.

The next site which has been proposed is one at Middleton. A reservoir at Middleton would take about as long to construct as the reservoir at Upper Cow Green and the cost would be comparable with the cost of the Upper Cow Green reservoir. But this reservoir at Middleton would involve a serious disturbance of the agriculture in the district. The noble Lord, Lord Lindgren, when he moved the Second Reading of this Bill, dealt with this point, and I need not trouble your Lordships with it at very great length. It means an important and substantial loss of valuable agricultural land. What I think is more important still is the disturbance which the construction of a reservoir at Middleton would cause to the local population. Thirty-nine holdings would be affected, and 30 of those holdings would lose their identity altogether as agricultural holdings. Twenty families would have their homes submerged. Part of the village of Newbiggin would be entirely submerged under the reservoir. When I heard that, my thoughts went back to the days when the Manchester Corporation were proposing to submerge the village of Mardale by their works at Ullswater, and all the ignominy and abuse which was heaped upon them for that proposal. Here I am bound to say this proposal to submerge half the village of Newbiggin seems to me to have been very readily accepted by the petitioners against this Bill.

The next proposal was one made, I think, in the Committee stage of the Bill by the engineer advising the petitioners. His proposal was to sink about 40 boreholes in the lower Tees valley, and from those boreholes it was suggested that water could be pumped into the river during the dry periods. The estimated yield of that process was about 18 million gallons a day. That scheme would involve, of course, the construction of a reservoir at Cow Gate, not perhaps so large a reservoir as is proposed but it would involve construction of a reservoir at Cow Gate which might very well submerge these plants. The engineer who made this proposal described it during the hearing in another place as "speculative". I would venture to say that it appears to me, speaking perhaps without technical knowledge, to be very speculative indeed. Indeed, it appears so speculative that we have not heard very much about it this afternoon.

The fourth proposal was for a reservoir at a place called Clow Beck. That reservoir would be a small storage reservoir and it would be used in conjunction with the river-regulating scheme based on the reservoir at Cow Green. So that that proposal would involve construction of a reservoir at Cow Green. When all had been done, two reservoirs had been built, the output from the Clow Beck reservoir would be no more than 4 million gallons a day.

Then other proposals have been suggested. The proposed barrage at Morecambe Bay, the barrage at Solway, and desalination have all been suggested. Desalination may be a practical proposition some day, but it is not a practical proposition at present. The Water Research Organisation at Medmenham has been experimenting for some time in order to find a way of desalination which would not involve the costs of all the present known methods. The cost of desalinating water in Teesdale would be about 8s. or 9s. per 1,000 gallons. Some of your Lordships think that I.C.I. are a very big company and can be called upon to meet any expenditure. I do not think your Lordships would regard it as a practical proposition to offer them water at a cost of 8s. or 9s. per 1,000 gallons.

So far as the barrages are concerned, we have not heard much about them this afternoon, because I think the barrages are really too far off. They have been referred to in the newspapers, and one or two gentlemen I know who are interested in these matters have written to me urging that the barrage at Morecambe Bay might be the alternative to the reservoir at Cow Green. It may be that these schemes will some day be practicable. At present, the feasibility survey taking place at Morecambe and Solway has not been completed and no one yet knows what the feasibility committee are going to report. It may be that some day it will be possible—indeed, I think it will—to supplement the natural water resources of this country from these barrage schemes; and it may even be possible to find a means of passing the water over the watershed of the Pennines into Teesdale.

The reservoir which is proposed in this Bill will meet the immediate needs of this district until it is known whether an adequate supply can be obtained from these other sources. In my judgment, based on a good many years' experience of this industry, all water undertakers in this country to-day are underestimating the increased demand on their resources which is coming in the next half-century. Of course with the improvement of conditions domestic demand will increase. But it is not the domestic demand that the water undertakers will find it difficult to meet; it is the enormous demand on water for new industries. New industries all seem to possess this common characteristic; that they require very large quantities of high-grade water. I think that anybody who has had experience of this matter knows that new industries go quite regularly to water undertakers and demand very large quantities of water which the undertaker is not, as a rule, able to supply without new works.

I believe that in this next half-century the demand for water in this country will increase immensely. I think that our natural resources are sufficient to meet it, and, augmented with supplies from the barrages at Morecambe Bay and on the Solway, and perhaps elsewhere, I think we shall be able to meet the requirements of growing modern industry. I am quite certain that that means that we shall be obliged to make use of all our natural resources, including all these resources on the River Tees, which we have been discussing this afternoon.

5.58 p.m.


My Lords, turning over and over in my mind how to say a few words to your Lordships this afternoon was an appalling problem. It is no less difficult now, having heard so many notable speeches. I cannot pretend to judge between the experts on either side, but one thing seems to me to be quite clear, that this particular cheap water scheme (as it has been called) can be only a temporary measure and sooner or later a larger reservoir will have to be built. Therefore, I wonder whether it is really necessary to build this one now, as it is only going to hold sufficient water for the needs for the next, I think it is said, four to ten years. Surely, if the need really is so great sufficient money could be found and the building of a dam on some other site could be speeded up, so that one dam is made instead of more than one which otherwise would obviously be required in the near future.

As I have already said, I am not expert in any way. The only reason why I speak is that my old home is two valleys North; it is sandwiched in between Wear-dale and the Tyne Valley, and over the past forty years odd I have had the good fortune to try to catch the wily trout in various reaches of the Tees above High Force. The noble Lord, Lord Blyton, does not seem to enjoy the valley. I call it a dale. It is a lovely one. It is quite beautiful. It is wild, and it is lonely. Apart from the shepherd and his sheep, on the way up to where the proposed dam is to be the only occupants are the cattle, with the bulls running with the cows and looking rather fiercely at you sometimes if you should be a strange intruder. Apart from this there are just the walkers on the Pennine Way. I think this is something really to be treasured, because there are so few places in this land of ours where you can really go out for the day and see practically no one. I might add that in the business of trying to catch the wily trout, both on the Tees and on my own river in the North, the Derwent, the most expert people have always been the clever miners. I have learned a great deal from them. They have always caught far the largest fish.

On this particular site, and on Upper Teesdale, seldom do you find, for instance, old bottles, dirty cigarette papers and sweet-papers, or food paper lying about. The folk who walk in this part of the country leave it as they find it. They come there because they want the peace of the countryside, and not the noisy enjoyment of the herd instinct that is so prevalent among those who come out in cars and leave all their litter behind them. Once there is a dam there must be a road, and once there is a road there must be cars; and the majority of those people who come in cars are not really the country lovers. They do not come to the country to enjoy it; they come there merely because it is somewhere to go. They could not possibly hear the call of the curlew or the chatter of the odd grouse, because all that would be drowned by the noise of car radios, transistors and the general happy pandemonium.

May I say a few words about the damage during and after the construction of the proposed dam? Part of my homeland has just gone under water, and with the flooding of the upper part of the Derwent Valley in County Durham it has made a great change. It so happens that I was there last Whit sun Bank Holiday, which was the first time that the dam had been filled. I was able to see what happens. On the Bank Holiday the motorists came, hundreds of them, nose to tail. They climbed over the stone walls, they left the gates open, they sat in the middle of the hayfields, they put up their chairs and tables, played ball, and walked down to have a look at the water. In the meanwhile, the children naturally picked flowers, and during the course of the afternoon the flowers had withered so that they just left them behind. I know that on the Cow Green site there are no hayfields; it is just a fell where the sheep live. But those of your Lordships who know the country will know that on your way up there from Langdon Beck, along a track which has cattle grids, the cattle are of course just loose, as also are the sheep. It has occurred to me—and I should like to ask whether your Lordships do not think this—that with the invasion of a large number of tourists such as there obviously would be if this were a new beauty spot there might not be the added danger of spreading a nearby outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease. The tourists will go all over the fell, and their cars can go, too. I do not know the answer to that question, but I hope that somebody else perhaps may.

In case there are any noble Lords who have not seen—I was going to say the chaos that accompanies the construction of a reservoir, I may say that, as it occurred with my home, I happen to have been fortunate—or unfortunate, however you like to look at it—to see this. Of course, from the moment that they decide to begin, bulldozers arrive by the hundred; great large earth-shifting machines come along, and the site of the proposed dam is levelled out. Where it is high it is laid low; where it is low, it is filled up. If it is not going to hold water they do not grout; they bring soil from somewhere else and put it in. In order to do this, all these great heavy machines have to get there.

We have heard about the community of plants. It is not an isolated plant in which anybody is interested, but the community of plants which grow especially in this particular place. I wonder how these plants can possibly survive all these great giant engines travelling about all over the ground. We have heard from the noble Lord, Lord Blyton, that I.C.I. are prepared to take special care about this. But to anyone who has seen all this happening it is difficult to see how special care can be taken when mud and sludge are being carted about every time these great engines move around.

The beauty of dams, as opposed to natural lakes, is, of course, debatable. We have heard from the noble Viscount and other noble Lords this afternoon different views about this. My own view is that lakes are alive and dams are dead. I do not think anybody would argue with the fact that when the reservoirs are extremely low they are quite ugly; and as this particular valley or dale, or whatever you care to call it, is not very steep I do not think anybody could suppose that any proposed dam over and above Caldron Snout could be anything but extremely ugly.

Finally, I have read with great interest the Manchester Corporation Bill. I regret that in some ways history seems to be repeating itself. Little or no progress seems to have been made since 1962 in looking for other ways of getting and conserving water, other than by destroying land of which we in this small island are already so short. Therefore, I shall oppose this Bill, but I support the Instruction in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Molson.

6.10 p.m.


My Lords, your Lordships' House is a House of Parliament, one of the two Houses which look after and cherish the democracy of our country. This House is the last refuge of any aggrieved citizen of this country. In this particular case several bodies of citizens believe that they are aggrieved They are aggrieved by a great industrial concern, I.C.I., together with the Water Board of their area of Teesdale, and various other local authorities concerned. When confronted with such a situation, there is very little that an ordinary individual can do. Indeed, the noble Baroness, Lady Hylton-Foster, has spoken most gracefully and forcefully of exactly one of such people.

These people have recourse to your Lordships' House, and in a case involving such great technicality, a little of which we heard from my noble friend Lord Ilford (and when we hear a brilliant speech such as we had this afternoon from the noble and gallant Viscount, Lord Slim, in which evidence was given with such force, it is often the case that other evidence is apt to take a back seat), it is impossible for us to come to a judgment. Therefore a Select Committee of your Lordships' House is appointed to go into all the evidence, both for and against, as explained by the noble Earl the Lord Chairman. Provided that the Instruction of my noble friend Lord Molson is approved by your Lordships, if the noble Viscount, Lord Slim, and his friends (who are supporting this Bill, in spite of what the noble Lord, Lord Lindgren, said in the simple and charming way in which he put over this big measure) will accept, as Lord Lindgren did, this Instruction, we shall then hear, by specific demand of your Lordships, the pros and cons of these alternatives, which I do not believe have been fully investigated, in spite of the difficulties and the advantages in the scheme which Lord Slim put to us.

I want only to add that there is one possible alternative which has not yet been mentioned in this interesting debate. Very late in the day in the Select Committee sittings in another place, the Central Elecricity Generating Board announced that by 1974 they will put up one of their new atomic power stations of the latest pattern. I understand that these power stations, if the "go" is given to them, are capable of producing a fantastic quantity of desalinated water—at what cost I know not. My noble friend has said that it would be 8s per 1,000 gallons. We are arguing at a commercial price just to feed the cows at 2s. 6d. per 1,000 gallons. I do not know the difference in the time factor in relation to 1974 for these new stations. Whatever else will happen, one thing we do know is that the price to feed the cows will have gone up. I should especially like to hear as a result of this Instruction, whether Yes or No, desalination will be possible from this newly proposed power station, discussion of which has had so little time either in another place or in your Lordships' House, or even in the multitude of briefs which have been distributed.

I believe that your Lordships have to-day in this interesting debate given a great service in the cause of democracy and in defence of the small man, the sort of individual mentioned by the noble Baroness. We shall be able to hear from a Select Committee the pros and cons as to the alternatives put forward by my noble friend. If, as the noble Lord said, all those who are commending this Bill to your Lordships will accept this Instruction, I shall certainly be in favour of giving this Bill an unopposed Second Reading.


My Lords, those of your Lordships who have given your reasons for being opposed to the proposal contained in this Bill have done so so amply, so clearly and so convincingly that at this hour I propose merely to say that I agree with them, and shall not trespass further on your Lordships' time.

6.16 p.m.


My Lords, there are, as I see it, three quite distinct facets to this issue: the human one, the amenity one, and the botanical-cum-scientific one, about which we have heard so much this afternoon. The first two are obviously linked. The amenities of the Pennines, the Derbyshire Peak District, the Lake District in relation to our large industrial centres cannot be over-estimated. Debate in the other place has brought out this facet, and it has again been brought out in this House this afternoon. The particular site we are considering is a very important part of the Pennines, with two of the finest waterfalls in Great Britain, and a grandeur of wild, heather-covered mountains—at least, they look like mountains when there is a slight rain cloud passing by—which is extremely impressive. To put a dam just above Caldron Snout some 80 feet high, which would entirely ruin the landscape when seen from below, suggests an artistic perception particularly lacking in those who plan it. I cannot see how the noble Lord, Lord Hawke, looking from Caldron Snout at this great wall 80 feet high, cannot understand that this would entirely ruin the landscape.

As regards the third factor, the botanical side of the question, we are told by botanists and ecologists that the area to be submerged is one of unique interest and importance. That has been repeated ad nauseam this afternoon, and we know that if it is destroyed it would be a loss which could not be replaced. No other types of plant communities—which is the important factor, not the species but the communities—of this particular kind exist elsewhere in Western Europe. They are not only interesting ecologically; their study has a practical value, as it is by research into such things that discoveries of far-reaching importance have been made in the past. It is reasonable to suppose that research work in the future may well lead to striking results, such, for instance, as crop-plant breeding. To illustrate my point, on a recent visit to this site I was somewhat surprised to find thrift growing on Widdybank Fell at 1,800 feet. One expects to see it near to the sea rather than high on a peak. That is the sort of thing which this particular site illustrates, and it cannot be dismissed as unimportant. Furthermore, it should be realised that this area is much used by students of all ages, particularly students from Durham University.

Nobody doubts that water must be provided, and it is not Parliament's fault that there may be a delay if another site is agreed upon. There are, as we know, alternative sites which have been mentioned this afternoon and which, in the long run, would probably be preferable as providing reservoirs of greater capacity than one at Widdybank Fell. I was surprised also to see in the evidence in the other place that I.C.I. said they did not realise that this matter had to go before Parliament. They thought that the Minister's decision was sufficient. Well, really ! I.C.I. ought to know better than that. This was given in evidence; I am not making it up.

We should take note of what we have heard in the debates in both Houses, and the sooner we get on to a national water scheme the better for everybody concerned. Matters of this sort will be less likely to crop up once we get going in that direction, and I hope it will not be long before we do. I was very interested to hear the suppressed evidence of the National Parks Commission this afternoon. I understand that that will now go before the Select Committee if the Bill is passed. I shall certainly vote for the Second Reading of this Bill, and I am strongly in favour of its going before the Select Committee.

6.21 p.m.


My Lords, I must declare an interest. I am the chairman of a county trust for nature conservation. I am also a director of a waterworks company, and I am in a state of some embarrassment because the next speaker is the chairman of that waterworks company. I believe that he is going to speak in a contrary sense to that in which I shall speak. But I am glad that we have agreed a good House of Lords' principle, to give this Bill a Second Reading, and I am also glad that we shall send an Instruction to the Select Committee. Select Committees are not so knowledgeable that they can do without instructions, and it will not do them any harm, although certain lawyers might say it was otiose. I think they should have this Instruction, but we must reserve our position about what we shall do if and when (I say "if" advisedly) this Bill comes back to us again, as I for one do not like it at all.

One case for the Bill is expediency, and that has been pretty brutally put by some speakers this afternoon. The noble and gallant Viscount, Lord Slim, did not mince his words. He made the point about expediency pretty brutally. The I.C.I., the authorities, the Establishment, had looked at probably a dozen sites and rejected them out of hand as too costly, or as taking too much time, or because some farmland would be destroyed, land which was mentioned in the N.F.U. brief as being almost ploughable.

Apart from the case of expediency for this Bill, the other case—and I really do not want to be too conceited here—is a pure and honest lack of comprehension. It is extremely difficult for people to understand these two opposites. It is extremely difficult for commercial businessmen, financiers and waterworks engineers to comprehend that it is possible to weigh botany in the same scales as material advantage. If I may put it another way, the disciples of St. Jeremy Bentham and St. Adam Smith would really find it extremely difficult to talk to the disciples of St. Thomas à Becket; and I am sure that in his racy way the noble Viscount, Lord Slim, like Henry II, would have said that St. Thomas à Becket was a bloody nuisance. I feel he could not deal with this so dissimilar type of thought. If such people stopped to think about the phrase of the days when they used to go to chapel, "The noble army of martyrs", what they would say is, "I do not think they are noble at all; they are very antisocial." This is the difficulty we are in.

Of course, this trouble is aggravated by the fact that here we have the classical case of David and Goliath. Here we have the mighty I.C.I., the Establishment, local government, the Ministries and Government Departments, with their organisation and their long purse, on the one side, and on the other side we have David, the shepherd boy. But the man with the biggest bomb, the organisation with the longest purse, is not always right. Therefore, I support the Second Reading of this Bill and I reserve my position when and if this Bill comes back again.

I would venture to suggest that the case against this Bill is not one of amenity—whether or not you like lakes —but the principle of nature conservation. It is the principle that very occasionally an industrial development must be held up, must be automatically ruled out, as the Board would say. There must be this delay, this extra cost, this other damage to almost plough able farmland, if a tribunal is to be given time to consider the matter properly. I believe that this is the uniqueness of the Cow Green site—the irreversibility of development here and the final and irreparable damage that would be done. In my view, this makes it one of the very few cases when conservation should have priority over industrial development.

If this small, unique survival of the Ice Age, surviving for 10,000or 15,000 years, is not worth preserving, then nothing of this nature is worth preserving. One feels inclined to ask the noble Lord, Lord Ilford, and the noble Viscount, Lord Slim (neither of whom is in his place at the moment) what sort of cases they would think worth preserving. If we feel there is no case here then we should be honest about it and repeal conservation legislation and abandon the whole idea.

I should like to quote from the Teesdale Defence Committee's paper. Many of your Lordships have probably received this, but one cannot better its words. I quote from paragraph 30: What the scientific and conservation bodies are asking is that this unique area should be preserved from destructive development. If this cannot be accepted by Parliament and by the nation, it is tantamount to saying that a case for scientific conservation must not expect to succeed against more immediately obvious competing demands. Certainly there are no other areas for which a stronger scientific case could be advanced. Scientists are impelled, therefore, to regard Cow Green as a test case and a precedent. That is what I think it is: a test case and a precedent. This matter is internationally important. We should remember Sir Julian Huxley's recent words: Countries much less well endowed than ours are looking to us for a lead. My Lords, let us give them that lead.

6.29 p.m.


My Lords, I must start by confirming the interest attributed to me by my noble friend Lord Waldegrave who has just sat down. That interest might be presumed to inspire in me a fellow feeling for the pro- moters of this Bill. I think there is perhaps a little of that in it, but I can assure your Lordships that it would not make me support this Bill regardless of other considerations. I think I can say that the same is obviously true of my noble friend Lord Waldegrave. I hope I have a real concern for the preservation of the countryside and its amenity, but, as this debate has already shown, the weight of the opposition rests primarily on what I might call the scientific arguments—botanical and biological arguments—rather than on amenity.

I frankly confess to your Lordships that I find it exceedingly difficult to evaluate these scientific arguments. There are some things upon which I am perfectly clear. The first is that, regarding this proposition as a water supply proposition, the site chosen is unquestionably the right one. I.C.I.'s needs are not in dispute. What I think is less clear from this debate, if I may say so, is the extent to which, as has been assumed, this is necessarily only a temporary measure. I should like to invite attention to the Appendix to the document which was submitted before the Committee in another place on this matter of the needs of water in the Tees district. On the estimates of the Water Board and the river authorities, the yield of the proposed reservoir at Cow Green, on top of the existing supply, was calculated to be sufficient to meet the foreseen industrial needs—that is, the I.C.I. needs, and the anticipated needs of South Durham, Dorman Long, et cetera—and a normal growth of domestic consumption up to the year 1990.

The Water Resources Board, believing, as they have some cause to believe, that water suppliers frequently underestimate future requirements (this is not always so, my Lords, but it is not uncommon), attached at the bottom of this Appendix a further table which shows that if the industrial requirements were to increase after 1971 at the rate they were estimated to increase between 1969 and 1971—which, of course, includes the period during which I.C.I. are beginning to draw their water—then the requirements would be such that the yield of the Cow Green reservoir would be insufficient within ten years; and this is where the statement about four to ten years arises. Now with such knowledge and such experience as I have of these matters—and I have some—it seems to me that that latter basis is really unrealistic. I think that the probable truth lies somewhere between the two, and I should myself suppose that on any reasonable hypothesis the yield of the proposed Cow Green site would be sufficient to meet the requirements for at least ten to fifteen years after 1970; and quite possibly for twenty years after 1970. That would be my judgment on the facts as we know them and on the anticipations of growth that we have seen quoted.

My Lords, that brings me to a point which I hope my noble friend Lord Molson will not mind my referring to now, and that is that a strict reading of the word "foreseeable" in the direction which he will, I hope, shortly be moving could be interpreted in a very narrow and restrictive sense. In other words, if "foreseeable" were to mean all the demands that anyone could conceive as possibly arising in the period of twenty years, and if the Select Committee, in their wisdom, decided that that was a reasonable direction and worked accordingly, then I am afraid they could not recommend any proposal (at least anything that is visible over the horizon now) which would give I.C.I. the water they need in time. I think this is a factor which might be borne in mind. I do not suggest at this late hour (because I think it would be entirely improper to do so) that we should seek to discuss an amendment to the Instruction which my noble friend Lord Molson is proposing, but I hope that, if it is approved, and if the House does decide to give this Bill a Second Reading and to refer it to a Select Committee with such a direction as is suggested, then the point I have tried to make now will be borne in mind.


My Lords, may I interrupt the noble Lord for one moment?




In the evidence to which the noble Lord has referred, there were different estimates made by the Water Board and by the Water Resources Board. The Water Resources Board said that they had not had time to make a full survey, but in the provisional opinion they gave they tried to estimate for very greatly increased consumption on Tees-side. The Water Board, on the contrary (this is what was said by the Chief Engineer of the Water Board, and I think, without being offensive, it shows how short-sighted they are), said: The allowance we are making for future industrial use is quite modest in respect of industrial demands, and nothing at all for I.C.I.". It is on that statement that I largely base my argument that this is a very short-term policy, and that if we agree to this we shall be asked before very long for something more.


I thank my noble friend very much. That, of course, will be one of the factors which the Select Committee will take into account. I think the quotations that my noble friend Lord Molson has read merely confirm what I said: that quite possibly the truth may lie in between these two extremes.

My Lords, I do not propose to go over the various aspects of this scheme, as I had originally proposed to do, because the ground has been covered so very thoroughly; and, if I may say so, on most points I agree almost entirely with what my noble friend Lord Swinton said in his admirable speech. There are two points on the amenity aspect to which I might perhaps be allowed to refer briefly. The first concerns the Caldron Snout falls. The noble Lord, Lord Methuen, is not here, but I do not believe there is any good reason for assuming that those falls will be materially harmed by the existence of a dam some distance above them. The flow from the river will be sufficient to ensure a very satisfactory fall. Secondly, the dam was referred to by (I think it was) the noble Earl, Lord Haddington. In this particular case, as has been said, the dam itself is only 82 feet high, and it is about 600 yards long. It will be constructed partly by earth and partly by masonry and concrete. Very soon it will be covered by grass and herbage; and a landscape expert who was called in has advised. I believe, that very soon this dam will blend into the landscape. Apart from that, I am one of those who certainly subscribe to the view that a large sheet of water in such a setting as this, so far from detracting, adds to the scenic beauties and to the amenities generally.

On the scientific argument, as I said, I find this an extremely difficult question. First, there is the cost, in terms of scientific values, of the destruction or damage to rare plants or plant communities, and of prejudice to long-term biological research. On the other side, that cost must be weighed against the value in terms of national interest of the I.C.I. project. It may be difficult to strike a balance, but this is really the nub of the matter as I see it. That is why I am particularly glad that this whole question may be referred to a Select Committee—preferably, I should hope, without a specific direction, but if that cannot be then with this specific direction rather than that it should not be referred at all.

6.40 p.m.


My Lords, nothing in my record outside this House would suggest that I was in any way hostile to technological advance or to anything which would increase productivity or encourage I.C.I. to go on extending their plant. Indeed, nothing would suggest that I was in conflict with my noble friend Lord Blyton in his concern for employment on Tees-side. But there are issues here which I am glad are going to be considered—and I hope fully considered—by the Select Committee. The issues in this matter are perfectly straightforward; we have had them spelt out. The alternatives in every sense should be before the Select Committee and the choice should be made on evidence, which I feel has so far been lacking.

I have every sympathy with the ramblers, the cyclists, the landscape lovers; but even beyond amenities there are considerations which I should like to illumine for the noble Lord, Lord Sinclair of Cleeve. They are scientific considerations which make it clear that if we are going to take a position on this subject it must be clearly defined, because we have been the leaders of conservation in the world. We are trying to set an example to others by precept. What we want to do now is to prove by practice.

As to the other considerations, there may be much more powerful arguments than those that have been deployed this afternoon against the bulldozer method of destroying something which is absolutely unique in the world. Let us make no mistake about that. We may decide to write it off, but it is still unique. If we are prepared to sacrifice that heritage, not of this country but of the world, I think we ought to be serious in our consideration of how we do it. I do not believe the alternatives have been fully considered and I do not think that the example which will be set in this connection will be an honourable one.

I am not a Nature sentimentalist; I am a conservationist in the scientific sense of the word. I am not a Ferdinand the Bull sniffing flowers; but in this case I feel we have enormous responsibilities. I saw in last Sunday's Observer that somebody described this area as the "Westminster Abbey of Botany". It is not the Westminster Abbey of Botany. If Westminster Abbey were destroyed tomorrow it could, at least in parts, like St. Stephen's, be restored. But we cannot restore what we have destroyed irreversibly. This is something on which vie might take a decision but we must be clear about this decision.

May I say emphatically that this is not a conflict between fuzzy-duddy scientists called botanists and the powerful, systematic scientists of the I.C.I. It is not a conflict of these people. We are trying to evaluate what is in fact the interests of true science—for this is true science. May I put clearly to the noble Lord Lord Sinclair of Cleeve, that what we are saying is not trivial. I think it has not been fully brought out that we are here dealing with a community of plants, not the individual plant; not plants to be found elsewhere in Teesdale, not plants one can take into botanical gardens and re-create, nor even a system you can put in the phytotrons in which you artificially reproduce climatic and other conditions. It is not something you can put on record, because it is a living thing; once you cut it out it ceases to live. Perhaps you may decide to cut it out; but that is a decision to be taken. And it is an ecological situation and not that of any individual plant about which the botanists are concerned. Ecology is the basis of all genuine conservation. If we are to lose our sense of ecological balance, we must realise what we are in fact doing when we are doing it.

The comparison is not with the destruction of Westminster Abbey, however regrettable that might be; the comparison is with tearing out the pages of the First Folio of Shakespeare and burning them. If somebody were freezing to death I would unhesitatingly burn the First Folio in order to save him, if there were no alternatives. But let us choose the alternatives before we burn this First Folio.

6.45 p.m.


My Lords, I must apologise for being absent from this debate between the hours of 4 and 5.30 p.m., when I was unavoidably absent. I would also say that I am surprised to find myself rising to speak in support of Lord Molson's Instruction, because, like the noble Lord, Lord Ritchie-Calder, I am not a preservationist. I often disappoint my preservationist friends on many issues. I respect their views, but I think preservation has to go by the board when one weighs one factor against another. For example, I wonder whether I shall find myself fighting in the last ditch to preserve St. Pancras Station. It is true that although one often wants to preserve things one must recognise that other factors are more important. There are many parts of the country dear to people which are now submerged beneath new towns; but those new towns should have been built because people must have homes. People must have priority and industry must have water.

Moreover, I would in one sense modify what my noble friend Lord Ritchie-Calder said about the botanical aspect. I would go so far as to say that the botanical aspect in this problem is not, so I understand from scientific friends, of absolutely first-class importance in the development of botany. It is not, for example, a subject of such immense fundamental importance as plant physiology. Nevertheless, it has a great deal of importance and I need do no more than to underline what my noble friend Lord Ritchie-Calder said a moment ago.

I do begin to pause when I realise and have been told that there are alternatives. These are what must be explored. It does not seem to me that these alternatives have been explored yet. I pause again when, in addition, I am told that the proposed dam and reservoir will be obsolete in four to ten years' time. I pause even longer, because if these alternatives exist then it seems to me that the claims of preservationists and of some- thing one may call the quality of life should then be given their due weight, if the alternatives exist. By "due weight" I mean all those things which have been spoken of to-day so eloquently by the noble Baroness, Lady Hylton-Foster. These things must be given due weight. I hope, therefore, that we shall in fact have the Instruction.


My Lords, before the noble Lord concludes, may I ask whether he is able to indicate what alternative he claims has not been fully considered?


My Lords, both alternative sites of the dam. I think the Upper site is not nearly as far away as, for example, Manchester, which requires water, is from the Lake District.

6.49 p.m.


My Lords, I have had the pleasure of listening to the whole of this very interesting debate, and I have heard views of great authority put on all sides of this difficult argument and, indeed, from all parts of this noble Chamber. Seldom have I spent an afternoon more profitably. One thing that seems clear is that, whatever conflict there may be on the various aspects of the problem, there is no doubt that there is general agreement on the first-class importance of this matter. For all the world to see, this very important matter has been threshed out here in great detail and, I think, with very great authority.

I was particularly interested in the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Hurcomb, who gave us such an outstanding exposition of the botanical objections to this particular proposition of a reservoir at Cow Green. Among other things the noble Lord told us that scientific opinion, both national and international, would condemn us if we lightly obliterated this site of unique botanical interest. If I may say so, I thought that was the only "loose ball" that he bowled. One thing which is absolutely sure is that your Lordships are not lightly obliterating this site. Here we have demonstrated to-day that we are all very much aware of the great issues at stake and the extremely difficult decision which eventually we have all to take.

This is, of course, only the "dress rehearsal" for the ultimate decision. I was very glad to hear what I think was the general sense of both sides of the Chamber, that noble Lords wished to give the Bill a Second Reading and wished to support the Instruction, so that the matter may then go to a Select Committee and be examined again in detail and finally come for recommittal here, for us to take the ultimate decision in the light of the Select Committee's Report. I am sure that is the right way for us to deal with it. Different noble Lords have made different reservations about what notice they will take of the Select Committee Report when they get it, but of course that is a matter for individual judgment.

I think that on one thing we are all agreed: that an increased supply of water, a largely increased supply, is needed quickly in this area. This is for causes which we all welcome. I am sure that your Lordships were much impressed by the strength with which the noble Lord, Lord Blyton, spoke about the industrial and employment position in the North-East. The fact is that these policies which were started in the Government of my Party have been admirably carried on by Her Majesty's Government to-day, and the North-East is now expanding instead of declining. That is something about which we are all delighted. It has coincided with the remarkable industrial break-through by I.C.I. in its manufacture of nitrogen, and that also is something which is a great delight to us all, not only for the sake of the North-East but because it will be a great help to our national economy. I felt that the contribution from my noble friend Lord Swinton on this matter was a great help to us all. The debate has shown—and here, I think, the Instruction is particularly valuable in focusing our attention—that the area of conflict and anxiety which divides noble Lords is whether the Cow Green site is the right one or whether there is an alternative which is less objectionable. The two alternatives which have been most mentioned are the Upper Cow Green site and the Middleton site.

My Lords, the intervention by the noble Earl the Chairman of Committees was most helpful, at any rate to me, in enabling us to understand what the Select Committee would deal with. He told us that they would deal with these issues. It has been a help to us to have our attention focused on this point. I express no personal view now on the relative merits of either of these alternatives. I intend, as I am sure most noble Lords do, to wait until we see the Select Committee's Report and know what advice they can give us. Of course, we already know a good deal. Heaven knows!, there have been enough briefs flying about, and anyone who has tackled the formidable task of reading the Report of the Select Committee in another place will certainly be well-informed, not only about the facts but about the arguments, too. So we know a good deal about the relative costs, capacities, time-tables and, indeed, objections to each of these proposals. These will, however, be studied in far greater detail by our Select Committee, and we shall have the benefit of their advice when we take our final decision.

I am sure we all recognise that the Committee can do no more than adduce the facts and put them, so far as they can, in a proper perspective. There is no absolute criteria to enable us to decide which is right in the end. I felt that when the noble Lord, Lord Hurcomb, was referring to the merits of the Middleton site as an alternative, he had perhaps not entirely consciously in his mind the sort of objections we should hear from the farming world, were that put forward as the official proposition. This, of course, is the dilemma: that there are very serious objections to each of these proposals. I found the lucid analysis by the noble and gallant Viscount, Lord Slim, of the pros and cons of each proposal very helpful; and I am bound to say that when I heard my noble friend Lord Waldegrave refer to the speech of the noble and gallant Viscount, Lord Slim, as "racey" I thought that his "noble army of martyrs" showed a pretty good turn of speed down the straight, too.

The national position to-day is that all major provisions of new supplies of water will involve, inevitably, both higher cost and sacrifice. In Great Britain we have already taken all the cheap water which is easy to get, and all new schemes will involve greater cost and complexity. There is plenty of water available one way or another, but many of these schemes will take a long time to develop. My noble friend Lord Ilford referred to the barrage schemes of Solway and Morecambe which are now under feasibility study. Both these schemes have an enormous potential, but I should be very surprised if we can expect any supplies from them--leaving aside the enormous costs involved—for ten years or so at the best. The other big prospect for the future which has been referred to is desalination. We may expect to see a useful contribution from the projected new nuclear generating station on the Tees-side, but again this will take some time before it appears. I should think that desalination as a by-product of nuclear generation will probably be the best bet in this connection, but I would say to my noble friend Lord Bathurst that that again cannot possibly arrive soon enough to help us in our present dilemma. These are all medium and long term solutions.

My Lords, if I may I will make one point on an aspect to which my noble friend Lord Molson and the noble Lord, Lord Henley referred. They were critical of what seems the hand-to-mouth, short-term policy of the local water company. I think that is a fair criticism. But the company has done no more than all other water companies have done. The fact is that we have only just got a national policy for water, which came in largely at the instigation of my noble friend Lord Brooke of Cumnor in the 1963 Water Resources Act. Now at last we have the river authorities, each of them making a demand/supply survey in their areas which will take them up to the end of the century; with the Water Resources Board coming in over the top, in a co-ordinating function, to make sure of the national position, and the transfer, where necessary, from one river authority area to another. So gradually we may hope to get what I think all noble Lords want, which is a far more long-term and coherent view of what demand is likely to be and where the supply is coming from. And I hope that that will save us from some of these agonising decisions which afflict us now on the kind of sacrifice we should make in order to get the immediate supplies which are obviously urgently needed.

A little was said about the possibility of ground water schemes, and of course they are most attractive, but I am afraid that in this area there seems to be little prospect of finding the two factors which are essential to get really large-scale supplies from that source. These two factors are, first, that there must be a wide area of suitable geological structure which is water bearing—chalk, limestone or the like—and, secondly, that it must be relatively under-pumped before the major scheme is started. It looks to me as if these conditions do not exist on a big scale in the area, though obviously there is some and if it is taken into account it is going to be useful.

It looks to me as if these three alternatives are the three practical possibilities. I hope that the Select Committee will study them, and all aspects of this extremely difficult problem, and will bring us back a report—and, my word!, the members are going to have a formidable job to get the picture clear for us. They certainly have my best wishes. I look forward to seeing their report as a preparation for taking an ultimate decision on where this reservoir should be. I hope that your Lordships will be agreeable to giving this Bill a Second Reading.

7.2 p.m.


My Lords, the proposition before us this afternoon is not that we should pass this Bill into law; it is that it is worthy of examination by a number of us carefully selected from among those best qualified to examine it. Since that is so, I think there is little that should be said on the merits of the matter by the Government spokesman in this debate. That will come later. It may help the House, though, if I give a very brief round-up of the salient facts on each side. Many of these, and many which were not salient, have already been mentioned.

The Bill is desired by a circle which goes far wider than the promoters, the Tees Valley and Cleveland Water Board and their chief clients, I.C.I. This is so for the following reasons. Tees-side is a part of England which attracts the highest possible incentives for industrial development; the 40 per cent. investment grant is one measure of it. I.C.I. have pioneered a very good new way of making fertilisers out of oil, the naphtha steam reforming process, and this will justify a great expansion of production. For this reason, and because they are also expanding their production of other things, they very rightly intend to build great new plants on Tees-side. The new plants will demand a certain amount of water; more than is now available. The cheapest and quickest way of getting the increase is by the Cow Green reservoir. If it has to be got from anywhere else, and if there were a drought before that alternative source were on supply which would be later than Cow Green would, I.C.I. would have to cut back production. There would be a loss of exports, and a number of the men who would by then have been taken on would be out of work for a period related to the length of the drought.

Those who favour the Bill to my knowledge—and I do not mention certain bodies referred to in the debate because they have not come to my direct knowledge—include, besides the promoters, the Water Resources Board, the Northumbrian River Authority, the Durham County Council, the National Farmers' Union and the North-East Development Council. The National Farmers' Union favour it because the least inconvenient alternative, Middleton, would flood farm land, while Cow Green would not.

By the opponents of the Bill it is argued that the reservoir would drown part of an area which sustains unique plant communities, and endanger other parts of it by the climatic and hydrological changes it might produce, and that these communities are not capable of being studied quickly, between now and then, but only over decades. It is argued that since these communities have been proved by recent quaternary studies to be isolated communities of certain Arctic species, cut off for ten thousand years from the main genetic pool of those species in the Arctic regions, their presence and their co-existence one with another on the rare geology of Cow Green make them especially important for the study of micro-evolution, and thus for the increasing practical fruits of research into plant genetics. It is also asked how we can seek to take the lead in international efforts to preserve objects of scientific study, as we do, when we destroy our own.

Those who oppose the Bill include the National Parks Commission, the Nature Conservancy, the National Environmental Research Council, the Teesdale Defence Committee, which is a grouping primarily of local botanical and amenity societies, and, I think it is fair to say, the great majority of botanists in this country. In mentioning the National Parks Commission, I should like to repeat to the noble Lord, Lord Strang, the apology which has already been made by my right honourable friend the Minister for Land and Natural Resources for the fact that an earlier communication from the National Parks Commission was inadvertently not appended to his report to the House of Commons.

The House will notice that I have not quoted a single figure, whether for the size of the reservoir or its alternatives, for their likely yields, for the cost of the water they would produce, for the acreage of botanical interest affected, for the possible climatic changes, for the output of the I.C.I. plants, for their cost, for their consumption of water, for their export potential, for the number of men they will employ or, if water is not assured, possibly fail to employ, nor even the dates when this or that survey was begun or completed, or when this or that project can be begun or completed. I have done this because I do not believe that we on the Floor of the House can do more in any case in one afternoon's debate than get a rough idea of the shape of the issue. The detailed figures, even when they are not disputed, must be filled in patiently and in detail before a Committee, and we must hear that Committee's report. When we try to do it here, we only confuse ourselves.

For the same reason, I would ask the forgiveness of the House for not taking up in detail many of the points which have been made in this debate. Some of them I believe to be right, some of them I am almost sure were wrong in fact, and some of them I have not the least idea about. The issue is so complicated that I am sure we are right to leave it to the Select Committee.

This is probably an irreconcilable conflict between two very strong cases. It would be irresponsible—it might seem almost criminal—to do anything which will slow down the industrial development of the North-East; it has so long had such a raw economic deal. And the same would apply if it slowed down the growth of our petrochemical exports, which are growing so fast, and are capable of so much further growth, and where the competition is so hot. How could we do that? And it would be irresponsible, it might almost seem criminal, to damage a natural laboratory of plant genetics, which botanists all over the world agree is unique and irreplaceable, when that branch of science—plant genetics—is just beginning to develop so fast and to give promise of economic application in our ability to produce new strains adapted to this one or that of our agricultural needs. How could we possible do that?

The dispute between these two views has been marked, as such disputes often are, by confusion, by hasty words, by changes of position; even—and this is the most unfortunate of all—by attempts from both sides to discredit the professional competence of the other. There has been an incident where proponents of the Bill publicly implied that the absence of two of the most eminent botanists in the country from the Commons hearing was evidence that they did not support their colleagues in their opposition. The House will remember how sharply these two professors countered the allegations. There has been another incident where opponents of the Bill accused the promoters of "manipulating the facts" to suit their case.

I hope we shall be able to say later that from the moment when the Teesdale Bill went before the Lords such unseemliness ceased, and the thing was thenceforth considered calmly and on its merits.

Some opponents of the Bill have let it be seen that they fear there may not again be as favourable a moment as the present for deciding its fate. Not to put too fine a point upon it, they fear that if they let it get into Committee they might be cozened or pressed ino passing it later on by some sleight of hand or exercise of Government prerogative. This will not happen. Let me describe what will happen to the Bill from now on if we send it to a Select Committee. The Committee may find that the Bill is wholly unacceptable and so report to the House; and that will be the end of it. Or they may find it wholly acceptable and so report to the House. In that case, there will, if the House wishes, be a Third Reading debate and a Division. Or the Committee may make Amendments. Then the Committee will report the Bill to the House with Amendments, and again there may be a Third Reading debate, just is in the other case. It is also possible (though this is rare) for the House to re-commit a Bill such as this to a Committee of the Whole House, so that further Amendments beyond those made by our Select Committee can be moved and debated. After that, too, there can, if the House wishes, be a Report and a debate.

I turn now to the attitude of the Government. The overall position of the Government towards this Bill remains what it was when my right honourable friend the Minister of Land and Natural Resources commended it to the House of Commons at Report stage—and I quote him: I have considered this with my right honourable friends the Minister of Housing and Local Government and the Secretary of State for Education and Science and, having done so, we feel that the advice we must tender is that we should support the Bill. I do this with the greatest reluctance. My right honourable friend's reluctance, of course, was due to the fact that because of the only recent setting up of the Water Resources Board, these decisions are still not able to be taken long enough in advance, and that the House was thus presented with no alternative but to accept the Bill.

I feel no reluctance whatever in urging this House now to give the Bill a Second Reading and send it to the Select Committee. Ordinarily, when we give a Public Bill its Second Reading we are approving it in principle, and we refer it to Committee to tidy up the details. But when we refer a Private Bill to a Select Committee, the intention is that the Committee are empowered to examine the Bill as it were from the bottom up, including its general purpose and effects, very much as we do ourselves on the Floor of the House on the Second Reading of a Public Bill. So when we are sending a Bill to Select Committee, the Second Reading simply imparts a judgment that the Bill is worth examining, both in general and in detail. This Bill has been passed by the House of Commons, after thirteen days in Committee there. It is a very contentious Bill, and a highly technical one, on which the arguments of both sides are supported by a wealth of facts, figures, and reasoning, not all readily comprehensible without delving and elucidation in the presence of experts. We cannot turn the promoters of this Bill away without hearing their case, when the House of Commons found it worthy of thirteen days' attention. To do so would be quite out of keeping with our role and tradition in this House, and I do not think any noble Lord would wish that we should do so. The Government therefore urge the House without any reservation to give this Bill its Second Reading. I have already described what happens then, how it comes back to us for a free vote on Third Reading.

I turn now to the Instruction standing in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Molson. The Government find no reason either to commend or refrain from commending this Instruction to the House. We have heard already from the Lord Chairman of Committees that the issues which it instructs the Committee to consider would in any case come up for consideration on the evidence which is to be laid before the Committee. That being so, it is in the Government's view a matter of only moderate importance whether or not the Instruction is passed: it will not change the effect. I am not arguing against the Instruction.

The House may wish. however, that the Select Committee will bear in mind the fact that the Water Resources Board, which has been in existence for only a very short time, is due to produce before the end of this year an Interim Report on the water supplies in the North of England, and next year to produce a Final Report on that topic. The Committee will no doubt themselves determine what are the dangers, if any, of their duplicating the work that is being done by the Water Resources Board. I know that the promoters of the Bill have accepted the Motion for the Instruction, and, in conclusion, I should like to join myself with what the noble Lord, Lord Nugent of Guildford, said about sending the good wishes both of the Opposition and of the Government, and I do not doubt of all Members of the House also, to the Select Committee in the intensely difficult and prolonged task which awaits them.

7.18 p.m.


My Lords, if your Lordships will give me permission to speak again, I will reply quite briefly to the points which have been made in this debate, and then I shall not think it necessary to do more than formally move the Instruction. As the noble Lord, Lord Lindgren, has agreed to accept the Instruction, so I naturally return the compliment and agree to support the Second Reading of this Bill. As has been said several times, we, of course, reserve our position as regards what we shall do on Third Reading. The Lord Chairman of Committees has pointed out that the passing of a Private Bill on Second Reading in no way commits this House to the principles of the Bill. When the Select Committee have elucidated the facts, it will be for us then to consider the right policy to follow.

I think it would be fair to say that in this debate the main arguments of the supporters of the Bill are arguments of expediency. I think we should be a little chary of accepting arguments of expediency about the importance of new industrial development, of the export trade and of employment. I am quite sure that exactly the same arguments were put forward in mid-Victorian times to justify the building of factories all over the country, which are now cluttering up the countryside, and which are surrounded by slums—and all done without any of that necessary planning for the future which it is now the accepted policy of both political Parties.

The really alarming thing was the argument that was put forward by the Water Resources Board, who in other respects were so lukewarm in commending this Bill. They said: "This Cow Green reservoir is the next logical step". My Lords, the natural question which one feels inclined to ask is: if this is the next logical step, what will the next step be? I have very little doubt—and I do not think the noble Lord, Lord Sinclair of Cleeve, would disagree with me—that the next logical step, within four or ten years of the completion of this reservoir, will be one at Middleton. My noble friend Lord Ilford had something to say about the Middleton reservoir when he pointed out that it would take much longer to build and would be much more costly. What he did not point out was that, when it was built, it would provide double the amount of water and was likely to provide all the requirements of Tees-side for the next twenty years to come.

The argument of expediency was put most persuasively by the noble and gallant Viscount, Lord Slim. I thought it was put most forcefully by my noble friend Lord Swinton. I should not describe his speech, as he described it, as a judicial statement of the arguments, for and against. I would say that it was very forceful advocacy. I am bound to say, in reply to his speech, that with regard to grouting, my information, which may not be correct, is contrary to his. When the Bill was before the Select Committee in the House of Commons it was admitted by the promoters that they did not know whether the geological formation of that area would require extensive grouting or not. If it did require that extensive grouting, the time taken to build it would be very much longer, the cost would be very much greater, and the area of destruction and despoilation of land would be very much greater. As I say, this is one of the matters for the Select Committee to look into. My information does not tally with that of my noble friend Lord Swinton, that the borings that have been made have now proved beyond a peradventure that grouting on a large scale will not be necessary.

My noble friend also accused me of being pontifical. I am sorry about that. He proceeded to say that he disagreed with what the Minister of Land and Natural Resources had said about what the danger was. I would say only this. It is of course true that Ministers err; Ministers make mistakes. They make mistakes now and, as my noble friend will remember, Ministers made mistakes when he was in the Government. But Mr. Willey, speaking on this Bill, said that he was speaking on technical advice. He went on: My advice can only be based on the technical advice available to me. That is the advice of the Water Resources Board. After all, we have been asked this evening about technical advice. The advice available to me is that there is no alternative without a grave risk. There would be a grave risk if there were a succession of three or four dry summers."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, Commons, Vol. 732, (No. 64) col. 2018; 28/7/66.] I prefer the advice given to the Minister of Land and Natural Resources by the Water Resources Board to the opinion of my noble friend. If I was pontifical, I would say in reply that his word is only an ipse dixit.

It has been argued, particularly, I thought, by the noble and gallant Viscount, Lord Slim, that the botanical argument against this Bill has been exaggerated. I was glad to notice that the noble Lord the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Housing and Local Government took the contrary view. He emphasised the importance of the botanical argument. I was surprised that Lord Slim should have advanced that argument. I cannot believe that Imperial Chemical Industries would have voted from their shareholders' money £100,000 for a crash programme of research in that valley if they did not think that there was something very substantial to research into. I am no botanist, but I understand that this is not merely a matter of scientific interest. I understand that these rather rudimentary forms of vegetation grew in Teesdale at a time when the ice was receding; that research into the circumstances and causes of the growth of rudimentary vegetation as cold recedes is a form of fundamental botanical research which can be of immense importance in understanding how vegetable life comes into existence. When you have a laboratory that has been working for 15,000 years, to suggest that an adequate substitute for it is a grant of £100,000 from I.C.I. to do the work in the intervening time does not, I think, quite meet the argument that has been put.

I was not sure what the noble Lord, Lord Lindgren, said about the Nature Conservancy not having consistently opposed this scheme. I have been at pains to find out the position, and I understand that the Nature Conservancy is now a component body of the Natural Environmental Research Council, who set out the scientific facts showing the great damage that would be done by this reservoir; and they did so in a confidential document in 1965 that was submitted to the Government. These botanical scientists have never gone back upon the position that they then adopted.

With regard to what is being proposed on behalf of Imperial Chemical Industries I would say only this. Some years ago a distinguished President of General Motors became Secretary for Defence of the United States of America, and when some highly controversial contract came up for discussion he expressed the view that what was good for General Motors was also good for the United States of America. I do not accept the argument that what is good for I.C.I. is necessarily good for the United Kingdom.

Three noble Lords, in particular my noble friends Lord Swinton and Lord Hawke, and the noble and gallant Viscount, Lord Slim, have said that they rather like the idea of submerging this valley, and they felt that it would add to the beauty of the countryside. I feel disposed to quote to your Lordships a remark made by Mr. Lloyd George early in his Parliamentary career, when it was proposed to submerge a Welsh valley in order to provide water for Warrington. Those who advocated it said that there was really no doubt that the appearance of this valley would be greatly improved by being put under water. Lloyd George replied: "So would Warrington look much better under water, but we are not proposing for that reason to submerge it." Having made those remarks, I support the Second Reading of this Bill.


My Lords, I thank everyone who has taken part in the debate. Much of it has been repetitive, and I do not intend to add to it. I ask your Lordships to support the Second Reading and the Instruction.

On Question, Bill read 2a, and committed to a Select Committee.


My Lords, I now beg to move the Instruction standing in my name on the Order Paper.

Moved, That in view of the scientific and amenity importance of the site proposed to be submerged, it be an instruc- tion to the Select Committee that they give special consideration to—

  1. (a) the need to provide a supply of water which will meet the foreseeable needs of Tees-side for at least the next twenty years; and
  2. (b) other sites for reservoirs, and other methods of supplying water to meet the needs of the more immediate future,
and whether in the light of those considerations the proposals in the Bill provide the best solution to the problem of water supplies in the area.—(Lord Molson.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.