HL Deb 23 February 1967 vol 280 cc801-65

3.5 p.m.


My Lords, I beg to move that this Bill be now read a third time. The Bill, promoted by the Tees Valley and Cleveland Water Board, has been one of the most hotly contested and fully investigated Private Bills of recent years. It was only right that it should be so, for in meeting the needs of one section of the community, the interests of others are bound to be affected. Fears, doubts and objections, whether real or imaginary, should be thoroughly investigated and the Promoters' case tested in every detail. It is equally true that Promoters of Private Bills should do all that is humanly possible and reasonable to meet the requirements of objectors.

I would submit that there can be very few people who would not recognise the great care taken by both Houses of Parliament in testing the Promoters' case for the Bill and the case in opposition to the Bill. In another place, the Bill was considered for 13 full days in Committee before coming to your Lordships' House. It was fully discussed in your Lordships' House on November 8 of last year when, after an excellent debate, it was passed to a Select Committee with an Instruction to give special consideration not only to certain aspects of the Bill, but also to circumstances arising from the necessity for the Bill. The Select Committee met on 19 days. They also visited the site to familiarise themselves with conditions in the area. I am sure that all your Lordships would agree that we are indebted to the Committee not only for the care, time and thought given to considering the Bill, but also for their excellent Report, which is now before your Lordships. May I say, too, that personally I appreciate the manner and method of the Promoters of the Bill in holding beforehand consultations with all interested parties, and their willingness during the course of the Bill to meet, so far as was possible, all points put to them.

Having regard to the number of noble Lords who desire to speak, the fact that the Promoters of the Bill have, I understand, circulated to all noble Lords a statement on the Bill, and that your Lordships have before you the Report of the Select Committee, I do not propose to go into detail on the purposes of the various clauses of the Bill. It is sufficient to say that the urgent need for the new impounding reservoir at Cow Green has been established. So far as possible, the interests of the Nature Conservancy, the Botanists, the Council for the Preservation of Rural England, the Ramblers' Association and other amenity interests have been met. The Bill, too, has the support of the National Farmers' Union.

At the conclusion of the debate, I shall try to reply to the points that have been raised, and therefore I do not think it is necessary to delay your Lordships now by going into detail on the Bill. I beg to move.

Moved, That the Bill be now read 3a.—(Lord Lindgren.)

3.10 p.m.


My Lords, we have now terminated what has been an exhaustive and, if I may say so, somewhat exhausting inquiry. I should like to pay tribute to both counsel and witnesses for making what might have been a tedious inquiry so intensely interesting. I should like to pay tribute also to my noble friend Lord Molson for tabling his Instruction. I am not generally in favour of Instructions to Committees of your Lordships' House, as I believe that Committees carry out their duties well without them, but on this occasion the first Instruction, to look20 years ahead, opened up new vistas to the inquiry, and I feel sure has caused the Water Resources Board to think very seriously about the future provision of water to industry in the North-East, in particular, and England in general, if crash programmers such as this are to be avoided.

It is not normal for a Chairman of a Select Committee to make a speech on the Third Reading of the Bill with which he is concerned, but I hope your Lordships will bear with me if I trace briefly the history of the Bill, as it has been given great prominence in the Press throughout the country, and I believe I should put before your Lordships our reasons for coming to our conclusions.

Under Section 27 of the Water Act 1945 a water undertaker has a statutory duty to provide water for industrial purposes on reasonable terms and conditions; and this has been interpreted to mean that the industrial consumer makes a reasonable offer to bear or contribute to the cost of any new works required to meet his requirements. That provision is further subject to the requirements of domestic consumers. It will be obvious to your Lordships that the industrial consumer, under this policy, will calculate his requirement for the immediate future, as it is not good business to tie up capital in water which the industry does not currently need. On the other hand, if the Water Board consider that the industrial concern has underestimated its requirements and decide to increase the allocation, the price of the additional works would fall on the domestic consumer via the water rate. It would appear that this policy entails small schemes at frequent intervals, when a large scheme might be more advantageous on a national basis. It is this problem that is being considered by the Water Resources Board, which I understand will be reporting soon. I shall be saying a few words on that evidence later in my speech.

May I now turn to the Tees Valley and Cleveland Harbour Water Board, who have promoted this Bill? This Board is in a quite exceptional position in relation to its trade consumers. By 1970, 80 per cent. of its entire water will be supplied to trade consumers, of which 60 per cent. will go to Imperial Chemical Industries, Limited. It is to this company that I wish to draw the attention of the House, in order to indicate the urgent requirement for water, due to unusual circumstances. The House will remember that in 1963 a White Paper was tabled regarding financial assistance to industrialists in the North-East for the purpose of industrial development in the area. This White Paper had an important bearing on decisions come to by I.C.I. within a few months of its introduction.

During the first half of 1964 I.C.I. made a major breakthrough in their laboratory research into the production of ammonia. This discovery made possible the use of a cheap and readily available component of oil called naphtha, instead of coal, which had been used up to that time, and opened up new vistas in the company's export field, a great deal of which comprises fertilisers which require a large amount of ammonia in their production. The company made further discoveries which greatly increased the manufacture of man-made fibres, the products of which are in demand in all world markets. These discoveries opened up the possibility of great new markets for the chemical branch, and I.C.I. decided to go ahead with plant and started the construction of three of the largest ammonia plants in the world to-day. In order to work these plants a large increase in water was required, and I.C.I. immediately entered into negotiations with the Water Board regarding this supply.

There can be no doubt from the evidence given to us that this is an exceptional case, and if the water required by I.C.I., and to a minor degree by Dorman Long, is not forthcoming, by the early 1970s a very heavy loss in production will result. The loss in production (estimated in 1972 at £10.5 million) will be felt on the home market. But what is far more important is that it will gravely affect the export market, and also the state of employment in the North-Eastern area. I hope I have said enough to establish the fact that the water is indeed urgently needed.

Evidence given to us showed that there is ample water in the Teesdale Valley, and hence the question we had to decide was the best method of obtaining that water. At this juncture, I think I should say a few words about the first Instruction given to the Committee by your Lordships. It was to give special consideration to the need for a supply of water that would meet the foreseeable needs of Tees-side for at least 20 years. We considered this question very carefully and heard evidence from the Director of the Water Resources Board. After considering this evidence, the Committee felt impelled to recall the Director and question him further to see whether they could come to a conclusion which would carry out fully the Instruction given to them. Our final conclusions are clearly laid out in the Committee's Report, and I would say only this. The Director of the Water Resources Board, on being recalled, stated that the Board were confident that water could be found, but it was not possible for him to indicate from where until the Water Resources Board Inquiry had reported; but he did state that any further water required would not necessarily come from the Tees Valley. He gave evidence of the possible construction of barrages and pipe-lines from either the Solway Firth or Morecambe Bay, with pipe-lines bringing the water to the required areas. I understand that since the Committee sat Her Majesty's Government have shown preference for Morecambe Bay. All this evidence caused the Committee to conclude that until the Inquiry had been completed it would be impossible for them to give any real guidance to your Lordships on your first Instruction.

There can be no doubt that the Tees Valley is very beautiful, and even in a gale of wind and driving rain, which the Committee encountered, it was obvious that any man-made scheme would be an intrusion into the natural landscape which would not be fully acceptable either to the inhabitants or to visitors. On the other hand, my Lords, one must balance this intrusion with the demands of industry and exports, which are the lifeblood of our economy. We therefore had to come to a decision as to what scheme would achieve its object with the smallest intrusion on the natural beauty and indeed on the amenities in the valley.

There was no evidence that the required water could be found outside the Valley in time to avert the large loss in production which I have already mentioned. The immediate requirement of Imperial Chemical Industries was 25 million gallons per day. It was considered by the Water Board that the safe yield required by the early 1970s would be 105 million gallons per day, the "safe yield" being the average allowing for drought years as well as wet years. This amount would allow for increased demands from Dorman Long and domestic requirements. This safe yield required an additional amount, over that already available of 35 millions a day, which was agreed up to 1977 by the Water Board and the Water Resources Board, but after that date the Water Resources Board anticipated increased demand might be forthcoming, and a new scheme would probably be required. I hope that noble Lords will accept these figures, as I should otherwise have to go into innumerable details. These figures were accepted by both sides, although different methods were put forward as to how a satisfactory result could be reached.

I must now deal in general with the two main arguments as to how the water should be found, and then go into further details as to the factors which led the Committee to come to their decision. As the House will know, the Promoters put forward the project of a reservoir as a solution to the problem, and it may help your Lordships if I explain that there are two different types of reservoir currently used for the storage of water. The first is the conventional one by which water is contained and piped direct to the consumer. The second is the river regulating reservoir, which is the most up to date, by which the river is used as an aqueduct and the flow is regulated as required. The Cow Green project would be of the second type.

Apart from suggesting other sites rather than Cow Green, the Petitioners put forward the scheme of tapping the supply of underground water known to exist in the Tees Valley. The consultant engineer who gave evidence for the Petitioners held that water could be obtained from underground sources in the magnesium limestone to the west of Darlington, and in the Bunter Sandstone which lies to the East and North-East of Darlington. The plan was to sink 24 boreholes in the magnesium limestone, which the witness estimated would yield 18 million gallons a day, and 16 boreholes in the Bunter Sandstone, which would yield 8 million gallons a day, making an overall yield of 26 million gallons per day. The possible need for replenishing the underground water was admitted, but the witness considered that this could be done from the river when it was in full flow.

We had a lot of evidence concerning boreholes, and the main bulk of evidence against this project was that the scheme was conjectural and that a long period of trial would be needed before it could be said that a safe yield for industry could be produced by this method. We also heard evidence about the view above ground of the boreholes, and we were informed that the limestone boreholes would require a building resembling in size a police box, while the Bunter Sandstone buildings would be larger, resembling a bus shelter. The Committee carefully considered all the evidence on this project and formed the opinion that, although a scheme of this sort might be considered in the future, it would be too much of a gamble to adopt it now as opposed to a reservoir which would definitely produce the water required.

My Lords, I now turn to the question of reservoirs, and in doing so I will do my best to satisfy your Lordships that we carried out so far as possible the second Instruction moved by my noble friend. In September, 1964, the consultant water engineer retained by the Water Board had consultations with the Nature Conservancy and indicated 17 sites which he intended to examine in order to meet the requirement for water. Many of these were discarded for various reasons and, by the process of elimination, six possible sites were considered for further consideration. For those who have a knowledge of the area, these were Harwood, Langdon, Middleton, the Tees at Eggleston, Upper Maize Bec and Cow Green. If I may, I will shortly eliminate these sites according to the evidence given to us. Harwood was objected to as there were numerous farmsteads and extensive farmland, and there would have to be a dam 130 ft. high. Langdon was found to be not as satisfactory geologically as Cow Green, and the catchment area was smaller. Middleton was at this stage eliminated for the same reason as Harwood, but at a later stage it came fully into the picture as an alternative to Cow Green. For this reason I shall be speaking about this site a little later. The Tees at Eggleston was considered the least satisfactory geologically, and for this reason was eliminated.

This left Upper Maize Bec and Cow Green, and regarding the former, evidence showed that this site was very remote, which would make servicing very difficult, and would be the highest ordnance data reservoir in the country, which it was stated was a distinct disadvantage. Apart from these factors, the Nature Conservancy felt that both Upper Maize Bec and Cow Green would require special measures to safeguard so far as possible scientific interest, and Upper Maize Bec would entail the flooding of a long length of the Pennine Way. It is interesting that at this stage a site above Cow Green, now designated as Upper Cow Green, was not mentioned. But this site was put forward by the Petitioners in the House of Commons Committee. It was also put forward in the present Committee, but not so seriously, as the dam would be twice the size of that at Cow Green and the water level 1,756 feet, which is very high. As I have stated, the Middleton site came very much into the picture in the Committee before your Lordships' House, and it became obvious as we went on that Middleton and Cow Green were the two main sites, with the choice of the Water Board falling on Cow Green, and hence this Bill.

I feel that at this stage I should put before your Lordships the details of the proposed site at Middleton and the objections to it as we saw them. There can be no doubt from the evidence that the site at Middleton, if geologically sound, would lend itself to a reservoir, but on our visit I was deeply impressed by the destruction which would be caused if this site were approved. The dam site, 177 feet high and 3,850 feet long, would be close to the village of Middleton, and the dam would be right across the road which takes one up the valley giving a fine view of the river, along the banks of which the Pennine Way runs for a distance of two miles.

Inundation would include in excess of 1,000 acres of good farm land divided into small holdings, which constituted 39 homes occupied by people who lived solely or partly by farming and who were, as evidence showed in some cases, of an age which would preclude them from obtaining other livelihood. Many of these were tenant farmers who would get little compensation, and would find it very difficult to take up a new life elsewhere. Apart from this, half of the village of Newbiggin would be submerged, including the chapel and the post office, leaving the remainder on the edge of a large expanse of water. A new road would have to be constructed as the existing road would be below water level, and some quarries also would be inundated, and we had no evidence as to the compensation payable for these. It appeared that the Middleton site would not be completed until 1974, at the best. The price for construction would be in the region of £8 million, which would give a yield of 75 to 78 million gallons per day, dependent on instructions given by the river authority.

We now come up against the policy laid down in the Water Act. This amount of water is not needed at the present time, and hence the cost of surplus water not required by industry would fall on the water ratepayers unless further demands came to light. Evidence showed that it would be possible to build the dam in two stages in order to overcome this defect, but the initial stage would cost £6 million and the second stage would face the contractors with a difficult and hazardous operation, and the total cost would probably amount to over £9 million. It was argued that only one stage need be built and, on the assumption that no provision was made for a second stage, evidence showed that this would not be ready before 1973, and would cost about £4.5 million as opposed to £2.5 million for Cow Green. For these reasons we discarded Middleton as an alternative site.

That brings me to the real crux of the situation, and we have to weigh very carefully the pros and cons of the site at Cow Green. This site produces the amount of water required and is the only one which can provide within the time limit that water which, evidence showed, would prevent a cutback in production. We had to weigh this against the undoubted truth that the reservoir would inundate 20 acres of land which is of high scientific interest, in that colonies of rare plants grow there together which it was argued were relics of the Ice Age in Britain. But, my Lords, we must get this matter into perspective, and evidence showed that these 20 acres were part of 300 acres which, largely owing to the soil deriving from the sugar limestone, were of special interest to botanists and have been the subject of works by many eminent botanists, some of whom gave evidence before us.

We listened to evidence on both sides as to the degree of destruction by water and the effect the water would have on surrounding plants not so inundated in the area of Widdybank Fell. It was agreed by both sides that no rare plant would be destroyed which did not appear in other parts of Teesdale. We had evidence of the flooding of living bogs which contained rare specimens, but here again there were bogs of the same type above the waterline. The promoters are doing all they can to minimise the damage which might be done to the immediate surroundings during the construction of the reservoir, and their plans include temporary fencing to prevent lorries or men straying into areas where damage might be done, and the provision of a warden to keep an eye on the site for this purpose. We noted that I.C.I. had agreed to make a donation of £100,000 over ten years to assist in research which we believe will be of great advantage to the botanists.

My Lords, I feel that I should say one word about the scenery, which is beautiful and wild, and, as I stood looking over the proposed reservoir from the dam site just above Cauldron Snout, I tried to visualise how this reservoir would look. I came to the conclusion that it would not be so great an intrusion as might have been thought, and in fact that it might, in time, bring an added beauty to the scene. We must remember that the dam is small both in height, 82 feet, and in length, 1,900 feet, and will not be seen from below Cauldron Snout at all.

The Pennine Way will be shortened by only a few yards, and a new bridge, specially designed, will be constructed by a landscape architect. I believe this bridge will be an improvement on the present one. We heard evidence on both sides regarding the possible change in climatic conditions which the reservoir might produce, hence endangering the flora, and also the chances of peat dust being blown around. The Committee felt that these dangers appeared to be exaggerated.

The Committee gave very careful consideration to all the evidence, and in the end came unanimously to the conclusion that the site at Cow Green was the only one which satisfied the special requirements which have come about. Hence they gave their opinion that the Bill should proceed, with Amendments. My Lords, in my opinion no other decision, in view of the evidence, could have been made, and I ask your Lordships most sincerely to give this Bill a Third Reading. Finally, I have been asked by my Committee to thank Mr. J. V. D. Webb, the Clerk to the Committee, most sincerely for his untiring efforts on our behalf, both on arrangements and in advice, and I am deeply grateful to him personally for his help in the production of the Report.

3.39 p.m.


My Lords, this Bill is the latest episode in a course of events which is full of menace for the future of our countryside and, in particular, of our upland areas. In saying this, I do not wish to utter one word of criticism of the noble Lord, Lord Grenfell, and his colleagues on the Select Committee whose Report is before us to-day. They carried out their long and arduous task with extraordinary devotion, and they deserve the warmest thanks from your Lordships. I have read a good deal of the proceedings of the Committee and, quite frankly, I do not find it surprising that they came to the conclusion which they have now reported to us. Indeed, in the situation in which they were placed it would have been difficult for them to come to any other conclusion.

What was the situation in which they were placed? There were two aspects to that situation, and I will take the simpler, more direct, aspect first. It is concisely summed up in paragraph 96 of the Third Annual Report of the Water Resources Board. This is what the Board say: We see no possibility of escaping from the painful process of deciding between conflicting interests and conflicting claims for use of land…". Then comes the crucial passage: On occasion, perhaps because of special circumstances or because of urgency, in itself sometimes due to failure to plan ahead,"— your Lordships will note those words— the solution of a water resources problem may provide no choice and must override all other interests. This has happened in the past with large surface storage projects. That, in two sentences, is what has happened in the present case. Later speakers may have more to say about it. It would be difficult to define more accurately the position the Committee found themselves in. They had, in effect, no choice but to give priority to industry.

The second aspect of the situation is more fundamental. It concerns the body of presuppositions which govern the development of modern industrial societies. When there exist what the Water Resources Board call "conflicting in- terests and conflicting claims for use of land", these presuppositions serve almost universally to resolve that conflict in one direction rather than in the other. They resolve it, that is to say, in the interest of industry rather than in the interest of the landscape or of ecology. I met with a very human and very moving example of this conflict when I appeared at a public inquiry on behalf of the National Parks Commission in opposition to the project of the Central Electricity Generating Board for a nuclear power station at Trawsfynydd in the Snowdonia National Park. The hall was thronged with local villagers carrying placards and banners with the device "Bread before beauty". This was a moving appeal because as John Keats once said: Scenery is fine—but human nature is finer". That episode illustrates, in a very poignant way, the cruel dilemma in which we can sometimes be placed. But let us see where it would take us if we applied that maxim universally, and indeed my argument will be that that is what we are in fact all in danger of doing.

John Kenneth Galbraith, towards the end of the last of his Reith Lectures, outlined what he took to be the faith of modern industrial man, the goals and values which determine his conduct, the things to which we all, including our Select Committees, are expected to give first priority. For clarity, I will number them. They are these: first, that technology is always good; secondly, that accordingly firms must always expand; thirdly, that the consumption of goods is the principal source of happiness; fourthly, that idleness is wicked as an alternative to work; and, finally, that nothing should interfere with the priority which we accord to technology, growth and increased consumption. Doctrines like these were, I think, in the minds of some of the supporters of this Bill in the debate on Second Reading. As the Secretary of State for Education and Science put it the other day: We have become obsessed by the question of economic growth". Professor Galbraith does not himself subscribe to this faith. He makes a claim for the æsthetic side of life, and he urges that it is: through the State that society must assert the superior claims of æsthetic over economic goals, and particularly of environment over cost. Otherwise, he insists, the industrial system will continue to have a monopoly of social purpose". One might not perhaps put that claim in quite so extreme a form, but the advice is salutary.

What have our own Governments, successive Governments, been doing along this line? For twelve long years, as Chairman of the National Parks Commission, with my colleagues, I fought what was too often a losing battle in defence of the countryside. That burden now rests upon the shoulders of the noble Baroness, Lady Wootton of Abinger, and I know she feels, as I do, that the cause of the countryside is increasingly in jeopardy. For what was done to the countryside in the first Industrial Revolution, in those days of laissez-faire, the blame for the desecration of the landscape could be cast upon the greedy capitalist. We are now horrified at what he did. But what is the position to-day, in these days of planning? Are we not in this new Industrial Revolution doing the same thing all over again, but with a difference, the difference being that it is now the Government themselves, and industry and the trade unions, who are all at one in giving priority to the claims of industry? As a result of this, what we now face, unless a halt is called somewhere, is the continuing irreparable spoliation of the dwindling countryside and the desecration of the already heavily damaged coast.

By what was perhaps an over-strict interpretation of the Addison Rules, when Chairman of the National Parks Commission I refrained from addressing your Lordships on countryside matters. But outside this House I was free to say what I thought. Addressing the Ramblers' Association in 1962, I said that the main threats to National Parks, the threats most difficult to meet, came from the Government itself and from the great statutory and private developers like the Electricity Boards, the broadcasting authorities, the oil companies and the water undertakers. And I added that I could remember no case where a Government Department had been diverted from plans for erecting large installations in National Parks by anything that the Commission might say about the intentions of Parliament as embodied in the National Parks Act.

Writing to The Times in 1960, I had said, with reference to these invasions of the countryside: These depredations are plainly inconsistent with the essential purposes of the National Parks Act. Her Majesty's Ministers are conscious of this. They express regret at such intrusions. They plead national necessity: we must have these things and there is nowhere else to put them. But the National Parks Commission anxiously await the day when Her Majesty's Ministers will at last firmly say, 'Thus far and no further'. Here in the present case the Secretary of State for Education and Science has made the all too familiar plea of industrial necessity. Conceding that destruction of an important part of the scientific value of the site…was inseparable from the Bill proposal"— although one ought to note here that counsel for the promoters thought that in saying that he had conceded too much—he told the Select Committee that after careful consideration he had regretfully concluded that this destruction must be tolerated in the interest of important industrial development on Tees-side. That, in a nutshell, is the outlook of Her Majesty's present Government.

The argument of industrial necessity may well have validity in the present case—the Committee certainly thought it was decisive. But we can foresee that it will be used again and again in later cases, in other circumstances, but with the same overriding force, in line with the accepted industrial philosophy of our times, as Professor Galbraith has defined it and as it will again no doubt prevail over the minds of members of future Select Committees unless someone, somewhere, calls a halt.

In the light of all this, the future for our uplands in the North, in particular, is a grim one when we are told of the prospective demands for water. What is the position? In paragraph 10 of their Report on the desk-studies on the Morecambe Bay and Solway barrages, the Water Resources Board say that at least 200 million gallons a day of the1981 deficiency will have to be met from inland sources because no barrage scheme could be ready in time. In paragraph 17 they say that there are in prospect schemes for some 1,000 million gallons a day of which the greater part would be available independently of barrage yields. These schemes, they say, include some 30 reservoirs of which about 10 are in National Parks. Not surprisingly, the Water Resources Board go on to say, in paragraph 19, that such schemes for an inland solution would be highly controversial. Let us ask ourselves: In the years to come are we to have more Ullswaters? Are we to have more Tryweryn Valleys, more Towy Gorges, more Meldons, more drowning of fair valleys, more invasions of remote and beautiful country by great works of dam-building? Is nothing to be safe, even in National Parks?

I do not want to end on too sour a note. In fairness, it should be said that the situation is not entirely black; there are sometimes small, if fitful, gleams of hope. Thus, we may be grateful to Lord Kennet for two recent speeches, one on the Manchester Water Order and one on the present Bill. The former Minister of Housing and Local Government placed a curb upon the predatory hand of Manchester in Ullswater. The present Minister has been, in the past, a keen worker for the preservation of the landscape. Successive Ministers of Power have disallowed short lengths of overhead super grid lines in a few sensitive areas. So there is a spark of hope, even in Whitehall.

Then again, the Water Resources Board, in paragraph 24 of their Annual Report, reaffirm that before a firm proposal is made affecting a National Park every possible alternative must be explored", though I would interject here that there is beautiful country outside, as well as inside, National Parks. So also, in another sphere, there is a prospect that the Generating Board will no longer, as in the past, require to site nuclear power stations for safety's sake in remote and unspoiled coastal areas. But although the threat of such coastal stations may be receding, there are new grave threats to the coast now looming up, in the shape of hovercraft stations and landings for North Sea gas. Is the Minister of Power now going to permit the Norfolk coast to be disfigured by North Sea gas works?

It is fair to say, too, that even where, for example, the Generating Board and the oil companies have, unfortunately, been allowed to put up great installations in hitherto unspoiled country or on the coast, they have taken great care and spent a good deal of money in order to reduce the damage to a minimum. The Generating Board have done this, for example, at the nuclear power station at Trawsfynydd; while the three oil companies have taken care to avoid making a hideous mess of Milford Haven, as they might well have done in the old days. But this, at best, is poor comfort, since the damage is still grave. And no doubt, as we have been told, the Tees Valley and Cleveland Water Board will do their best at Cow Green. Let us hope so. But let us realise that Cow Green represents the latest invasion of the countryside by large-scale industry, and as such is of ill-omen for the future.

I have tried to put this Bill in its context as an example of the conflict between the claims of industry and other claims. On these general grounds, while I should not propose to oppose this Bill, I am not able to support it.

3.55 p.m.


My Lords, may I say how much I appreciated, as I am sure your Lordships did, the moving speech by the noble Lord, Lord Strang, in aid of the preservation of the countryside of Britain. May I say to him that while I warmly agree that "man does not live by bread alone", in this difficult issue man must have bread, and of course this is the issue we are discussing to-day. But I would feel that the noble Lord can get some comfort out of this immensely important issue of the Tees Valley case, because it is quite evident that public opinion has taken a great interest in it, that it will be increasingly critical of schemes which make direct inroads into the amenity and landscape of the countryside, and that it will look increasingly to the Government of the day to have plans made far enough ahead to avoid developments of this particular kind. I should have thought that Lord Strang's most expressive words are by no means lost, to be blown away in the wind. I should think that they reflect a strong feeling among our people, and that the events that we are now discussing will tend to strengthen rather than to weaken that feeling.

I should like to join with others who have already congratulated all the noble members of the Select Committee, and of course in particular their Chairman, my noble friend Lord Grenfell, for the altogether admirable Report with which they have provided us and, may I say, the evidence with which they have also provided us. Some of us have had time to read it. During the Christmas Recess I had a convenient—I was going to say moment, but I should say a convenient number of days to read it, and I am bound to say that I found it fascinating. In the event, I found the ultimate Report both authoritative and convincing, and I found myself agreeing with the final conclusion of the Select Committee, that the Promoters should be allowed to have their Bill.

In saying this, I feel that I should express a word of congratulation to the Petitioners for the gallant fight that they have fought against tremendous odds, and with what must have been limited resources. How they financed their campaign, I do not know, but I feel great admiration for them, and I should like to express it. As I saw it, the last ditch in this fight was, of course, the issue between the loss of the botanical interest by submerging Cow Green, contraverted to the economy of the North-East and the nation and a water shortage from 1970 onwards. For me, the Select Committee established, as Lord Grenfell has said in his admirable speech, that there is no other way of getting the extra water needed by 1970 except from the Cow Green reservoir.

The noble Lord, Lord Grenfell has already dealt with the possible alternatives, and I found his description of the Middleton Valley a very moving one. I felt entirely convinced that on this aspect the conclusion of the Select Committee was right—right in any event on time, because, at the earliest, this could not be ready before 1973, on the half-stage, or 1974 on the whole stage. I would certainly confirm, from my knowledge in the Thames Conservancy of ground water schemes, that the possibility of really large supplies of ground water being available by 1970 simply does not exist. I notice that Mr. Jephcotts, the promoter of this scheme, himself acknowledged that it was conjectural. Undoubtedly there will be some water to be obtained, but it takes several years to develop a scheme of this kind. Moreover, in addition to problems of quantity there are obviously quite severe problems of quality also. So Cow Green ends up as the only possible source of supply.

Then the issue has to be faced of whether the economic interest justifies the botanical sacrifice. I read the botanical evidence with tremendous interest. It was given on both sides by great experts, all of whom had their evidence turned inside out by counsel. But it is quite plain to me, as I am sure it is to many of your Lordships, that there is going to be a serious potential loss in the 20 acres of Widdybank Fell which are to be submerged; and I would even recognise, with Dr. Bradshawe and Professor Pigott, that these 20 acres have a unique value. Dr. Bradshawe and Professor Pigott obviously know every plant there; they have been to the area for years, and it is of real intimate value to them. But I am bound to say that, for me, the Select Committee established that in the botanical world as a whole this loss was not irreparable, and that even in this area there were other places, where similar assemblies of plants would be found.

Coming to the economic loss, I feel that this goes so far beyond the interests of an industrial concern, particularly I.C.I., that it deserves a word to itself. Ever since I have taken an interest in political life, the North-East has been a continuing problem. Throughout the 'twenties, when I was beginning to be interested, and in the 'thirties, this area was in decline—in the 'thirties with heavy unemployment. It has been the concern of one Government after another to find some means of redeveloping the North-East. In these post-war years Governments have striven by a variety of means to achieve this end. Here in this decade of the 'sixties we see the beginning of a break-through, started throughout the Government of my own Party, and in particular through the 1962 White Paper, which was a landmark and in which an admirable part was played by my right honourable friend Mr. Quintin Hogg.

By a variety of means the Government of the day were striving to attract new industries and new development there. Now the wished-for event has happened. I.C.I. has made this dramatic shock break-through which will enable them to manufacture nitrogen by probably the cheapest method in the world. This development, when made, not only will be good for I.C.I. (and here I should declare an interest as a very small shareholder, who does not have much interest in his shares just at present), but for the North-East will be dramatic in its effect in strengthening the whole economy. By providing jobs for men and women in the area, it will enable the North-East to take on again a new life. What is more, it will make a most valuable contribution to the economic life of the nation.

I would say to the noble Lord, Lord Strang, that I feel we are talking about the lives of men and women in this area, which have to be matched against the tremendously appealing considerations of amenity and landscape which turn our hearts over. This is not just a matter of pounds, shillings and pence, and industry: it concerns the jobs and the lives of the people who live there. I hope that the very doughty warriors who fought on the Petitioners' side in this case for the interests of amenity and botany in the area will feel some consolation in knowing that they have gone down before a really worthy cause of national importance, a matter which goes far beyond the local water company, and even beyond the interests of industry in the area.

I was interested to hear what the noble Lord, Lord Grenfell, said about the Instruction; and I agree with him in finding this very helpful in enabling us to focus our minds on the problems that lie ahead. I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Kennet, will have something helpful to say to us on the matter. It is true that at this moment the Water Resources Board cannot be specific as to what will fill the gap between the moment, some time during the years 1975 to 1980, when these resources, plus Cow Green, run out and the arrival of some major addition from the Morecambe barrage, or desalination, or some other scheme of that kind. But Mr. Norman Rowntree, the witness for the Water Resources Board, indicated what the pos- sibilities were, and I myself was somewhat relieved that he indicated that Middleton was one of the most remote possibilities which came within his purview, and that he was hoping for a reservoir which might serve the three river valleys and so reduce to a minimum the amount of disturbance that might be involved.

I should like now to say a word about the role of the statutory bodies in giving evidence at these inquiries. There were three statutory bodies whose representatives gave evidence at this inquiry; and, as noble Lords will have observed, such witnesses are treated differently—and rightly so—when giving their evidence from witnesses for the Promoters or the Petitioners. They do not give evidence-in-chief—presumably to recognise that they have a different standing from witnesses for either Promoters or Petitioners. They simply make a statement on behalf of the statutory body they represent, and they are then subjected to cross-examination and re-examination. The point I want to make is that the evidence of these statutory bodies carries special weight, because, constitutionally, they are independent, non-partisan and financed by public funds. A great deal of the value of their evidence, at any rate for me, is lost if they get involved in the case of either Promoter or Petitioner, and to that extent their evidence is reduced in authority.

I do not wish to go into a critical analysis of the evidence given to our Select Committee by the spokesman either for the Nature Conservancy or for the National Parks Commission; nor do I wish to comment upon (although I noted with interest), the very penetrating observations made by the noble Lord, Lord Crook, on the subject. I thought that they were very much "on the ball". But I do not think that it will be helpful to analyse the matter. Suffice it to say that the evidence of both these witnesses was solidly pro the Petitioners' case. In principle, therefore, their evidence was indistinguishable from that of other witnesses on that side.

I would suggest to the noble Lord, Lord Kennet, that the evidence of a statutory body would be much more valuable to Parliament, and to people as a whole, if it set out to be objective and impartial. I should be the first to recognise that such a policy would have its difficulties. Naturally, the members of statutory bodies of this kind are enthusiasts—that is why they are appointed; and, quite rightly, they are primarily conscious that they are guardians for the public of the particular interest concerned. Their natural instinct is to spring to the protection of their interest if there is any suggestion of encroachment or reduction of it; and, indeed, it is part of their duty to do so.

But I should just like to put this question to the noble Lord, Lord Kennet—and I have given him warning of this point—because I feel that it is a very important one. Would he, when he comes to wind up, tell noble Lords whether the responsible Ministers have ever given any guidance to these statutory bodies as to what is their responsibility in giving evidence to Select Committees or to public inquiries? If not, will the Ministers concerned please give urgent consideration to whether guidance should be given with regard to the giving of such evidence, as to what is the right balance between defending the interests for which they are responsible and giving evidence which is intended to be objective? I recognise that this is a difficult problem, and the last thing I wish to do is to discourage the kind of public-spirited men and women who now serve on these bodies and do most valuable work.


My Lords, may I put this point to the noble Lord? Is it not very important indeed that this evidence should be independent? And if guidance is to be given from a Minister, does that not destroy this independence, or, at any rate, make it likely that it will be destroyed?


My Lords, this is the dilemma. On the other hand, if their evidence is simply partial on one side, then to me, at any rate, it loses a great deal of its value. I do not pretend to have the answer. I am asking the Minister to consider this and to tell us what his answer is.


My Lords, before the noble Lord leaves that point, may I say that I noticed he did not mention the Water Resources Board. He mentioned the National Parks Commission and the Nature Conservancy, but the Water Resources Board is equally inde- pendent, or should be, and it did not seem to me that they were giving completely independent advice.


Yes, my Lords. Of course, this depends on the point of view from which one looks at it. I was just about to mention the Water Resources Board, and I thought that they did attempt to give evidence on the subject for which they were responsible, and to give it in an objective way. But, again, this is a matter of opinion. The noble Lord, Lord Chorley, may take the opposite view. I think I have said enough to pose the problem which I am sure must be in the minds of all noble Lords. We are going to have more of these cases, I am afraid, and it is of great importance to us to get the facts before us as clearly as possible, when we are asked to make up our minds what is the right answer in these very difficult issues.

Finally, I should like to put this point to the noble Lord, Lord Kennet, about the role of the Government. I wonder whether he realises how very nearly he lost this Bill altogether in the Commons. If he had not had the support of Members of my side, he might very well have lost it on Third Reading, when there was a Division. Of course, I know from my experience when I was a member of the Government that the normal role of Government with Private Bills is one of a sort of beneficent uncle, not taking more responsibility than you have to, saying a kind word when you can, and leaving it to a free vote for both Houses to decide what they would like to do. But it is relevant to ask the noble Lord, Lord Kennet, whether that is really sufficient in an issue which has such a tremendous bearing on the economic development of the country. I leave that thought with the noble Lord, and shall be very interested to hear whether he can throw any light on that point as well as on the role of the statutory bodies.

May I conclude with this observation? I feel as keenly as anyone for the beauties of our countryside. I am fortunate enough to live in it and have been a countryman—I was going to say all my life, but all my life until I came to Westminster, and I feel with my noble friend Lord Strang that this is a heritage for which we all have a deep responsibility, and we all have a responsibility to preserve it. How to find the right balance between providing for the industrial development which we must have in order to live, and preserving this heritage is an extremely difficult problem. But in this case I feel that there is no doubt, at this moment in time, that we should give this Bill a Third Reading.

4.15 p.m.


My Lords, I recognise the importance of the point which the noble Lord, Lord Nugent of Guildford, has just raised, about the position of witnesses from quasi-official bodies before Committees of Parliament. I think it is important and is becoming more urgent, and there is a good deal to be said about it. But I hope that it will not be discussed at any great length this afternoon, and so confuse the very important other issues which the House has to determine on this Bill. Possibly the noble Lord, Lord Crook, will put down a special Motion on it, and there will be opportunities to have a discussion on that point divorced from the circumstances of any particular case.

Most of your Lordships who have voiced or felt opposition to this Bill have, I believe, come to the conclusion, after the Special Report from the Select Committee, that it would not be right to press that opposition further. I am myself reluctantly forced to that conclusion, and I think that I should in any case have been forced to it after hearing the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Grenfell. But I come to it largely on the grounds advanced by my noble friend Lord Strang in a speech with which, in general, I find myself in complete sympathy. If the Teesdale Defence Committee acquiesce in the same view, as I understand they do, it must not be thought that they acquiesce without the gravest misgivings and infinite regret for what they regard as an irreparable loss. It has become necessary for the House to take what is essentially a wrong decision, under pressure of time and in circumstances which could have been avoided, for we believe that at an earlier date an alternative, and one that was open to less objection, could have been found.

There is no point in discussing alternatives in further detail at this stage. I accept that the Upper Cow Green Site was not the best of these alternatives, though it was well worth exploring. The arguments against it—high altitude, inaccessibility, lack of nearby accommodation for workmen, and so forth—all tell with equal force, but in the reverse direction, in favour of going lower down the valley to Middleton. The Middleton site would have provided double the quantity of water at not significantly more than twice the cost, and would have satisfied the industrial needs of Tees-side well into the next century.

Many of us think that it will still have to be constructed, even though for the moment it has to be accepted that it would not be completed in time to guarantee I.C.I. against some risk of drought and consequent water shortage in 1971; and though it be accepted, also, that any deficiency could not be met with sufficient certainty by tapping underground sources of supply. The loss of agricultural land, always to be deplored, is likely to come about sooner or later, but is it on a scale that is serious in comparison with what is being sacrificed up and down the country every year? And, my Lords, what is going to happen when the 30 conventional reservoirs which the Water Resources Board warns us will be required over the next few years come to be constructed? How many acres are they going to submerge?

Before I come to the main point which I regard as arising out of the Special Report, I ought perhaps to say that everything is being done to ensure that as much research as is feasible will he carried out into the climatologically, botanical and other scientific features of the area which is about to be destroyed. I am afraid that the Select Committee were making the wish the father to the thought when they suggested speculatively that assemblages of the rarer plants comparable in interest to those about to be irrevocably destroyed may yet be found elsewhere in Teesdale. But it is at least satisfactory that the Nature Conservancy, with whom I am in touch, have accepted responsibility as a co-ordinating agency for research on the Cow Green site, and that arrangements for organising that research, and allocating the funds which the Natural Environment Research Council and I.C.I. have generously made available, will be subject to the advice of a panel of botanists of nation-wide standing, including representatives of the Northern universities most concerned, under the chairmanship of Professor Clapham, of Sheffield.

Similarly, everything possible is being done, in the closest co-operation with the Promoters and their contractors, to limit disturbance by access roads and increased public pressure during the period of construction and thereafter. Under these safeguards the scheme itself will not, I think, add to the public pressure on the area.

But there remains, of course, the risk of demands for increased access by vehicular traffic after the reservoir is finished. Perhaps I may, without being irrelevant, tell your Lordships of an incident which I witnessed two years ago at the opening of the Pennine Way. I happened to be President of the Field Studies Council, which has an important reserve and study centre at Malham Tarn, where the opening ceremony began, and Mr. Willey came and had an informal lunch with us. In the evening I went down with the warden to the village for dinner, and as we left the reserve, and carefully closed the gate behind us, I noticed a car standing round the corner. I said to the warden: "I believe that, as soon as we are out of sight, that fellow will go and open the gate, and go where he should not go. Just ask him what he wants". After ten minutes, apparently of altercation, he came back and said, "He is demanding to know where the new motor road is. I told him that the Minister had just opened the Pennine Way, which was not a motor road but a walk, and the man said: 'That must be a lie, because it is 250 miles long, and nobody wants to walk that distance' "It is quite true that no-one wants to walk 250 miles, but very few people want to walk 250 yards, and if they can force a car anywhere they may be relied upon to do so. I therefore think that, from a longer-term view, the whole question of access to this area, whatever the Water Board itself may do, requires some examination; and possibly the noble Lord, Lord Kennet, when he replies, will be able to give us some assurances as to his Department's policy in that matter.

My Lords, may I now come to the major issues which seem to me to be forced into prominence by this Bill, and to the questions which all those concerned in the preservation of our amenities and the conservation of our natural environment are compelled anxiously to ask themselves? Do Her Majesty's Government really accept the view that we must abandon the past policy, or at any rate past practices, of dealing with the use of our land and natural resources on a piecemeal, ad hoc, basis, and are they determined to substitute in place of those hand-to-mouth methods some coherent and comprehensive policy of land use which, administered with foresight, could avoid so many of the difficulties with which we now find ourselves faced? It is to this point that I hope the noble Lord, Lord Kennet, will be able to address himself, because I, at any rate, am not asking him to re-argue the case for this particular scheme.

In any such policy perhaps the most urgent problem of all is the siting of the 30 new reservoirs which will require sanction. The creation of the Water Resources Board was admittedly in itself an important step forward; but there is little use in establishing a National Parks Commission or in renaming it the Countryside Commission if it is to be given no powers and if its views are always to be subordinated to other considerations. There is little use in establishing a Nature Conservancy if its assessments of the scientific importance of conserving particular sites are to be similarly set aside. There is little use in Parliament enjoining authorities and Ministers themselves to have proper regard to the desirability of preserving the natural beauty of our countryside and the interest of its natural life if these considerations are in normal departmental practice to be disregarded under the pressure of developers of all kinds, who advance the familiar, but often unjustifiable, claim that their proposals are the only practicable ones and are urgently necessary on some ground of immediate economic advantage.

Indeed, is there much use in perpetuating a special Department charged with responsibility for a wise use of our land in the broad national interest unless it is going to be allowed to see that proper weight is given to those wide considerations of national interest which have been so neglected in the past? It would be an exaggeration, of course, to say that these wider considerations have been invariably or entirely ignored. The noble Lord, Lord Strang, gave instances to the contrary. One welcome decision which we owe to the late Administration—and, if my memory is correct, to Sir Keith Joseph—was the refusal to allow any more of Berry Head to be quarried away in order to give a rather easier and cheaper supply of limestone. But such decisions have been too few and too far between, and the arguments for those interests and values which cannot be quantified in money have too frequently failed to make any impression upon authority. With all the machinery for advising upon a right and satisfactorily based (indeed, a scientificially based) use of land and natural resources, can we not now move faster and nearer to a policy directed to that end?

In the particular matter of water supplies, the Select Committee say in their Special Report …that industrialists…will continue to take a conservative view of forward demand having regard to the financial obligations which they are liable to incur…it is"— thus— not surprising that conflicting forecasts of future demand occur, especially where trade consumers are in a majority. Is it too much to ask that this situation be put right and that the development of our water resources be now planned on a realistic or scientific assessment of future needs, undistorted by the kind of bias to which the Select Committee referred?

My Lords, the opposition to this Bill has failed. I do not think that any of my noble friends are going to ask the House to divide on this issue. We are all grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Grenfell, and his colleagues for the clarity and fairness with which they have explained the reasons for the conclusion they have reached. The opposition has cost the parties some £25,000—a large sum of money to be supplied by individuals and societies none of whom is wealthy. But this expenditure will not be fruitless, since, as the noble Lord, Lord Nugent of Guildford, recognised, it has forced to the front an issue of vast importance to coming generations if there is to continue to be an England.

When the point is made that lives are always to be set against beauty and scientific interests, ought we not to consider not merely lives but the kind of life that people in future will be able to live? And ought we not now to be determined to see that they can lead their lives in circumstances which can give life so much of its value? One ground for hoping that that issue will be better solved in future than it has been in the past lies in the care and time which this House is always prepared to devote, a willingness which I am sure is very gratefully recognised throughout the country.

4.32 p.m.


My Lords, in speaking on the Second Reading of this Bill I declared an interest in I.C.I., and that interest continues. Now that the opposition to this Bill has withdrawn—and I do not really see how it could do anything else, in view of the admirably cogent and clear Report of the Special Committee and the speech of its Chairman—there is not much to be said. I should like to draw attention to one thing only. We were rather led away by the noble Lord, Lord Strang, from Cow Green into other pastures, into considering much wider, more general and, I think, rather vague issues.

On the subject of the Bill which we are considering, I do not think there is one Member of your Lordships' House who would not have every sympathy with those who speak of peace in the Teesdale Moors, of the solace they give to the spirit, and of their beauty. But I would remind Members of this House—although I do not think many noble Lords need so reminding; they are not so divorced from the ordinary life of our fellow citizens— that there is no beauty, there is little peace, and no solace to the spirit in a home in which the breadwinner is out of work. If the Bill were not passed there would be some thousands of homes in the North-East of England over which still the old nightmare of unemployment would hang—and I am afraid that they see the threat of its revival coming perhaps a little closer. If the Bill were not passed there would no longer be the hope, indeed the certainty, of more prosperous and happy homes being established there. Therefore I congratulate the opponents of this Bill on having withdrawn any idea of pushing it to a Division.

4.35 p.m.


My Lords, I should like to associate myself with those noble Lords who have spoken in congratulating my noble friend Lord Grenfell and his colleagues on the drafting and the admirable way in which they have marshaled the evidence in their Select Committee Report. We are also greatly beholden to my noble friend for the admirable speech in which he presented that Report to the House.

I want to deal with only two matters arising out of this Bill, but before I do so I am obliged to refer to the speech of my noble friend Lord Nugent of Guildford. I was puzzled by his criticism of the statutory bodies who, in the discharge of their duties, gave evidence before the Select Committee. I do not know what my noble friend meant by suggesting that their evidence was not objective. Evidence which is not objective is ordinarily regarded as being partial, and I should have thought that, when a body has been established by Parliament in order to deal with certain matters like the provision of water or in order to defend certain interests like the National Parks and countryside, that body was under an obligation to give evidence from the angle that it has been charged to defend. I do not know the intentions of the noble Lord, Lord Kennet, but I would suggest to him that it would be extremely unwise for the Government to express "off the cuff" any view upon this matter at the present time.

These statutory bodies have been established by Parliament; they are not the creatures of the Government. The suggestion made by my noble friend, that the Government should give them advice as to the kind of evidence they should tender to a Committee set up by this House, appears to me to be in the highest degree unwise. Nor, indeed, do I think that this is an appropriate occasion to call in question the whole of the long-established procedure of Private Bills. I wholly agree—and I know it is the view of the noble Lord, Lord Crook—that the time has come when much of our procedures might with advantage be looked at again. Should the noble Lord at any time choose to move a Motion on this subject in the House, I should be extremely happy to support him.

When we consider that in respect of this Bill a Select Committee sat, I think, for 21 days in the House of Commons and 19 days in the House of Lords; that a vast amount of effort has been devoted to it; that vast sums of money have been spent, and that much of the evidence has been considered twice over, there is surely much to be said for trying to rationalize the procedure. Perhaps it would be possible greatly to extend the use of Joint Committees representative of both Houses. But while all that can with advantage be considered on an appropriate occasion, I must express my surprise and regret that my noble friend should have said what he did in criticism of the statutory bodies which gave evidence before the Select Committee.

In view of the speeches which have been made, there are only two points with which I think I should deal. One point, which has been referred to both by my noble friend Lord Grenfell and the noble Lord, Lord Holcomb, I think demands some further elaboration. One of the criticisms which we made during the Second Reading debate on the Bill is that in this, as in so many cases, it appears that the water policy of this country down to the present time is a matter of "hand-to-mouth".

One of the most valuable things which emerged while the Select Committee was holding its inquiry was the change which has, I think, taken place in the law of the land as a result of the introduction of the Water Resources Board. My noble friend Lord Grenfell said: "As you well know, the policy of successive Governments has been not to allow promotion of these schemes until a demand has been found and a payment has been agreed" Undoubtedly, that has been the policy of the Ministry of Housing and Local Government under successive Ministers; and indeed under Section 27 of the Water Act 1945 I do not think that any other policy could have been followed. Nor, indeed, do I think that necessarily it would have been right to have allowed schemes to provide water which might or might not be required for an indefinite time to come.

We must remember that at that time it was possible for an enterprising town or water undertaking to go a long way away and, by promoting a Private Bill, be able to pre-empt water of certain resources. It might turn out later that the town did not require the water, but some other town which did require it might find that a water supply which would have been convenient had already and unnecessarily been pre-empted by the town which had promoted a Bill to obtain the water. Under the Water Resources Act 1963, Part III, headed "Assessment of water resources and related matters", each river authority is required: to prepare an estimate of the future demand, on the part of statutory water undertakers and other persons, for the supply of water from those resources during the period of twenty years…or such longer or shorter period from that date as the Water Resources Board may in any particular instance direct; and (c) to formulate proposals as to action to be taken.… These estimates have to be reviewed every seven years at most. I take it from that that the Ministry of Housing and Local Government will be prepared to take a very much longer view of requirements for the future. That appears to me to arise clearly out of the wording of the two Statutes; but I should be glad if in his reply the Minister would say whether my understanding is correct and, if it is correct, give an assurance that the Ministry of Housing and Local Government will in future be willing to approve of a longer-sighted policy, such as appears to be indicated in the Water Resources Act.


My Lords, perhaps I might interrupt the noble Lord, Lord Molson, to ask whether the assurance for which he is asking is not in fact an assurance that the Ministry is observing the terms of the Water Resources Act—and, of course, it is.


My Lords, that is exactly what I wanted to be assured of. The whole of this discussion has been on the basis that down to the present time it has been impossible for that to be done, and I wanted to be assured. This is something which I do not think was clear to people in this country until the whole matter was gone into by the Select Committee as a result of the Instruction carried by this House. I believe that it will be a matter of very wide interest to know that the policy followed by the Ministry of Housing and Local Govern- ment in future will be different from the policy followed in the past.

My Lords, my second point deals with access to the Cow Green area. Among the Petitioners against the Bill were the Council for the Preservation of Rural England; and in the course of the very civilised and friendly discussions (as they seemed to me) which have been taking place between the Promoters of the Bill and the Petitioners against it, discussions have taken place about access. As I understand the position, it has now been agreed that during the time the dam is being constructed there will be no improvement in the existing road which at present leads to Cow Green; a new road will be built below the level of the water, and after construction has been concluded, the existing track will remain as it is at present. All those tracks up on Cow Green are only footpaths, and there is no right of access for cars; indeed, on the main track there is a gate, which is often kept locked.

As I understand it, as a result of the discussions which have taken place there will continue to be the same kind of access for pedestrians as there has been in the past, but there will be no increased facilities for motor cars. Clearly, this is one of those secluded rural areas where it is of the utmost importance, if the policy of the National Parks Commission is to be made effective, to discourage access for motor cars. In the proceedings on "The Countryside in 1970"conference, Study Group No. 7, "Traffic and its Impact on the Countryside," it was said: Motorists and motor vehicles in uncontrolled numbers will effectively destroy, not only by their presence but also by their needs, the peaceful enjoyment of the country which they come to seek. My Lords, it may be that other parties will intervene, but I am quite confident that the parties to this agreement will carry it out quite loyally in the future. I hope that the Minister will be prepared to say that the general policy which has been agreed between the Promoters and the Petitioners is acceptable to the Ministry of Housing and Local Government, and that, in so far as they can do so, they will use their good offices to ensure that the remoteness, charm, beauty and solitude of this lovely area will be preserved in the way that is contemplated.

4.49 p.m.


My Lords, I have to open with two damaging admissions. I am not a botanist; I speak as an economist who is concerned with this very complex problem of reconciling the economic interests of the country with the preservation of amenity. Secondly, I do not know Upper Teesdale. Up to the present it is the more angular uplands and hills of Britain which have monopolised my attention. Nevertheless, before I come to the economic questions I should like to say a word in support of the plea put forward by the noble Lord, Lord Hurcomb, that the construction of the dam shall not result in readier access by vehicular traffic to this area. I am reassured by what has just been said by the noble Lord, Lord Molson, but there is always the danger, once a good road has been constructed, that there will be a demand that it be made available for public use by motorists.

Coming to the economic question, I consider that there are two closely interrelated problems: first, whether water is too cheap, and, secondly, the problem of the failure of long-term planning. If I deal with the wider issues, as other noble Lords have done, I should like to say, in reply to the reasonable plea put forward by the noble and gallant Viscount, Lord Slim, that we are discussing the Tees Valley and Cleveland Water Bill on its Third Reading, and that it is only from the particular that one can learn about general issues. One the question of cheapness, I am not trying to argue that consumers ought to be charged more for water, though I must submit that every time I make use of my own domestic appliance in response to a minor call from nature I am perturbed because I am using the same amount of water as I use on a more serious occasion. Nor am I pleading that I.C.I. should pay more for the water they are now using. But I cannot help asking myself what a large firm like I.C.I. would do when suddenly confronted with what presumably is an unexpected demand for additional water, if it can be made available in a short number of years only at a much higher price.

It was only on October 19 last that your Lordships debated the question of future water supplies. On that occasion the noble Lord, Lord Raglan, remarked that: water is cheap, very cheap, and seems to be abundant".—[OFFICIAL REPORT, col. 102.] Later in the debate when the noble Lord, Lord Kennet, pointed out that industry pays for water by consumption, that it is metered, the noble Lord, Lord Raglan, intervened to say, "Perhaps they should pay more". The noble Lord, Lord Kennet, replied (col. 107): "Perhaps they should".

If I may presume to impose another quotation on your Lordships, I come to a penetrating remark made by the noble Lord, Lord Conesford, on the Second Reading of the Manchester Corporation Bill on February 8, 1962. He said: …what Manchester was proposing might be the most economic or the cheapest way of doing it. Yes, my Lords. But cheap for whom? Cheap for Manchester, or cheap for England? There is a difference. If Manchester gets its cheap water supply by destroying or doing irreparable damage to the greatest of our National Parks, it will not be cheap for England: it will be most expensive and disastrous."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, col. 335.] The noble Lord, Lord Conesford, was dealing indirectly with a speech made by the noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe, who at that time was speaking as a representative of the Government of the day.

This leads me to refer to the Government's attitude towards the long-term problem. I want to begin by considering their attitude to these barrage schemes. On January 18 last your Lordships debated the Manchester (Ullswater and Windermere) Water Order 1966. The noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe, pointed out that as a result of the squeeze the feasibility studies on the Morecambe Bay and the Solway barrages had been held up. He went on: I would accept that if we must have a squeeze certain great public works may be delayed. I should find it more difficult to accept the need for delay in planning for public works in the future."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, col. 197.] It seems to me a curious kind of economic policy that at a time when it is necessary to make demands on the country's productive resources, feasibility studies are postponed. Surely that is just the time when feasibility studies ought to be encouraged and promoted. Otherwise we are in danger of embarking on these studies when the red light turns to green, when "Stop" becomes "Go" and of the full pressure of the project which the feasibility study leads on to, coming on at full blast when the green turns to red, when "Go" becomes "Stop".


My Lords, before the noble Lord leaves that subject, may I remind him that the feasibility study for Morecambe is now enjoying the green light—it is going ahead? And perhaps I may remind the House that these feasibility studies conceal not merely a piece of ratiocination, but concrete works costing £500,000.


My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord for that observation. I hope that when he speaks on behalf of Her Majesty's Government in this debate he will tell us how much delay was caused by that postponement, why the other feasibility study remains postponed and whether other studies—I have the position of the Wash scheme in mind—are being sat upon.

It is part of my general case that in relation to the supply of water we are suffering from the complete failure of long-term planning. Before any barrage scheme can come into operation we are going to hear, as the noble Lords, Lord Strang and Lord Hurcomb, have emphasised, of many more lovely spots which are going to be desecrated. Incidentally, if I am correctly informed it is really as the result of not much more than an accident that the question of Upper Teesdale has come to your Lordships' House at all. As I understand it—I am open to correction—it is because a small part of the land in question is common land; otherwise the matter would never have been debated either by your Lordships on these two occasions or by Members of another place.

As the noble Lord, Lord Hurcomb, pointed out, our water supplies have been dealt with in a very hand-to-mouth manner. This brings me to the question of desalination. I have the feeling that the exploitation of the possibilities of desalination would go faster if more pressure was exercised. Here we have at issue not merely the supply of water in this country but the supply of desalination plant to various parts of the world. This is a highly promising export possibility if only the pressure on promoting the necessary preliminary work could be intensified. I should like to refer back to the debate in your Lordships' House on Future Water Supplies on October 19 last, and to something which was said by the noble Lord, Lord Kennet. He said, in regard to desalination: I think it is clear that in 100 years' time we shall be using it and that in five years' time we shall not be using it. The only question is, when does it break even economically?"—[OFFICIAL REPORT, col. 110.] The question that I am putting to your Lordships is: What is the meaning of "economically"? Why does one take it for granted that the price which is going to be charged to I.C.I. for the water that is going to be derived from this particular scheme which your Lordships are debating is the economic price? May it be a far too low price? I am encouraged in taking this line by what the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, said in dealing with a supplementary question on January 30 last, when he was asked about desalination. He said (col. 760): The problem is getting this off the ground while fresh water from reservoirs is still a good deal cheaper. The question that I ask myself is: Supposing I.C.I. were told that this water was not going to be available at the time when they wanted it except at a much higher price, might not pressures be built up which would result in the process of arriving at desalination on a commercial basis being much accelerated?

I would express the hope that the noble Lord who is to speak on behalf of the Government will tell us something of this matter and will tell us, also, where the responsibility for desalination really lies inside the Government. It is a complicated subject. It is not just a question of water supply. Clearly the Ministry of Technology are involved, as atomic energy and North Sea gas, and electricity requirements are involved. Which Ministry is really responsible?

So much for the particular question of desalination. Coming back to the more general question of long-term planning for future water supplies, whether or not to-day is the right day, I am sure your Lordships share my view that we should like to hear a statement on behalf of the Government about what is going to be done to remedy the defects which have been pointed out in the course of these debates and to avoid progressive destruction of the country's dwindling natural amenities.

5.5 p.m.


My Lords, while welcoming the Amendment in another place deleting from the Bill all provision for recreational facilities, in view of the great pressures that are brought upon the county councils and water boards after the reservoirs have been established I wonder whether that Amendment is really watertight. As your Lordships know, the North-East is a developing and expanding area, and, in order to help the new populations to settle there and be happy in a strange area, it is the policy of the Ministry of Housing and Local Government to impose upon the water companies establishing reservoirs obligations to provide multiple amenities: in other words, to turn them into tourist attractions, which, of course, Involves giving access to private roads.

The noble Lord, Lord Hurcomb, mentioned this point, and the noble Lord, Lord Molson, said that the roads in this area are not really roads but only footpaths. Nevertheless, some of them are what I would call hard roads; some are concrete and some have tarmac on them; and it is easy for motor cars to go along them, as in fact they do. Should the pressures for the use of private roads win, then that will lead to the next thing, which is car parks; and, following car parks, catering facilities and everything that entails.

It is perhaps fairly easy at this stage to say: "Oh, well, that is all right. None of this will happen on Teesdale". But what will happen when the pressures really begin to build up, as I know they are building up very much on Derwent Reservoir? Can we be sure that Upper Teesdale—and by that I mean above High Force—will really remain secure for what I call the real country lovers, and not become just a playground for tourists, who really want only the urbanised countryside? I should like to ask Her Majesty's Government for further assurances about this matter in view of the fact that in the evidence before the Select Committee (at Day 1, col. 36) the Durham County Council were still very anxious for the recreational facilities.

5.8 p.m.


My Lords, I rise, as a member of the Select Committee, it having been agreed that I should seek to come towards the end of the debate, before the noble Lord who is to speak for the Government, and before the mover of the Third Reading replies, so that I might deal with any points where a member of the Committee could help your Lordships who have spoken. I am one of those who take the view, despite the fact that I started, only two years ago, completely biased against the Bill, that it should receive a Third Reading.

I first heard of the Bill by letters from Cambridge University, which told me that I ought to be sitting up and looking around, because it was proposed to flood 78,000 square miles of Teesdale—a great exaggeration, which was persisted in at times—and others which told me how much had gone back on all that they had promised in 1959. It was only then that I realised that I had been Chairman of the Select Committee in 1959, on which the Members from your Lordships' House were Lord Chelmsford, Lord Boston, Lord Temple more and Lord St. Oswald. That Committee looked into the Bill which finally led to the Tees Company's constructing the reservoir before this one.

The allegations that were made against I.C.I. in the letters to me nearly two years ago were that before that reservoir was opened they were asking for more water, notwithstanding that, when they were in front of the Select Committee, they had given assurances that they would not be coming again until at least 1970 to 1980. But what the objectors failed to take note of was the big break-through, to which the noble Lord, Lord Grenfell, Chairman of the recent Committee, has referred: the great opportunities of greater production, greater exports and of work for people in the North-Eastern region.

No one who heard the evidence that we heard over 19 days—and I lost count after I reckoned up that the shorthand notes had already reached a half-a-million words (I think they run towards 600,000 words); and my library now has 28 extra maps, books and documents, which I do not know whether I shall treasure after to-day—would deny that a wonderful job of work was done and that the Committee heard very wonderful evidence. I should like to say how glad I was to have the opportunity of being educated once again on these water subjects, and how grateful I am to the noble Lord, Lord Grenfell, who, as I say, acted as Chairman.

I should like now, therefore, to look at one or two things that have been said by noble Lords. I found the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Strang, very moving. I congratulate him on it. I do not think I disagree with him on one word as to the general emotional outlook which he and I, and, I suppose, most of us, must have on this kind of question. This is, as my noble friend Lord Lindgren said in opening, one of those matters where fears and doubts and objections, real or imaginary, are always present. Whatever one does on a Water Bill—and this is by no means my first—someone is going to get hurt, whether in reality or by the emotional disturbance that is suffered.

I sympathise with the noble Lord, Lord Strang, in his inability to address us over the years, and in his regrets for Lady Wootton of Abinger. The noble Lord, Lord Nugent of Guildford, referred to one point that I raised in the course of the Committee proceedings; that is, the inhibitions and the forebodings upon some of us. Until last year I was here for over 15 years as Chairman of the National Dock Labour Board. The only subjects on which I was not permitted by the Addison rules to address your Lordships were ships, dockers and strikes; and otherwise I might just as well sit here and do nothing. But I realise why the Addison rules were drawn up in 1947. I had just arrived in the House when the Joint Resolution of both Houses of Parliament was agreed to. I think that probably something must be done about this matter, but that is a taboo subject to-day, as are certain other subjects which I will leave on one side.

I shall leave on one side, despite the temptation to do otherwise, the point which the noble Lord, Lord Nugent of Guildford, made about the things I said in the course of some Questions in the House, to which reference was made by the noble Lord, Lord Hurcomb. I think he hit the nail right on the head as to what I had made up my mind to do. That is—without any rush, but after discussing the matter informally with some of your Lordships in different parts of the House—to put down a Motion or an Unstarred Question dealing with a number of the points which seemed to throw themselves up to anyone who had sat for a number of days in the course of the proceedings.

The noble Lord, Lord Molson, referred to another matter, which was the question of one or two Select Committees. I deliberately made up my mind not to speak on this question, although I had clear views and notes about it, in the belief that the right thing for a member of the Committee to do this afternoon was merely to see that the Third Reading was dealt with smoothly, without the wider things being brought up which I might otherwise have said, which would distract attention from the reality of the situation.

May I join with the noble Lord, Lord Nugent of Guildford, in saying that the botanists go down after a very great fight. I ask your Lordships to pardon my emotion—it is also their emotion. I know how much they seem to be suffering. And if they are present and looking down on us now in this House, they are suffering as they see the last possible thread of hope going. I am bound to say, despite the vast exaggeration in the propaganda put out by certain people to try to raise money to back their case, that there was never anything but complete and utter honesty on the part of the distinguished botanists who gave evidence to us. I will not bore your Lordships by reading it—although I do not think in fact it would bore you, because it is honest statements of people. But I would quote Professor Piggott, who has been mentioned. In one of the propaganda documents, rights or claims were made that if he was stopped from his research all sorts of things would come to an end which were of value to food production. I put the question to him: Would the creation of this reservoir stop this kind of research? .He replied: I must honestly say, No Of course it will not stop it; but this is the place that inspired me to look into this particular problem. That is as honest an answer as one could ask for. A little later he said: I suppose, in my view, in the long term the most sorry loss is the undamaged preservation of this site as an inspiration, particularly to young people…". Is it therefore any surprise when I say I feel emotionally disturbed about what they feel they are losing? It is not only the people who gave evidence who must be disturbed about this kind of thing. Those who sit day after day trying to weigh up the evidence are themselves equally disturbed.

The noble Lord, Lord Nugent of Guildford, made a passing reference to the Thames Conservancy. I thought it was a rather modest one, because we did not know when we presented our Report—before it was available to your Lordships last Friday—that there was to be published a booklet, The Great Experiment Begins. On the front page of that, the noble Lord, Lord Nugent of Guildford, as Chairman of the Thames Conservancy, explains what we rather suspected—because we had no evidence—that the scheme of boreholes is one which must proceed with very great caution. The experiment is now about to begin, and it will last for three years, says the noble Lord in his Foreword.

Those who read this very valuable document will learn from the engineers and those associated with the noble Lord that the nine boreholes are to be proceeded with over a three-year programme to produce results, and so that we may find out what those results turn out to be. I would congratulate the noble Lord, if I may do so without any risk of offending him, on a document which over the weekend I found to be excellent reading. I am not falling for the temptation to deal with the reference which the noble Lord, Lord Hurcomb, made.

I come now to what the noble Lord, Lord Molson, said. I find myself in very great agreement with most of the points he made, because I have been disturbed about this water question for a very long time in much the same way as he has. Indeed, my interest goes back many years, to when I moved the loyal Address to the Throne in reply to the gracious Speech of His late Majesty. That was when we were sitting elsewhere in the building and the other House was occupying this Chamber. So your Lordships will realise how long ago it was that I was advocating a water grid, water resources having been mentioned in the gracious Speech. I took up the matter in the Address. We have gone on in this hand-to-mouth existence, as the noble Lord said.

Section 27 of the Water Act, 1945, has been clearly learnt in Committee. It places a duty upon water undertakings to supply non-domestic users, providing that does not endanger their ability to meet the demands for domestic purposes without their having to incur unreasonable expenditure on new waterworks. In respect of agreements we were told to provide for the contributions for those non-domestic consumers—to provide for two charges. One charge is based on the quantity of water used, and the second is for contributions towards the capital costs of works.

Of course, that is exactly what the practice has been over the whole period. It was true in the 1959 Select Committee on Balderhead, and it is true here now. Before any progress could be made here, I.C.I. were guaranteeing about Eli million as capital costs which they were going to deal with in the course of time. Naturally they were not encouraged to ask for more water in 1959, even had they known (and they did not know) that they were going to make a breakthrough. Nor could one expect that the Water Board would rush to make this vast expenditure, because of their clear knowledge that if they did so the money would have to be found and it could be found only at the cost of the domestic consumer. As the Report says, and as my noble friend Lord Grenfell pointed out, this water board is the greatest supplier of industrial water that there is in the country—in the next few years as much as 80 per cent. of its total water output will be going to industry.

May I deal now with the remaining point made by the noble Lord, Lord Molson? As we understood it, the principle behind the financial provision of the Water Resources Act 1963 was that conservation works should be self-supporting. The Director of the Water Resources Board told us that where such works benefit only one or two abstractors they may build the works and meet the whole cost, but where the works carried out have to meet a general growth of demand, or benefit several interests, the river authority will usually be responsible. In those cases the cost to the authority has to be met by income from charges for licences to abstract water, or partly from those charges and partly from agreements under either Section 60 or Section 81 of the Water Resources Act. So it seems to me that we are still, in a different way, living from hand to mouth, and it is not clear to me whether this will end in 1969; because, as the evidence shows, the present practice continues for the moment, but under the Act all the river authorities are required to prepare charging schemes to come into operation not later than April 1, 1969.

The Director told us that these charges would then apply to all licence holders and that, because of this, the residual burden on each would be, as he termed it, relatively small. But it is not for me to try to argue or to understand now what the words "relatively small" might mean in that context. No doubt we may hear something about it in passing from the noble Lord who is going to speak for the Government, and if we do not hear then, since this must proceed in 1968, there will be further information for us and opportunities for those of us who are interested to join in debates.

I have tried not to make a set speech, but to deal with the points that have been raised as I believe that my colleagues, with whom I was so glad to serve, would want me to answer those points. I should like to end as I tried to begin, by saying that this has been a big and interesting job; by paying a tribute to my noble friend Lord Grenfell as Chairman and a tribute to the secretariat and all the staff of this House who had to work unduly long and under great difficulties in order to service us during that period of the proceedings on the Bill in Committee.

5.23 p.m.


My Lords, I hope your Lordships will bear with me for a few minutes, even at this late stage in the debate. We had a long list on the last occasion when this matter was discussed, and I was not able to stay until the time at which I might have made a few remarks. I was interested in what my noble friend Lord Crook said about his having approached this subject with a bias against the Bill. I confess that I had bias against it from the start but, unlike my noble friend, I still have my bias. Possibly if I had been one of his colleagues on the Select Committee I might have changed my mind, although I do not think so.

We are here concerned with perhaps the most difficult thing that happens in life; namely, the forming of a value judgment. The more I see of life—and I have now seen quite a lot of it—the more I find that this problem of value judgments is one of the most difficult with which one has to deal. My noble friend Lord Crook raised this matter in a most interesting way when he referred to the evidence of Professor Piggot, who said, "Quite frankly, of course, my work at Cow Green is not of direct relevance to the work that I do in connection with trying to improve food production, but it was there that I got my inspiration". My Lords, is that not the significant point? It may well be that a great botanist or a great biologist makes a contribution which is of infinitely greater value, both to his country and to the world at large, than the setting up of a new naphtha plant at Billingham by I.C.I. These are the problems with which we have to deal and the great danger is that we go for the thing which is just ahead—the naphtha plant—and not for the imponderable values which may take us forward into the future.

In a way, I think the most valuable thing about this disaster (as it is in my view) is that obviously the Select Committee have been worried about the question of the value judgment in coming to their decision. I have a feeling that their consciences were not completely at rest because, of course, they were putting the interests of industry before natural beauty and nature. It is interesting to note in the debate this afternoon how that question has weighed with the supporters of the Bill. The noble Lord, Lord Nugent of Guildford, introduced a human element. Industry, of course, means employment—and the noble and gallant Viscount, Lord Slim, was quite clear about it. He said it means food and clothing for tens of thousands of people. I should have liked to have seen that evaluated.


My Lords, one cannot enjoy beauty when one is hungry.


That is so, my Lords, but we want more information about this. That is what I am asking for. It may be that this imponderable is one which should be allowed to outweigh the other aspect, but I am being asked to decide this question on two sentimental speeches. I have no evidence as to how much employment there is going to be. We have had this so often before. I remember going down to see one of the new oil refineries at Milford Haven, which has been referred to by the noble Lord, Lord Strang. This refinery was introduced on the basis that it would give employment to thousands of people in South Wales. Well, I saw this large and splendid new refinery fully at work. It is true that some thousands of people had been employed for some few months in building it, but afterwards the whole place was run by automation and there were only about two dozen people employed there.

One can be so easily led away by these sentimental appeals of bread and butter for thousands of people. It may be that the evidence was given. Unfortunately, I have not had time to do more than look at short passages of this voluminous evidence, and I have had to base myself on this well-constructed Special Report of the Select Committee. There is nothing which gives me the real facts. In any case, where are these thousands of people to be housed? Is there accommodation for them at Billingham, or wherever this plant is going to be? I just do not know, but I am asked to form a judgment about this on a sentimental speech, and without any real facts on which to make up my mind.

The speech made by the noble Lord, Lord Nugent of Guildford, was interesting and really most disturbing. He speaks in a most persuasive way, and if you are not careful before you know where you are you have been led up the garden path! The evidence which was given by the National Parks Commission and the Nature Conservancy did not altogether appeal to him. Of course, it is independent evidence. These bodies have been set up to protect certain aspects of life in this country. The noble Lord, Lord Strang, made it perfectly clear to us that as Chairman of the National Parks Commission his greatest enemies were Government Departments. Time after time, when the National Parks Commission wanted to do something in effect the Government Departments stopped it. The Government Departments are behind this and, as I pointed out in my speech on the Manchester Water Order a few weeks ago, there again the Government Departments were concerned. If the National Parks Commission and the Nature Conservancy are to take their instructions from the Government Departments as to the evidence they are to give on these sort of occasions, God help us!


My Lords, perhaps I may intervene. It would be contrary to the Act if Government Departments gave instructions to the National Parks Commission, except by way of a general direction, to be made public.


My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord for that intervention. I expect the noble Lord, Lord Nugent of Guildford, would say that he was not asking for instructions but for guidance.


My Lords, that is exactly what I did ask for.


My Lords, I am sorry if I used the word "instructions", but there is not all that amount of difference. After all, it is the Ministers who appoint the members of the National Parks Commission, and very often there are "wheels within wheels" on these occasions. It is extraordinarily difficult to be unbiased about this.

I was interested again when listening to the noble Lord, Lord Nugent of Guildford. The Report of the Select Committee accepts the fact that real damage is to be done botanically to the area as a result of this scheme. The Committee say that it may be that "similar assemblages" also exist elsewhere. I do not know what other evidence beyond this the noble Lord opposite has, but in his speech he was quite certain there were such other assemblages, and that this was not such a serious damage as the botanists contended. It seems to me that that is the sort of wishful thinking that goes with a great deal of this support for the Bill.


My Lords, may I interrupt the noble Lord? If he reads the rest of the Report, he will see that it also says that with one exception—and that is not a rare plant—every one of these plants can be found elsewhere within the area. It is all in print.


My Lords, of course it is all in print; it is in the Report. They go on to use the word "assemblage", because that is the point from the ecological point of view—not odd plants. Here there is an "assemblage"; and that, from the point of view of the botanist and ecologist, is the important point. Letters have been coming in from all over Europe on this point. This place in unique. As for the possibility that other assemblages exist, surely if they do they would have been found.

The truth of the matter, my Lords, is that industrial expansion came first, and, as the noble Lord, Lord Strang, pointed out, this has been so since the Industrial Revolution. There was a time, in Victorian England, when no bones were made about it at all; and whether or not such expansion led to destruction was received with complete equanimity, so far as I can make out, down to our own times. But now we are not meeting it with equanimity, and more and more people are getting disturbed about it. It seems to me quite obvious the Select Committee themselves were rather disturbed about it. They shed a tear. It may be that it was rather like the tear shed by the Walrus and the Carpenter on a famous occasion; but at any rate it was a tear, which I cannot imagine would have appeared in a similar report 100 years ago. So that is at any rate some little progress. It appeared from the speeches of both the noble Lord, Lord Strang, and the noble Lord, Lord Hurcomb, who have led us to a large extent in the opposition to this Bill, that there are little gleams of hope here and there on the horizon.

I do not agree that industry must always come first on these occasions, and I was glad that the noble Lord, Lord Kahn, who is one of our most distinguished economists and knows very much more than most Members of your Lordships' House abut these matters, seemed to be very much of that opinion: that one must not necessarily put these things first; or, at any rate, that one must be balanced with another, and, if necessary, I.C.I. must be charged more for their water. That seems to me a very impor- tant point. The whole of this Bill centres on Imperial Chemical Industries, and it is all based on this break-through. I can quite understand that, having made this break-through, they want to get on as quickly as possible.

I do not know a tremendous amount about technology, but I have never heard of a break-through that did not come as a result of quite a number of years of intense scientific work. I.C.I. scientists must have known several years ago that there was a good hope of making this break-through. Why did they wait? The noble Lord, Lord Crook reminded us that a few years ago they were saying that they would not want more water. These researches must have been started at that stage. Several years ago they must have realised that there was a good chance of the break-through taking place. It was their duty to the country to make their demands known at that stage, and not to leave it to a stage when the Select Committee said, "Little as we want to do this, we cannot help but recommend that this Bill goes through, because the matter is so urgent". The urgency has been brought on by I.C.I. themselves, and in that sort of situation I do not see why I.C.I. should receive so much assistance. It is not at all clear that I.C.I. are really in need of this Bill. What they say, in effect, so far as I can make out from this Report, is that if they get a really dry season, of the sort which has occurred twice in the last twenty years, they will be in great difficulties. But the important word is "if". The destruction of natural beauty and the damage to nature is a certainty, not a hypothesis: not an "if" but a certainty.

I was very glad that the noble Lord, Lord Kahn, raised the question of desalination. If we had been getting on with that, would it not be possible to provide this water without destroying Cow Green? This Bill is for emergency water needed by I.C.I. in the event of a dry season. It might even now be possible, with the desalination plants that we have at our disposal, to build up an emergency supply of water which would tide I.C.I. over if, in fact, this dry season which they so much fear were to come about. And certainly that would give a great impetus, as the noble Lord, Lord Kahn suggested, in the building up of desalination plants, of which we are already, I think, the main exporters to other parts of the world—a magnificent opportunity for British industry of which advantage could have been taken if only I.C.I. had had the practical good business sense to see to it at an earlier stage that they were getting on with preparations to meet their requirements for water.


My Lords, may I intervene? I.C.I., as I said in my speech, had this break-through in 1964. They immediately went to the Water Board and asked for the water. They have not held it up in any way. When they knew that they needed the water they went to the Board immediately.


My Lords, the noble Lord cannot have been in the Chamber when I began my speech. I pointed out the very simple fact that these break-throughs do not take place in five minutes; they are led up to by years of scientific work. In every one of these technological developments a stage arises at which the chances of success are pretty clear and pretty good. This stage must have arrived some years ago. If there is evidence against this, I should be glad to hear of it; but I should be surprised if this thing happened suddenly, in five minutes. It must have happened over the years. To that extent I think that the guilt (I use the word "guilt", because here we are dealing with real values, from the point of view of a large number of citizens) lies on I.C.I. for not having made their arrangements to get the necessary water at an early stage. If that is so, then in my view the value of beauty and nature should come before the interests of Imperial Chemical Industries, Limited.

5.41 p.m.


My Lords, I had not intended to speak on this subject at all, but I feel that something ought to be said in addition to the speech made by the noble Lord, Lord Strang, as to the relative values of the countryside and commercial requirements. I make no criticism whatever against the decision of the Select Committee; I think that their findings were inevitable. They were given the questions that they had to answer. They had to determine whether there was a need for the water, whether it could be found in any other way, and questions of that kind. I am sure that, on those terms of reference, their decision was right.

But this debate gives us an opportunity of considering the general question, and that is what I want to say a few words about. This is not a question of botanist against naphtha or nitrogen. If it were merely a question of the interest of the botanist, I do not think I should be frightfully concerned. Perhaps I should have been, but I am a Philistine in these matters. But we have had the good fortune to have handed down to us one of the most beautiful countries in the world. There is no doubt about it. Anyone who travels around must come back and appreciate that this country is a really lovely country, and it is appreciated by the vast majority of our population. The dilemma in which we find ourselves is that more and more we are eating into the most lovely spots in the interests of industry.

It seems rather anomalous that some years ago we passed a National Parks Act for the express purpose of preserving the most beautiful of our country areas. We have now, I think, 12 National Parks. Not being satisfied with that, we designated other areas as areas of outstanding natural beauty. We appointed a Committee to ensure that those areas really were preserved, and that nothing which could possibly be avoided was done in them to spoil their beauty. We are grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Strang, for having acted for so many years as the worthy champion for those areas. On the one hand, we take action to preserve these areas, and on the other hand we are more and more eating into the countryside by putting up industrial buildings and spoiling or taking away the enjoyment of the public. It is not only a question of industrial buildings; it is also a question of taking away parts of those areas for military purposes. Large parts of Dartmoor for instance have been taken away from the general public for military purposes.

I ask the Government seriously to consider the dilemma that we are in. I do not want to put the beauty of the countryside on a commercial basis, but it does attract a large number of people from abroad. They come here, and there is some financial advantage to be put on that side. But I do not put it on that basis—I put it on the enjoyment of the people of this country. While I agree that, if it were really a question of bread as against the enjoyment of the countryside, bread must come first, I do not accept that that is the dichotomy that confronts us. We need bread, of course. We need recreation as well. I would ask the Government whether they are looking at this from a long term point of view. What is going to be the outcome of it?

If we just go on, to-day it is I.C.I., tomorrow it will be some other large industry or the electricity undertakings. Gradually, we shall find that our beautiful countryside is being lost to us.

This is really worthy of the most serious consideration and, while I do not propose to put forward any solution at this moment, I believe that it is something which the Government ought to consider most seriously. We cannot afford to look at this as a matter of individual cases. Every time that an "I.C.I." comes forward, the Select Committee will inevitably have to decide in their favour, because their case will be overwhelming. But we must consider what will be the effect of this accumulation of cases on the enjoyment that we all of us have in the countryside.

5.46 p.m.


My Lords, perhaps I may detain your Lordships for just a few moments. I think there is one point that has not been underlined. I am speaking in strong support of Lord Strang, Lord Chorley and Lord Silkin. They have talked about the people who are going to benefit from this scheme. Of course the chief beneficiaries will be those who have shares in a certain large company. They will get more money. But there is also a large number of people who will get employment, perhaps better employment. They may number 10,000: it may be that 10,000 people will benefit by this scheme. But there are another 10 million, in generations to come, who will have had this amenity taken away from them.

We have little amenity to give away. I think that your Lordships will agree that in recent generations we have got rather into the habit of spending more than we have, either on hire-purchase or in other ways. The attitude seems to be: even if you have not got it, spend it! We are spending this most valuable amenity which can never be replaced If we are to act on that sort of principle, the logical thing, of course, would be to recognise that we should get a much better return from having offices on the site of St. Paul's or of Westminster Abbey, than by using them as they are now.

5.48 p.m.


My Lords, I should like to support what the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, and many others have said, and beg the Government to carry out long-term planning in regard to all our major water resources in this country. This is what is needed. This point has been underlined by noble Lord after noble Lord. It must be a great disappointment to your Lordships to learn, as we learned the other day, that there was to be a feasibility study of the Morecambe Bay estuary and barrage, but not of the Solway.

The noble Lord, Lord Grenfell, drew attention to the fact that there was not enough technical knowledge available to consider boreholes and underground water storage at the particular place which the Select Committee examined. How is it going to be possible to make a proper assessment of the values which we have been discussing here to-night, of the commercial advantages or disadvantages, unless the Government have before them a complete and comprehensive picture of all the major water resources, whether underground, in the hills, or in the estuaries or anywhere in our country? It is surely essential that this should be done now.

When a barrage is put across an estuary, there are not only serious amenity considerations to be taken into account, but many other matters, such as fisheries, communications, related roads, perhaps nuclear power, and many others. How is it possible to come to a proper judgment on all these matters unless there is available a complete picture of the total water resources of the country and of all these other matters as well? It seems to me that those who oppose this Bill can take heart; they can feel that their efforts and their money have not been wasted if the Government's attention can be drawn to the need for making right away a complete and thorough investigation of the total resources of the country. The noble Lord, Lord Kahn, drew attention to the progressive detriment to our amenities which has taken place. This process will continue unless we have on the one hand, a full and comprehensive picture of the industrial needs of the country and, on the other, a picture of all the amenity considerations. We are falling down because of failure in long-term planning, as speaker after speaker has said in this discussion.

Surely the time to carry out feasibility studies is now, when the amber light or red light is up. If all the feasibility studies and all the information is made available in the next few years, then a complete and valid decision can be made, based on facts, and leading to an accurate and true judgment. One knows that feasibility studies cost a lot of money, but what is half a million pounds when a project worth £70 million is involved? That is the relationship of the Morecambe feasibility study to the total cost of that scheme.

Only by a complete and full feasibility study of all our major water resources will it be possible to obtain a complete picture that will enable a proper decision to be taken. Otherwise, we shall find one feasibility study covering three, four or five years; another feasibility study covering another period, followed by yet another. We shall go on from hand to mouth, as the noble Lord, Lord Molson said; and, because some unforeseen need of industrial development is bound to arise, we shall never get out of the present position. For these reasons I beg the Government to listen to what noble Lords have said, and to decide now that there shall be a further and complete major study of the whole water resources of this country, whether they be underground, in the estuaries, in the hills, wherever it may be. If they do that, then indeed the debate on this Bill will have proved worthwhile.

5.53 p.m.


My Lords, I had not intended to intervene in this debate, but there has been a series of telling and appealing speeches from opponents of the Bill, and I should not like my noble friends on the Front Bench to think that opinion on this matter is all one way. After the Special Report we had from the Select Committee—which took every argument against the Bill and demolished them one after the other— and after that great exercise in clarity by the noble Lord, Lord Grenfell, at the beginning of our debate this afternoon, I hardly thought that it was necessary for anything else to be said. But we have had a telling speech from the noble Lord, Lord Chorley, another from the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, and earlier in the afternoon we had a most sentimental, and almost beautiful, speech from the noble Lord, Lord Strang, who for so many years was Chairman of the National Parks Commission; and, as a country lover myself, I agree with practically everything they said.

I should like to make the point that the preservation of the countryside is not the only matter before us this afternoon, for we have also the great question of preserving Britain's industrial supremacy. In this instance, Britain is being provided with a gigantic development in science which will put us in the forefront of the world in this particular sphere.


My Lords, may I interrupt the noble Lord? I should be interested to know why it is that certain noble Lords always dub as "sentimental" anything which seeks to preserve beauty.


Because I am a sentimentalist myself; the most sentimental soul among you. Life is a question of balances: how much benefit on the one hand, how much detriment on the other? That is precisely what we have to consider here this afternoon. We are here as a jury. We are here to calculate, on the one hand, the benefits, and on the other the drawbacks of this scheme. In my own simple way I am asking whether I should decide between flowers on the one hand, and people on the other—people and their prosperity, Britain and its industrial prosperity. I come down solidly against the flowers.

We in this country have often talked about the way the population has flowed away from the North-East coast and about whole towns in that part of the country becoming almost derelict. We are many of us old enough to remember Jarrow. Therefore, there has been a determined attempt by one Government after another to transplant industry back in that part of the country. Just before the last General Election the former noble Lord, Mr. Quintin Hogg, was sent up to the North-East as a special commissioner to get things going in that part of the country. The present Government have taken almost superhuman steps to restore industry to that region. Industry is now prospering there, and thank God for that! People who used to walk the streets hungry and in rags—we all remember Ellen Wilkinson's march—are now able to live a decent, prosperous life, and I want to see this continue.

We cannot shut our eyes to the needs of British industry and to the importance of British exports. Here we have a new phase of industry which will establish itself, a new industry which will make a considerable contribution to Britain's exports in the next few years. Moreover, this matter is urgent. We know that the particular plan has to be in operation in a few years' time. We cannot therefore say to ourselves, "Let us wait and let water supplies increase themselves for the benefit of that plant in the ordinary way of things". We cannot say, "Let us wait for the barrages which the noble Lord, Lord Wakefield of Kendal, is so keen to see, and which many of us would be keen to see if only their practicability could be proved beyond doubt."

This company wants this particular water without any delay, and the Report of the Select Committee has proved to us that the only possible way to get it is by the construction of a reservoir at Cow Green. After 13 days or so of consideration in Committee the objections of the botanists were met completely in that Report, although many of us had been greatly influenced by the arguments put forward on their behalf in the earlier stages of this Bill. In the main the objections of the people who are eager to see the preservation of natural beauty have been met to a very great degree. What will be erected there is a dam across the valley, and if this is constructed in a material which is appropriate to the natural surroundings it need not necessarily be a disfigurement. A lake will be created in the valley which also need not necessarily be a disfigurement—in fact, it may be an addition to the beauty of the district. I felt that the noble Lord, Lord Grenfell, and the Committee over which he presided demolished every one of the objections, eloquent though they seemed at the time when they were originally put forward against the Bill I want to see Britain jump ahead in industrial matters. Here we have an opportunity for Great Britain to jump ahead in its export trade. I want to look forward, not backwards. I do not want us to lose our industrial leadership in the world, because if we lose that we lose everything, including any value that might attach to the English countryside. I support the Bill.

6.0 p.m.


My Lords, I shall not detain you for more than a moment, but I should like to say a few words because I intervened in the original discussions and I opposed this Bill. All I want to say is that I think that, after our discussions on the Second Reading and the 19 days' consideration which the Select Committee have given to this Bill, we have arrived at a conclusion which was inescapable within the terms of reference of the Committee and within the time co-efficient which was served upon us by the I.C.I.

Having said all that, I feel that we have, as a House, served notice that action such as this should never happen in this way again, and I hope that your Lordships will agree. I also hope that the Government will observe what the noble Earl, Lord Dundee, has said, of the absolute need to budget not only in terms of our water supply but also of our amenities; and, indeed, to provide a basis for the estimation of values for which the noble Lord, Lord Chorley, so eloquently appealed. I agree that your Lordships' House should give a Third Reading to this Bill, but I want to reinforce the view that the Petitioners against this Bill have served this country extremely well by bringing the facts to the attention of the public and to the concerted attention of your Lordships' House.

6.2 p.m.


My Lords, when this Bill came before the House on Second Reading, I thought it my duty to adopt a position of some reserve, even of neutrality, towards it. It had already been the object of national debate, even of national recrimination. The Government had to lay before both Houses of Parliament the view that they took of this private measure. In spite of the fact that certain statutory bodies whose duty it is to advise the Government on amenity and scientific considerations had declared their opposition to the Bill, yet my right honourable friends the Minister of Housing and Local Government, and the Secretary of State for Education and Science reluctantly advised Parliament that this Bill should be passed. Lengthy hearings before a Committee of the House of Commons endorsed this view, and so did the House of Commons itself, on a free vote.

But the public discussion hotted up after the Bill left the House of Commons, and it seemed to me that here was a measure which was most apt to be subjected to the detailed and painstaking examination which can be accorded to such measures by the procedures of this House. It concerned—and the point was made with force and eloquence by counsel for the Petitioners before our Committee—a head-on clash between the quantifiable and the unquantifiable; between industry, which is used to giving precise figures and calculating precise pay-offs, and on the other hand a fortuitous alliance of pure science and the preservation of natural beauty, neither of which can in the nature of things be expected to answer the questions—"What?", "When?" and "How much?" with any precision at all.

For nineteen days our Committee sat. I think that whatever posterity comes to feel about the presence of the reservoir at Cow Green, it may well remember the passage of this Bill through both Houses as the moment when the British Parliament accepted to the full its duty to examine, regardless of tedium and regardless of cost, the fundamental conflict of interest between one ponderable—industrial and economic progress—and two imponderables—pure research, and the preservation of natural beauty. Both Houses, through their Committees, have faced up to this most notoriously difficult of political tasks. The Committees of both Houses have come to the same conclusion; it is the same conclusion as the Government itself came to in the first place, and I hope that it will be endorsed on the Floor of this House just as it was endorsed on the Floor of the House of Commons.

Let us start with I.C.I. At a given moment, they suddenly find a new way of making ammonia. Everything about it is better than the old ways, except that it needs a terrible lot of water. This was not to have been foreseen. Industrial breakthroughs, like others, are usually not to be foreseen. Of their nature, they suddenly oblige one to recast one's plans; they are inconvenient in the extreme. But, of course, they are the stuff of progress. Where shall I.C.I. develop their breakthrough, and to which of their many plants shall they first bring the benefits of the new employment and the turnover it will create? They judge, and the Government approve their judgment, that they should do so at Billing-ham, in the North-Eastern Region, where long depression, under-employment of a traditionally industrial labour force, and many other elements, cry out for just such development. It was already Government policy that the location of industrial expansion in that part of England should attract certain financial concessions. They chose Tees-side, and the Government welcome their choice.

The Tees Valley is all running with water: you have only to walk around those fells and bogs to hear the water gurgling and sloshing to waste under your feet. From an engineering point of view, nothing is easier than to harness it. And here we come to the one point where it might be possible to maintain that I.C.I. had acted a trifle precipitately. They committed capital to the construction of plant which depended on the provision of a certain quantity of water. That water could hardly have been obtained without the consent of Parliament, yet they committed the capital before Parliamentary consent had been obtained. Perfect constitutional nicety might even hold that to be a reason for withholding Parliamentary consent. But common sense would not, and the point has not been advanced in this House or, indeed, in the other with any force. Common sense would rather ask: what, if anything, makes it intrinsically undesirable that this extra water should be provided in that place?

There were, as we all know, two opposing interests: botany, and the preservation of wild nature. Our Committee has examined the conflict. The botanists tell us, in effect, that there are concentric circles of botanical interest on those fells. A close reading of their evidence reveals a general agreement among them on the following facts. There are 35,000 acres of wild country there, which are good botanising ground in general. Within that there are 7,000 acres known roughly in botanical circles as "Upper Teesdale". This inner circle presents many phenomena of high interest and attracts botanists who are interested in many different things. Within that, again, is an area of some 300acres where you find outcrops of sugar limestone, a very friable and powdery sort of rock, and, running down below them, the famous gravelly flushes, where the sugar limestone has actually powdered away, and is carried down by the perpetual water of those slopes: all this mixed with peat of various natures, on high, and therefore cold, land, and exposed to a lot of sunlight. This unusual terrain is divided roughly half and half between two bits of hillside called Widdybank Fell and Cronkley Fell. Cronkley Fell is well away from the proposed reservoir it is the slope you look at if you stand on top of the famous waterfall of Cauldron Snout and look down its line to the fell opposite. It does not come into the discussion at all. It also happens that Cronkley Fell has not been nearly so well investigated by botanists as Widdybank Fell, probably because there is no road to it, and there is a road to Widdybank Fell.

That leaves about 165 acres on Widdybank Fell, which is the mound immediately to your left and behind you as you stand at the top of Cauldron Snout. The reservoir, which would be fairly extensive upstream—that is, behind you—gathers to a narrow foot there, above the waterfall, where the dam is proposed. It is a convenient place for the dam-makers for that reason. It is a narrow gorge or throat which will impound a lot of water for a very little dam. But the reservoir reaches a certain number of feet up this Widdybank Fell, this abutment half closing off the valley, and will put under water at the maximum 20 acres out of the 165 acres of the special sugar limestone slope.

Let us recapitulate: about one-eighth of a 165-acre slope, which slope is roughly equal to another slope of sugar limestone land, making about 300 acres, which two slopes are among the most important parts of a 7,000 acre zone of general botanical interest. Our Committee did not find that the submerged one-eighth of this slope was different from the other seven-eighths, or that this slope was different from the other slope of approximately equal area. It is simply a one-sixteenth reduction of that population of glacial relict flora. Whether other assemblages of glacial relict flora in the world are of equal interest and of equal potentiality for the future of botany was a point which our Committee did not explore.

Our Committee received an Instruction from us before they retired. I think we all remember it. They were instructed to report on the need to provide a supply of water to meet the foreseeable needs for 20 years in those parts, and to look at other sites for reservoirs. I should like to address myself for a moment to the first part of this Instruction, because our Committee found, in effect, that they could not comply with the Instruction to survey the places from which one could get water for 20 years in Teesdale. This, they held, mattered the less—and here we come to the point—because the Water Resources Board were not only doing that, but were also surveying resources in the whole of the North up to the end of the century—33 years, not 20. But it may be that in future years our Committee will be remembered, not so much for the light they were able to throw on minuartia stricta and betula nana, and the contiguity of the two, as for the comment they made upon their own inability to do this forecasting job for the next 20 years.

Here, there is a passage in the Report which is of the greatest interest. The noble Lord, Lord Grenfell, made the point in his introductory speech this afternoon, and the noble Lord, Lord Hurcomb, referred to it again, at some length. He attached considerable importance to it. I should like to quote this passage from the Report to remind your Lordships what it is about. It says: Among circumstances pointing to this conclusion"— that is, the conclusion as to the difficulty of assessment over the next twenty years— the Committee have in mind the fact that under present practice any industrial user of water is obliged to enter into financial undertakings at the outset of a water supply project from which he expects to derive a benefit. The extent of these undertakings is dependent upon…the amount of benefit to be derived in the user's particular case, and it is the opinion of the Committee that industrialists have taken and will continue to take a conservative view of forward demand having regard to the financial obligations which they are liable to incur in order to avoid over-commitment of capital for water which they may never require. A Water Board, who, pursuant to Section 27 of the Water Act 1945, are under a statutory duty to provide water to non-domestic consumers on reasonable terms and conditions, if they are of the opinion that such a consumer is underestimating future demand, may plan to provide an additional supply but only at the expense of the water ratepayers as a whole. My Lords, this is a very important passage in our Committee's Report, but this comment should be read in the light of the fact that under Article 27, when an industrial consumer finds he does need more water than he originally estimated, the Water Board can, provided they have got the water there, charge him a higher rate for it than before, and they can also make him cover back-loan charges on his new proportion of the capital outlay. That is to say, they may for an initial period be carrying more water than they need, and charging private consumers for it, because they think the industrial user has underestimated. If they were right, and the industrial user then comes back after a certain period and says: "I want more than I told you I did", then not only can the Water Board charge him an increased price for the extra water he gets but they can also charge him his new share, his higher share, of the loan charges on the capital outlay backdated to the original construction of the reservoir. Having said that, however, I would assure your Lordships that the words contained in this section of our Committee's Report will not be lost upon the Government; and I am confident that, equally, they will not be lost upon the Water Resources Board.

As regards natural beauty, Teesdale is a very beautiful part of England, but nobody, I think, has claimed that it is the most beautiful part of England. This is a different situation from that which prevails on the scientific research front, where the botanists came very near to claiming that it was the most important part of the whole country. It is a wilderness—and, of course, anything manmade looks bad in a wilderness. Actually, there are the old mine buildings at Cow Green which nobody has bothered to pull down, and there is the Pennine Way Bridge just above Cauldron Snout; so man has made his appearance there, and nobody seems to mind. All the same, a reservoir, however well designed, is bound to look artificial, and it is a lot bigger than a mine or a bridge.

But I do not think we need fuss too much. A few miles away, over the spine of England, is the Lake District, where there are some pretty good wild places; to the North, the Northumberland Fells; to the South the Yorkshire Moors—and there is still a lot of wild land there. And, though this House will need reminding of it less than most gatherings of men in the country, it is only a holiday-maker's journey from there to a part of our country where there are 300 square miles in which you will find not only no mines, no bridges and no reservoir, but not a single house or person whatever. I mean, of course, the Parph, in the North-West corner of Scotland. This is the "desert of Western Europe", and lovers of utter wilderness ought, I think, to realise that they are fortunate among Europeans in having within their own national boundaries a range where sea and mountain meet in the utmost grandeur, and a range which not only is unspoiled and undeveloped—with no mines, no bridges and no reservoir—but is actually totally uninhabited. You can go South from there and find nothing like it until you come to the High Atlas. So let us not be disproportionately upset about a small dam in Upper Teesdale.

My Lords, the second part of their charge our Committee most exactly and proficiently executed. I think I need do no more than endorse their conclusions that the Cow Green site is very much to be preferred to either Upper Cow Green, which the Petitioners themselves abandoned, or Middleton, on grounds which I think should be perfectly clear to anybody who has visited that valley.

There remains only the question of boreholes, and there is little more to say about them. The Committee found that, since the Petitioners themselves maintained that the effectiveness of such schemes are very much open to doubt, that seemed to put paid to it when compared to a certain scheme. And I was most interested to hear the noble Lord, Lord Nugent of Guildford, whom I know to be a very special friend of boreholes in general, say that he thought this would be a rash idea to pursue in the context of the needs there.

Several speakers have spoken about the question of recreational access. I think the best I can do about this aspect of the subject is to confirm that I have heard that there is an agreement between the Nature Conservancy and the Water Board about what ought to be done, both to prevent the disruption of the site during the construction of the dam and to control access in the best way once the reservoir has been completed. I know of no threat to that agreement, of no proposal to disrupt it. I think I can properly say that my right honourable friend the Minister will watch out for the agreement in a fatherly way, and will give what help he can either to see that it is perpetuated or that, if any amendments are proposed, they are in a sensible and wise direction.

I should perhaps remind the House of a circular issued jointly by the Ministry of Land and Natural Resources and the Department of Education and Science, which said: Save in wholly exceptional circumstances, the Ministers know of no sufficient reason why, subject to arrangements for proper control, the public should be denied recreational access to reservoirs maintained only for river regulation or compensation water. It seems obvious that the Cow Green reservoir is being constructed "in wholly exceptional circumstances", in that it is in the middle of a site of great scientific interest. I think I should not go into detail about where it is proposed that roads should be, and how they should be controlled by gates. Such things can be seen only on the spot.

I might address myself for a moment to the question of the witnesses in the hearings of our Committee. The noble Lord, Lord Nugent of Guildford, made certain comments about the propriety of the way they were called. I am sorry that he was not in the House when that point was answered by the noble Lord, Lord Molson.


My Lords, may I interrupt? I made no comment on propriety at all.


I beg the noble Lord's pardon. There may have been a misunderstanding. I will read with great attention his words tomorrow to see what it was he called in question.

My Lords, I was rather glad that the noble Lord, Lord Molson, said that this was not the time to call in question the long-established procedures for Private Bills. I think that all I can observe properly at this point is that I believe that Standing Orders were not infringed in any way during this Committee hearing. I notice that no noble Lord made a point that Standing Orders are inadequate or that they should be reformed. Beyond that I should not go, because the matter is one which concerns many Ministries other than the one I represent here, and in the last resort it is something for the Lord Chairman of Committees. But we will read what was said with interest.

I turn to the overall trend of general observations which have governed this debate. Some noble Lords have spoken of hand-to-mouth methods in water planning. They have asked that the Government should take a longer view. The noble Lord, Lord Kahn, said that we were suffering from a complete failure of long-term planning, and many noble Lords have asked me to give an immediate pledge that the Government will instantly start to do their job properly about long-term water planning. I should like the House to realise that all the complaints voiced to-day are completely misunderstanding the point. There is not a complete failure of long-term planning; it is that there has been a late start on long-term planning. The Water Resources Act, which set up the Water Resources Board and governs the long-term planning which is now being carried out with great expedition and diligence, was not passed until 1963. I regret that. It should have been passed earlier. However, it was passed after many years had been allowed to go by during which it was totally impossible to have long-term water planning.

We now have the Act and the Water Resources Boards. What do we expect? Can we survey all the sources of water for a population of 50 million in a country which, although not big, has a lot of possible water sources in it? Can we expect a National Survey Board to get set up, to hire its talent, decide how to tackle the job, carve it up into different phases and different areas of the country, and come up with a complete long-term plan for the rest of the century? Can we expect that to happen within three or four years? Let us be realistic. They have already published a complete survey of water resources up to the end of the century—that is for the next 33 years—in the South-East. By the end of this year they will have published a complete survey of water resources up to the end of the century in the North, covering the area about which we have been talking.

It would be ridiculous for the Government to start any other quicker survey, or to take any decision now, when that extremely thorough study (which is a long term one, which takes every consideration into account, and which could not have been begun before a year or two ago) is awaited any month now. I would be the first to admit that the situation is not satisfactory, but what we are facing is a very late start on national water planning. We have now started, and I should like to make the suggestion to the House that if anybody thinks we are not planning firmly enough for water, from now on there is little more that we can do except to nationalise the lot. This is a consideration that we have avoided in the debate to-day, and I think it would be going far and wide indeed in a Bill dealing with a particular reservoir to go into that aspect.

6.24 p.m.


My Lords, my function in regard to this Bill is to get it a Third Reading. In moving the Third Reading, I promised to reply to points raised during the debate. But with great respect, very few noble Lords have spoken to-day in relation to the Bill. They have spoken much more in relation to extraneous matters, particularly in regard to the failure of previous Governments to provide forward planning for water supplies. This Bill arises from the lack of planning and it is required in order to carry it out. My noble friend Lord Kennet has replied on behalf of the Government to the general points raised. Therefore, I think my function will now be served by asking your Lordships to give this Bill a Third Reading.

On Question, Bill read 3a, with the Amendments, and passed and returned to the Commons.