Orders of the Day — PLYMOUTH AND SOUTH WEST DEVON WATER BILL (By Order)

Order for Second Reading read.

[Prince of Wales's Consent, on behalf of the Duchy of Cornwall, signified]

Motion made, and Question proposed, That the Bill be now read a Second time.

Photo of Dr Horace King

Dr Horace King (Southampton, Itchen)

May I inform the House that I have not selected the Amendment in the name of the hon. Member for Lewisham, South (Mr. Carol Johnson) and some of his hon. Friends: That the Bill be read a second time upon this day six months. This non-selection will not affect the course of the debate in any way. It will help me to secure a balanced debate if those who wish to take part will indicate to the Chair whether they are for or against the Second Reading.

7.0 p.m.

Photo of Miss Joan Vickers

Miss Joan Vickers (Plymouth, Devonport)

In opening the debate, I hope to show the urgent need for further water for the south-west half of Devon to serve a population of about half a million and about 40 per cent. of all the population of Devon and Cornwall. It is an interesting fact that the South-West Devon Water Board has 34 members and represents 14 local authorities which unanimously support this Bill.

As hon. Members will realise, Plymouth has recently been made an intermediate area. It is therefore expecting that further industry will be attracted to the area. The South-West Economic Council and the Hunt Report, in paragraph 280, stated that Plymouth should be considered a growth area for the South-West. The tourist industry is on the increase. This is leading to two new hotels being opened in Plymouth which will give a fillip to the industry and an enormous boost' to Mayflower, 1970, adding to the tourist trade in the area.

With the many new housing estates in the area, particularly those built in Plymouth following the blitz, with modern equipment and gardens, the domestic consumption of water has gone up by 50 per cent. Last year Mr. R. le G. Hetherington, a senior member of the firm of Messrs. Binnie and Partners the promoters' engineering consultants, was appointed as a member of the Central Advisory Water Committee, by the Ministry of Housing and Local Government. He doubts whether any other water project has been so intensively and widely studied prior to promotion as this scheme. Considerable pains have been taken to examine every project in the area. The firm considered that the water supply position in the whole of the South-West peninsula lying to the west of Taunton before submitting, in March, 1969, a report in nine large volumes to the promoters.

It is interesting to see that in this report account was taken of many factors, archaeology, botany, fishery, landscaping, land use and amenity, water quality, geology and finance. The investigations to find the most appropriate new source of supply were commenced during the summer of 1965, when the Plymouth City Council adopted a report from its then water engineer, but a most important factor in the search for the new supply was the entry of the Water Resources Board on to the scene in January, 1967.

On 25th November last year, the Water Resources Board formally notified the promoters that it supports the scheme for which powers are sought in this Bill. In fact, the construction of a reservoir on the River Swincombe was the recommendation contained in the original report of the Water Resources Board published in August, 1968. The information which led to the publication of the board's report was for the most part compiled by a technical steering committee set up by the board in January, 1967. The scope of the technical steering committee was widened in October, 1967, to cover the future requirements of other water undertakings in the area of the Devon and Cornwall river authorities and to examine the possibility of any of those needs being met by a new scheme to supplement Plymouth's supplies.

Representatives from the two river authorities and five water undertakings have attended meetings of that technical steering committee. In all, 80 different schemes involving the use of 30 or more different sites have been studied, borings were put down at six sites to ascertain geological conditions, and the cost has been at least £140,000. The most likely of these other possibilities are as follows: for Plymouth, Lee Mill, eight farms destroyed, 15 farms affected; Townleigh, seven farms destroyed, 20 farms affected: Lamelgate, seven farms destroyed, 17 farms affected; for only South-West Devon, Woodcourt, six farms destroyed, 18 farms affected; Curtis, three destroyed; Knowle, 18 farms affected. This compares with the Swincombe Joint Scheme for Plymouth and the South-West Devon Water Board in which there would be no farms destroyed and only two affected.

The name of the area to be flooded is Fox Tor Mires which, as the name suggests, is mainly bog land. Two of the alternative sites are designated as areas of outstanding natural beauty. At Lee Mill, 19 dwellings would be inundated and two would be untenable. Four dwellings are scheduled as of architectural and historic importance, one having been lived in by Sir Walter Raleigh. There is already on the river Swincombe just below the site of the proposed dam, a small intake of the South-West Devon Board. The land for which and its catchment in the site of the proposed reservoir was sold by the Duchy of Cornwall to Paignton in 1930 for £22,000. In view of this the Duchy is hardly in a position to protest about this site.

Already there are picturesque leats, built over 150 years ago, which carry water to Dartmoor Prison and to Plymouth. These will be widened to supply water to the proposed reservoir and faced as at present with the local granite, but certainly not with concrete as has been suggested. Nor will they be 20 ft. wide but of the sizes stated in paragraph 19 of the promoters' statement. They will not be fenced in the open moor.

Photo of Mr Peter Jackson

Mr Peter Jackson (High Peak)

I have read carefully the statement by the promoters and I am aware of the dimensions they give, but they give no indication of what the depth of the leats will be.

Photo of Miss Joan Vickers

Miss Joan Vickers (Plymouth, Devonport)

I think it will be 2 ft. to 2½ft. Certainly there would be no danger to any animals. They will be on the same level as the present leats.

There have been articles in the Sunday Observer and the Spectator. Both newspapers had articles about "The rape of the moor", but I can assure hon. Members that this will not be so. It will be left to Devon County Council to decide on the planning of amenities if considered necessary and public access at Swincombe, as shown in Clauses 46 and 47 of the Bill. Plymouth has no powers and does not want them.

People who live in the area and so know it have very different views which they have put into print. The Vicar of Princetown stated that it was "a really ugly place". He lives three miles away. He added that it was, none other than a horrible bog in which many Dartmoor animals have been swallowed up. Brigadier Davis refutes the allegation that it would completely destroy one of the last remaining wild areas of Dartmoor and has said: It is one of the most gloomy and useless places imaginable. Keith Le Cheminant has written: No one who has seen Burrator, Plymouth's reservoir"— which was built in 1893 before Dartmoor was designated a National Park— or the reservoirs serving the Torbay area could think them ugly. They are beautifully landscaped and give the moor some inland water—which apart from its charming rivers it sadly lacks. That is a quotation from the article in the Observer.

Mrs. Woolner, who is an F.S.A., states: It is neither a remote beauty spot nor an unspoiled wilderness…it is a large wilderness surrounded by dismal remains of former exploitation (an old tin mine) and failure. Lady Fox, who also has similar qualifications, gave a detailed report on the antiquities in the area and stated that there was none of outstanding importance. Dr. A. S. Thomas, in regard to the botanical aspect, said: Fox Tor Mires, in the centre basin, is a stretch of bog dominated by sphagnum moss and rushes. All the soils seem very acid, and that is the reason for the small variety of flowering plants. The residents in the vicinity have met at Princetown, and they support the scheme. Those in favour of the scheme include the Water Resources Board, the National Farmers Union—I think that it has circulated every hon. Member with its opinion—the Country Landowners' Association, the British Waterworks Association, and the Confederation of British Industry, western area.

The Chairman of the C.B.I. Devon and Cornwall Water and Trade Effluent Committee gives as his view that there will be an increase in industrial demands for water owing to the intermediate status of the area.

What are the main points put against the scheme? The first is that it is hydrologically on a knife-edge. I assure hon. Members this is not so. Modifications have been made to the abstraction conditions following discussions with the river authority before the depositing of the Bill, which should allay any fears about this.

The fishery experts of the Devon River Authority, the Dart Fisheries Protection Society and the promoters have issued an agreed report setting out abstraction and river flow conditions which the promoters have accepted. As a keen fisherman myself, I shall naturally be particularly at pains to see that the fishing is not interfered with. The reservoir will fill within about one year of being completed, and its large storage represents more than 200 days' supply for Plymouth and South-West Devon.

Those not in agreement state that the water undertakers should not promote a scheme until the Devon River Authority has published its Section 14 survey. No date has yet been given for its publication, but even if it were available now, no scheme could be built before 1977, and Plymouth's demand in 1975 will be 25 million gallons, compared with existing available supplies of 19 million gallons.

I hope that hon. Members, having kindly listened tonight, will agree that what I have said has given a full picture of what we are proposing to do. I quite understand, having listened to two other debates quite recently, that some hon. Members criticise what they call the piecemeal water schemes being presented to Parliament. This criticism cannot be applied to this Bill. We have had very long surveys over a number of years, and we have taken particular care to see that no agricultural land would be wasted.

Finally, in putting forward this Bill. I hope that perhaps hon. Members will consider my personal credentials and that of Plymouth. At the Council of Europe, the hon. Member for Bilston (Mr. Robert Edwards) kindly proposed me as Chairman of the European Conservation Committee, and as such I attended the Strasbourg Conference, and was on the final drafting committee. I received a letter of thanks for my work from the Secretary of State for Local Government and Regional Planning. If that is not a fairly good credential to some hon. Members opposite, I shall have to try to find another.

When the Foot family had to sell Plymbridge Woods, I formed a committee to buy the woods, which we managed to do in two months, and we handed the woods over to the National Trust. Incidentally, I sent a note to the hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Michael Foot) and spoke to the right hon. and learned Member for Ipswich (Sir Dingle Foot), that I would refer to this.

The City of Plymouth and the Cornwall County Council have recently bought the Mount Edgcumbe Estate, which I can assure the hon. Gentleman will not be despoiled. It has a splendid coastline. Both the Plymbridge Woods and Mount Edgcumbe Estate will provide enjoyment for the local people and tourists alike.

In order to be thoroughly fair and democratic, the Devon County Council is speaking for the Dartmoor National Park Committee, which I understand would be unable to petition against the Bill unless the county council allowed itself to be used as a vehicle for the expression of the committee's views. This means that the county council petition, where opposition is expressed, is speaking not for itself but for its parks committee. It is also quite evident that the county council and its planning committee have never considered the broad planning issues involved.

It is extremely difficult to judge any scheme without seeing the site, but the county council and the City Council of Plymouth have given the opportunity, by offering an official visit to those who have put their names down against the Bill so that they might come and see the site. None of them, I believe, has been able to accept. All hon. Members have been circulated also, by means of the Party Whip, with a notice concerning an address by the promoters' advisers in the House last week.

Conservation is always a matter of balancing opposing considerations. Here we have a scheme which avoids taking agricultural land and also has the advantage of using water just before it would run to waste in the salt waters of the estuaries. I concur with the view of the Water Resources Board, after a personal examination of all the possibilities, that the Swincombe-Tay Scheme is the best to serve the needs of Plymouth and the South-West Devon Water Board. Therefore, I ask hon. Members to give the Bill a Second Reading so that it can be considered in detail by a Committee in a manner which is not possible for us now.

Photo of Dr Horace King

Dr Horace King (Southampton, Itchen)

Order. I remind the House that I said at the beginning of the debate that it will help me to secure a balanced debate if those who have not already done so and who wish to speak against the Bill will let the Chair know.

7.19 p.m.

Photo of Mr Carol Johnson

Mr Carol Johnson (Lewisham South)

The House is indebted to the hon. Lady the Member for Plymouth, Devonport (Dame Joan Vickers) for the very reasoned way in which she presented the case in support of the Bill. Although I may disagree with one or two of the assumptions she made and the factors to be taken into account, I recognise that she honestly and sincerely believes that the Bill should have a Second Reading. I equally sincerely believe that the House should reject it.

The House should appreciate that, apart from the bodies to which the hon. Lady referred, every public and local body in the area is opposed to the Bill, including the Devon County Council and the Devon River Authority, both of which have a special interest and special responsibilities in regard to it. Then there is the Duchy of Cornwall, which owns Swincombe, not only opposing but petitioning against the Bill, which is a most unusual procedure. I cannot recall any occasion when the Duchy has felt so strongly about the matter that it has petitioned the House. We should have to go back a long time in our history to find that.

On top of that, every national amenity and open air organisation is strongly opposed—the Council for the Preservation of Rural England, the Commons Footpath and Open Spaces Preservation Society, the Ramblers Association, the Youth Hostels Association, and many local associations, such as the Dartmoor Preservation Association, the Dartmoor Livestock Protection Society, and the Dart Fisheries Society, together with—as important as any of these—the Countryside Commission, which has special responsibilities. After many years' experience, I cannot think of such unanimity of opposition to a Private Bill of this character. Moreover, the national Press has also been critical in its comments. Therefore, the House must accept that there is very strong and deeply-rooted opposition to the Measure.

I must add in fairness that, apart from the bodies to which the hon. Lady referred, the Bill has received some support. First, it has had support in the way of letters to the Press from a number of people who appear to be living in sites that are possible alternatives to Swincombe, and who may therefore be said to have a vested interest in Swincombe's being confirmed and their not being disturbed.

Photo of Mr Carol Johnson

Mr Carol Johnson (Lewisham South)

I was putting the point that the people who wrote to the Press in support of the Bill gave their addresses, and I think that in every case they were living in places which have been suggested and considered as alternative sites to Swincombe. To that extent, therefore, they have a vested interest in securing the passage of the Bill. That is very understandable. I do not complain about it, but we might accordingly discount it a little.

Then there are the farmers, to whom the hon. Lady referred. I have the greatest respect for the way in which the National Farmers Union conducts its public and parliamentary relations. All of us benefit from the very intelligent summaries and explanations of legislation coming before the House, which it gives us from time to time. But, with all its knowledge and experience, and claiming as it does a general sense of responsibility, I am surprised that it should circulate to hon. Members a four-page memorandum about the Bill in which not a single reference is made to the very material fact that the scheme is in a national park, and completely ignoring the provision, which we must all keep in mind in regard to national parks, in Section 11 of the Countryside Act, 1968, that In the exercise of their functions relating to land under any enactment every Minister, government department and public body"— and that includes the promoters of the Bill— shall have regard to the desirability of conserving the natural beauty and amenity of the countryside. There is one possible explanation of the farmers' attitude—that they feel so identified with the scheme that they look at it merely through the eyes of the promoters and present only one side of the picture. I wish that in making their representations to hon. Members they had shown themselves to be a little more objective. We as parliamentarians have rather broader responsibilities, and I hope that even those who support the Bill will not do so for the reasons put forward by the farmers. The only reason that seems to have motivated them was that expressed by the Country Landowners Association in its journal as far back as last August, when it said, referring to the Bill, that this proposal, which had the support of the Water Resources Board, was as a result of the pressure which we have put on the Water Resources Board to avoid placing reservoirs on agricultural land. That clearly shows that at least the agricultural interests have not proved themselves to be objective about the proposal. Such a diktat may be appropriate for the Water Resources Board, but certainly not for the House of Commons.

Photo of Sir Henry Legge-Bourke

Sir Henry Legge-Bourke (Isle of Ely)

May I declare my interest before I say any more? I am a member of the C.L.A. and the N.F.U. I think that the hon. Gentleman is being a little unfair to both those organisations, which have a duty to look after the interests of their members and not necessarily to uphold the Countryside Commission.

Photo of Mr Carol Johnson

Mr Carol Johnson (Lewisham South)

That is not in dispute. I am not disputing their right to express their views in their own interests. What I am objecting to is that the hon. Lady cited the attitude of the farming interests as a ground for approving the Bill. I showed by that quotation that they cannot be regarded as disinterested. That is all I sought to show.

I should like now to spend a few minutes considering the planning aspects of the scheme. In recent years, and I think particularly during the current Session, it has become clear that the House as a whole is increasingly doubtful about the Private Bill procedure in cases such as the present one. I think that no one disputes that the works involved in this scheme would make a large impact on the area and are obviously of major planning significance. Yet the House is being asked to approve these proposals without any planning application having been submitted, and thus without any opportunity of the scheme's being considered on planning grounds. Indeed, the planning authority—the Devon County Council—as well as the amenity bodies and the largest landowner involved—the Duchy of Cornwall—are all opposed to the proposal.

The hon. Lady argued that the issues I am raising should be fought out in Committee. But will a Select Committee be properly and fully advised on a matter of this major importance? I am vice-chairman of the Commons, Footpath, Open Spaces and Preservation Society and active in a number of other voluntary associations. The voluntary amenity movement cannot afford the cost of putting proper alternatives to a Select Committee. In this case the various amenity societies have collected £2,000, which is quite a lot of money for organisations largely run on a shoestring. But we have been advised that if we wish to submit a feasibility study on an alternative site by qualified water engineers and to produce expert evidence to a Select Committee the cost would be £10,000 upwards.

It is not only amenity societies that are called upon to bear such costs. In opposing the Calderdale Water Bill in another place, the Hepton Rural District Council incurred bigger costs than it could meet, and has had to ask the Minister for special loan sanctions.

What is the position if, because of the the cost, amenity societies and public bodies concerned do not appear? A Select Committee in another place when considering the Welland and Nene Water Bill complained that its work had been hampered by the absence of counsel opposing the Bill. A Bill such as that before us cannot be properly examined by a Select Committee unless full-scale opposition is mounted to it there and counsel are present, together with expert witnesses on the various alternatives.

In my view, the present procedure is inappropriate for the problem with which the Bill seeks to deal, which is the problem of from where Plymouth shall get its additional water supplies. There are six or seven possible alternative sites, but how can these best be evaluated? I suggest that Parliament devised a good method when it provided, in the Town and Country Planning Act, 1968, for the Minister to refer certain applications to a planning inquiry commission. I suggest that the siting of this major reservoir would be a good matter to go to such a commission.

Many people, both inside and outside the House, had hoped that, as a result of the 1968 Act, the question of new reservoirs in national parks would be made the subject of investigation by planning inquiry commissions, at which the views of all concerned could be expressed and at which all possible alternatives could be explored before the matter came before Parliament.

Certain criteria are laid down in the 1968 Act before such a planning inquiry commission may be appointed, but I believe that these criteria are met in this case. Nobody will deny, for example, that the proposed scheme is of regional importance. Indeed, many would say that it is of national importance. There are certainly interesting technical innovations involved, and all of these considerations are referred to in Section 62 of that Act. However, because Plymouth Corporation has chosen to promote a Bill, the Minister has no power to refer the issue to a planning inquiry commission.

I hope I have shown that it is doubtful whether a Select Committee would be able to examine adequately the alternatives; and surely the best course for this House is to refuse this Measure a Second Reading, so that then the promoters could apply for planning permission, which would enable the Minister to refer the whole issue to a planning inquiry commission which, with its research staff, could make a proper evaluation of the various alternatives.

Photo of Sir Arthur Irvine

Sir Arthur Irvine (Liverpool Edge Hill)

I appreciate the difficulties of cost that he is putting forward in relation to the presentation of a case to a Parliamentary Committee. Is he not placing himself in the same dilemma by suggesting that the matter should go to a planning inquiry commission, in the sense that costs would still have to be met?

Photo of Mr Carol Johnson

Mr Carol Johnson (Lewisham South)

I pointed out that such a commission would have the necessary staff to do the research investigation and to bring before the inspector all the relevant factors and assessments, in exactly the same way as is now being done with the third London airport. In other words, if the matter were transferred to a public inquiry of that character, the machinery would be possessed by that inquiry to see that those who are ultimately charged with deciding would have all the facts before them. With the matter being left to individual societies and bodies, these organisations literally do not have the money these days to afford the cost.

Photo of Sir Peter Emery

Sir Peter Emery (Honiton)

What does the hon. Gentleman envisage would be the delay involved in taking the steps he is advocating? Is he aware that we would still need to go through the sort of routine on which we are now embarking, after such a planning inquiry commission had reported? What time-scale does he envisage?

Photo of Mr Carol Johnson

Mr Carol Johnson (Lewisham South)

That is a matter for an expert witness. I would not claim to answer it. However, there is no evidence that a delay in the approval of this scheme would prejudice Plymouth's water interests for a few years. [HON. MEMBERS: "Rubbish."]

The question of water supply brings me to my next important point. Under the Water Resources Act, 1967, river authorities are responsible for assessing the requirements of their areas, and it is then their duty to provide resources. As it happens, Plymouth is in the area of Devon County Council, yet the limits of its supply of water are almost wholly within the area of the Cornwall River Authority.

In the case of the adjoining area of Devon, under the Devon River Board, which is also opposing, that authority has not yet completed its survey, so that the effect of endorsing the Bill at this stage would be to pre-empt the Devon River Authority and, indeed, to rob it of supplies of water within its catchment area. No wonder, in these circumstances, that the board should resent the action of Plymouth, as a water undertaker, "jumping the gun" because that is what it is doing. Before it should be allowed to proceed, the promoters should be called on to co-operate with the two river authorities in the surveys of the areas provided for by the original Act.

There is another aspect of this matter which concerns the Devon River Authority. The scheme involves tapping the waters of the River Dart. Out of the blue, as it were, I received a letter this morning from the Chairman of the Devon River Authority. Other hon. Members may also have heard from him. His letter is extremely relevant in this context and he writes: Dear Mr. Johnson,At last the South West Devon Water Board, one of the promoters of the Swincombe Bill, have disclosed the serious position of sewage in the River Dart.Facts

  1. 1. The water for South Devon is abstracted directly from the River Dart at Totnes and goes into the water supply without filtration.
  2. 2. The river is so badly polluted that the Medical Officer of Health will not permit bathing.
  3. 3. Under the Swincombe scheme, Plymouth abstracts from the head waters of the Dart a further 30,000,000 gallons a day.
This reduction in flow will make the sewage effluent even more dangerous and more concentrated. If the South West Devon Water Board themselves are worried, surely we must stop this scheme in its present form. It is signed by the Chairman of the Devon River Authority, Mr. G. E. J. Gawthorn, and his communication cannot be ignored.

I suggest that the remarks of the hon. Lady the Member for Devonport were not only derogatory but gave a completely false picture of the area that would be affected. She referred several times to "the bog", but the boggy part of the moorland that would be affected is only 10 per cent. of the whole. A substantial body of opinion has a better assessment of the nature and character of this area than one might gather from the quotations she gave. Perhaps she will accept the views of the distinguished architect and landscape consultant, Sir F. Gibberd, who, I understand, is being retained by the authority for which she is speaking as its landscape consultant for the scheme.

Photo of Mr Robin Maxwell-Hyslop

Mr Robin Maxwell-Hyslop (Tiverton)

In using the word "retained", does the hon. Gentleman mean that he is being paid for the opinions which he is expressing or that he is volunteering his services pro bono publico?

Photo of Mr Carol Johnson

Mr Carol Johnson (Lewisham South)

The quotation which I shall give is embodied in a document entitled "Report on Future Water Resources, Volume 5", which is commonly called the Binnie Report. This report was made some time ago, but I am quoting from it in the form of a credible witness from the point of view of an assessment of the areas that would be affected. I am sure that the House will trust me to quote only in line with the document as a whole, which includes the following paragraphs: The moorland sites are in a unique and irreplaceable area of wild landscape. The agricultural sites, which although very beautiful and of individual character, have counterparts elsewhere in Devon. He is there referring to a number of alternative sites which are under consideration. Moreover, areas of wild landscape are becoming increasingly rare; the more so, as in Devon, where they are reasonably close to centres of population.…the essential character of moorland is its simple and wild state.When we come to consider the alternative sites in terms of the recreation facilities they offer, we find there are very great advantages in the use of an agricultural site.If a lake is formed on either of the agricultural sites, it could be used for active recreation, such as fishing and sailing, without conflicting with the scene. In fact, either site could be considered as possible regional recreation centres. He is referring here to two other sites which are mentioned earlier in the document, Lee Mill and Townleigh. The choice is between humanised landscape with human activity as against a relatively remote and wild one with nature dominating man. If the reservoir is sited in the agricultural valleys, not only can active recreation be encouraged, but the wild landscape of the moors could remain unspoilt for those who seek solitude.Notwithstanding the value to agriculture of Lee Mill and Townleigh, and notwithstanding their beauty, we are firmly of the opinion that either are preferable to sites on the Dartmoor National Park.We believe, for the reasons we have tried to explain, that the preservation of wild landscape is of vital importance to the nation, and only if there are no reasonable alternatives should it be sacrificed. There is no doubt that there are reasonable alternatives in this case. Equally, the promoters of the Bill, by bypassing normal planning procedure, have prevented a thorough examination of those alternatives.

Photo of Sir Henry Legge-Bourke

Sir Henry Legge-Bourke (Isle of Ely)

Has the hon. Gentleman considered the immense amount of work done by the Water Resources Board which was set up for this purpose?

Photo of Mr Carol Johnson

Mr Carol Johnson (Lewisham South)

This is a relevant factor. The Water Resources Board in its statement says that it has examined a large number of schemes, and that £140,000 has been spent. But if one of the alternative schemes were adopted the money would not have been wasted. I am not suggesting for a moment that the public money which has been spent should be wasted. The Water Resources Board has considered a large number of schemes, it had this alternative information before it, and it cannot be said that the £140,000 was restricted solely to this site.

As I said at the beginning, the Countryside Commission has made it clear that a reservoir at Swincombe would irreparably and substantially diminish the value of the Dartmoor National Park as a whole. The national park at Dartmoor has already suffered greatly from development. Reservoirs have already been established, and a large section of the moor is under the control of the Ministry of Defence. Commercial development—afforestation and extension of china clay workings—has taken a further large area. The open moorland left in Dartmoor today is less than 40 per cent. of the area as a whole, and it is in this 40 per cent. that this further intrusion is proposed.

To accept the basis of the Bill would effectively destroy Dartmoor as a national park, and the purposes for which it was established. It is one of the few wild areas left in the south of England to which people can turn to find the solitude for which we in the cities yearn, and the communion with nature which is essential if we are to maintain our spiritual values. We should be losing a great deal if we sacrificed this, particularly if we sacrificed it without giving full consideration to alternatives whch will leave it untouched for the future. We have an obligation to the future. Before this century is out, I believe that the wild parts of this country will be our most precious heritage, and, as urbanisation goes on, we shall yearn for them and turn to them more and more. Our young people should have the opportunity of walking, as I walked so often in my youth, in these wild areas, and we shall be doing an injustice to the future if we allow the Bill to go forward.

Photo of Dr Horace King

Dr Horace King (Southampton, Itchen)

I remind the House that many right hon. and hon. Gentleman wish to speak.

7.45 p.m.

Photo of Sir Lionel Heald

Sir Lionel Heald (Chertsey)

As it has been mentioned that the Attorney-General for the Duchy of Cornwall has petitioned against the Bill, I think that you, Mr. Speaker, and the House would wish there to be no misunderstanding of the position of the Duchy of Cornwall in this matter. It is, I expect, known to most people that virtually the whole of Dartmoor was granted to Edward the Black Prince, first Duke of Cornwall by the Royal Charter of 1337. Therefore, the Bill seeks powers to acquire compulsorily land which belonged to Edward the Third and now belongs to His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales.

Constitutionally, the Prince of Wales, through his Attorney-General, would have a right to veto this Bill, as strong a veto as that in the Security Council. If anyone has any doubt about that, he need only look at the Order Paper, to see that the consent of the Crown is required, and those who were here at the beginning of to-day's proceedings will remember that it was given.

Although the Duchy has much concern with regard to the Bill, and wishes to be able to deal with the detail of the matter before the Committee, if and when the Committee is appointed, His Royal Highness's advisers, with His approval, thought it would be right not to use this weapon of refusal of consent, but to submit the matter to Parliament.

I believe that it is unprecedented for there to be a petition by the Duchy of Cornwall. They could simply have taken no notice of the Bill and refused the compulsory purchase order, because it could not be effective against the Crown. Therefore, when notice was served on the Duchy, as required by the Standing Orders of the House, it could have been said that it was entirely ineffective. There again, not surprisingly, His Royal Highness's advisers, with his approval, said that that was not a proper or dignified procedure, and they have said in their petition that the Duchy wishes to present its views to Parliament and accordingly waives its right under that Clause.

The Petition says: If, after hearing those views and those of the other petitioners, Parliament decides that it is in the public interest to authorise the construction of the Swincombe reservoir and associated works, the Duchy will accept that decision and negotiate with the water undertakers for the sale or lease to them of such land and interests in land as may be required for the reservoir and other works. In those circumstances, I think that you, Mr. Speaker, and the House will be glad to feel that the Duchy of Cornwall is acting in a thoroughly proper manner, recognising the necessity for such matters to be decided by Parliament and placing all its rights, dating from that ancient time, at the disposal of Parliament.

7.50 p.m.

Photo of Mr Jeremy Thorpe

Mr Jeremy Thorpe (North Devon)

I should like, first, to congratulate the hon. Member for Plymouth, Devonport (Dame Joan Vickers) on the way in which she introduced the Bill, not least for the brevity with which she canvassed her argument. I shall be even more brief because I have less to say, but I say at the outset that I find this is a profoundly difficult decision to take.

The promoters are completely within their rights to bring forward this Bill under the Private Bill procedure. The hon. Lady is quite within her rights, as an hon. Member for Plymouth, to be thirsting for water to assuage the thirst of the people of Plymouth from now until next century. But I have always taken the view that the Private Bill procedure is a totally inappropriate way to proceed in making provision for the supply of water.

To me, it is somewhat obscene that one or two promoters can get together and decide to come to Parliament with a view to raiding somebody else's valley or part of their national park. [Interruption.] If the hon. Gentleman has a better adjective, I would be grateful for it. But I said "obscene" and I meant it. It is a cumbrous procedure, even though it is outwardly respectable. It has not the simplicity with which Ahab coveted Naboth's vineyard. I must not carry on with that allusion because Ahab, in this case Plymouth, was egged on by Jezebel and I would never cast the hon. Lady in that rôle.

I have always believed that on the whole the supply of water should be a national matter. I suppose that in saying that water should be nationalised I must be one of the last Socialists left in this House. As a Liberal, it gives me such profound relief that I find myself in such a minority.

I believe that a planning inquiry commission would have been the right way to proceed under the provisions of the Town and Country Planning Act. I feel that a Ministerial inquiry, possibly with assessors, is better than the Committee procedure, although, since my father had a considerable practice at the Parliamentary Bar, I am arguing against the former interests of my own family.

The position is that the promoters tell us that they have gone into 70 different schemes, some £140,000 has been spent and they propose to spend £14 million on these works. The amenity societies, the Devon County Council, the Prince's Council, have pointed out that this is an instrusion into a national park. I hope that my record is reasonably good in that regard, having introduced a Motion about the national parks in this House some years ago.

We are told that the dam is to be 135 feet high, will cover 745 acres and will stretch half a mile, and, indeed, questions are raised on the whole matter of siting. The Devon County Council sums it up reasonably well when it say that an intrusion into a National Park could only be justified if there is an overwhelming need and that interest can be satisfied to the satisfaction of Parliament. Parliament is being asked whether it will give a Second Reading to this Bill, which will then go to either a Committee of this House or a Joint Committee of both Houses before subsequent decision. It is a very difficult decision. If we say "No, we will not give the Bill a Second Reading" we are saying that we will not allow this matter to go to a Committee; we will not allow petitioners from both sides to make known their views; we will not give the promoters a chance to put forward their own case and to have their own witnesses cross-examined and then to try to answer the objections raised. It means that we ourselves will prejudge the issue and accept the view of all the objectors, just like that, in a three-hour debate and that we will pass final judgment on this application this evening.

I believe that this will be a profoundly wrong course to take. I should have preferred it if there had been an inquiry first. I should prefer it if in future we do not resort to the Private Bill procedure for the provision of water supplies. It is an old-fashioned and archaic procedure to use, and it is not the best guarantee that the national interest will prevail.

Photo of Mr Emlyn Hooson

Mr Emlyn Hooson (Montgomeryshire)

My right hon. Friend will find that the reason why this procedure is used is that there is a deficiency in the Water Resources Act, 1963, which makes the Order procedure and further inquiry of dubious validity.

Photo of Mr Jeremy Thorpe

Mr Jeremy Thorpe (North Devon)

My hon. and learned Friend has a good point. This is why I would go much further and nationalise water supplies. But on this particular issue we "Socialists" are in a minority in this House.

Since we are in a quasi-judicial position tonight, this is what is so appallingly difficult. We are asked: "Will you express your view on amenity, on technical problems, on possible alternatives and on cost schemes?" We are asked to take all these technical decisions. It would be profoundly wrong of us simply to say "We have taken our decision and we will not let you have the Bill."

Therefore, the Bill having come to the House, whatever objections or qualifications we may have, we should give it a Second Reading so that all the objections from amenity societies can be heard and subject to cross-examination. If we do that, we shall at least act in a quasi-judicial manner. For that reason I suppose it could be said that I support the Second Reading with faint damns, but for that reason I will vote somewhat reluctantly for the Second Reading of the Bill.

Photo of Mr Douglas Jay

Mr Douglas Jay (Battersea North)

Before the right hon. and learned Gentleman sits down, may I ask him this question? Does he challenge the statement of my hon. Friend that if the Bill were rejected tonight it would be possible for a planning application to be made and then for a planning inquiry commission to be set up by the Government?

Photo of Mr Jeremy Thorpe

Mr Jeremy Thorpe (North Devon)

I thought I had sat down, but if I had not sat down I am delighted to get up. The answer to the right hon. Gentleman is that the hon. Gentleman is technically correct.

Photo of Mr Jeremy Thorpe

Mr Jeremy Thorpe (North Devon)

Technically and legally correct. In the case of Meldon there was a delay of seven years. The answer is that, although he was correct, what would be faced would be a tremendous delay.

Photo of Mr Jeremy Thorpe

Mr Jeremy Thorpe (North Devon)

It is no good the right hon. Gentleman shaking his head. It was a seven-year period, which is a great delay, even for a Socialist Administration. Therefore, the answer to his question is that what we must bear in mind is the tremendous delay that would ensue.

7.57 p.m.

Photo of Mr Michael Heseltine

Mr Michael Heseltine (Tavistock)

Although I have made it widely known in my constituency that I cannot support the Bill, it presents me with quite the hardest decision I have had to reach on a local issue since I have been a Member of this House. I say at once that Plymouth and the South-West Devon River Authority have behaved in an exemplary manner in the investigations which they have conducted into the case embodied in their Bill. They have consulted widely, they have tried to take account of the protest meetings and have made adjustments in the schemes. In fact, they could not have done more to try to reach agreement with all sides. It was probably inevitable from the beginning that it was not possible to reach agreement with all sides if they still wished to go ahead with their proposals to build a national reservoir within the national park.

I find it impossible to agree with the conclusions which they have arrived at. Three reasons influence me at this stage. First, I agree with the right hon. Member for Devon, North (Mr. Thorpe) that the procedure whereby water undertakers are expected to introduce a Private Bill into the House to satisfy their needs is the wrong procedure because it takes account essentially of the local needs of the undertakers themselves. They are bound to be motivated and influenced by their specific water needs. Although I accept that there is a national interest involving the Water Resources Board, it is essentially a water-motivated exercise which brings about a Bill of this sort. Secondly, I do not believe that the House can have anything but the gravest anxieties about the fact that the surveys of both Devon and Cornwall under Section 14 of the Water Resources Act, 1967, are on the verge of being published but have not yet been published. This is a most important argument. Here one finds machinery whereby a regional approach to the provision of water is being taken but where we are asked, perhaps for the last time in this House, to take a decision in advance of the publication of those two surveys to encroach into the national park.

That is my second reason for saying that we should be cautious about the Bill. The third argument is that the supporters of the Bill locally are bound to be influenced by the specific local issues as they see them and as they affect their interests. First, there is the interest of the water undertakings themselves. But there are two more. There is the argument of the agricultural land which is obviously put forward by the C.L.A. and N.F.U. No one can question that as being a valid and real argument. It is right that the N.F.U. should plead this case. We know how fast land is being used for other purposes. It is easy to say that a little more does not make any difference and, in the last resort, it does not. However, it is not just the little more. A very large amount of land is taken every year, and it continues. It is right that there should be a well informed lobby in favour of the preservation of agricultural land, and I respect those who advance the argument.

Then there are the inhabitants of the two principal alternative sites in the area. I have that extraordinarily unenviable position of being the Member of Parliament for all the likely sites for the proposed reservoir. In view of that, I am bound to be subjected locally to all sorts of pressures. I have made it my business to consult those who live in the areas of the two alternatives which have been most canvassed.

In the case of the smaller Lee Mill site, one has the arguments of the local inhabitants, the historic buildings and the agricultural land usage. I would be totally opposed to the use of Lee Mill, which I find objectionable on the ground that it would represent piecemeal and small-scale development, and I have told the inhabitants that I would oppose it.

The other alternative is the Townleigh site. Again I have consulted the residents in that valley. As their Member of Parliament, I felt that it was my duty to explain that a wide variety of alternative benefits could flow from it. It is up to them to decide whether benefits will flow but, in terms of additional investment and the likely attraction to tourists, the possibility of a country park at Townleigh cannot be dismissed out of hand. It was my duty to tell my constituents that they should at least consider that, and I would be failing in my duty if I did not say that all those who live in and around the Townleigh site are against the concept of a country park and reservoir in the area.

One can do nothing but sympathise with them. They live there, their homes are there, their agricultural land is there, and they regard the valley as a beautiful one. It is difficult for them to understand why the beautiful valley in which they live should be preferred to a valley in which no one lives but which is in the national park. There is no doubt that they are against the alternative attractions of a country park, even if that were possible within the water provision policy.

In the end, this issue is a question of subjective attitudes to the environment of the national park. As the hon. Member most immediately involved in the national park issue, although my hon. Friends the Members for Torrington (Mr. Peter Mills) and Totnes (Mr. Mawby) share something of my experience, I am aware that one intrusion into a national park is not likely to change its character. I am not a fanatic in this matter. I have supported a number of schemes which proposed intrusions into the national park in one form or another.

Over the years during which I have represented that part of Devon in this House, I have become increasingly aware of the pressures which have been building up, and they continue building up at a rate that we cannot ignore. The military authorities need training grounds. I support this because I do not believe that it does much harm in the long term, and certainly it brings money to the area concerned. The Forestry Commission proposes to develop the Moor. The N.F.U. wants to fence one area of it, and I am prepared to support that. Then there was the Meldon reservoir, a piecemeal development. There are telecommunications masts. The china clay spoil wastes are growing. There are no fewer than seven independent competing pressures on the national park. In each case there is the justification, "It does not matter. Put it on the moor". In each case it does not matter, and it can be on the moor. But my anxiety about the Bill——

Photo of Mr John Ellis

Mr John Ellis (Bristol North West)

I am trying to make up my mind for or against the Bill. The hon. Gentleman is obviously knowledgeable about these matters, and perhaps he can help me. One of the points not so far refuted by the hon. Member for Plymouth, Devonport (Dame Joan Vickers) is that this is an area of bog, a bleak area where no one lives and where animals are liable to fall in and die. As someone who is impartial, can the hon. Gentleman say whether this is so? Has he visited the site?

Photo of Mr Michael Heseltine

Mr Michael Heseltine (Tavistock)

I have visited the site on two separate occasions. With respect to my hon. Friend the Member for Plymouth, Devonport (Dame Joan Vickers), I do not believe that that was the impression that she wanted to give. There is a bog in the Swincombe area. In the bottom of the valley through which the river Swincombe flows, there is an element of bog. In certain conditions, it might be dangerous to animals, but there is no suggestion that animals are lost in the bog or that people disappear never to be traced. I would not like the hon. Gentleman to think that that is the position. It is not.

The fact is that this is an exceptional type of countryside. It is part of a broad sweep and panorama. It is unique and irreplaceable, and it is different. Anyone may say that it is a difference which he does not like. Anyone may say that he does not see this type of untamed, expansive open country as being of great natural beauty. That is entirely subjective. But, the more I look, the more I find that it is unique and irreplaceable. However, that is a personal opinion.

My anxiety is that, little by little, a change in character is taking place in the national park. I feel that I have a responsibility, not only to my constituents, but a wider national responsibility to ask the country whether it is aware that these encroachments are taking place, and to say to the Government that it is their responsibility to say whether they are satisfied that these encroachments should continue in the national interest.

I hope that the Minister will not simply state the arguments for and against the Bill. We all know them. I want to hear the Government's view about a major change in the environment of the national park, whether they have a policy and whether they are prepared to support the Bill. It is untenable for a Government who plead the environmental case whenever they get a chance not to have a view on a major change in the environment of the national park.

I have come to the conclusion that this procedure of referring a matter like this to a Select Committee of the House is not the one which should be followed in this case. Not only is the Countryside Commission unable to appear before such a Select Committee. A Select Committee is not equipped to examine the multitude of complex and conflicting arguments in reaching a decision of this sort. I believe that there should be an inquiry set up, and that the Government should examine two matters: the provision of water on a national and regional scale and the encroachment they are prepared to allow into the territories of the national parks. The Government, having set up the inquiry, should make their views clear on both major issues and the House should be entitled to vote on that situation. I do not believe that the issue is well served by the provision of a Select Committee.

I am not yet satisfied—it may be that I shall be persuaded—that this will be the last encroachment. However, I am not in a position to make a final commitment and I am, therefore, against the Bill.

8.10 p.m.

Photo of Mr Eric Ogden

Mr Eric Ogden (Liverpool, West Derby)

I believe that it was a good thing to adjourn the Budget debate at 7 o'clock to discuss another issue, yet I wish that the issue was clearer to most hon. Members than it appears to be.

It might seem unusual for an hon. Member from the North-West to intervene in a dispute between the interests of hon. Members from the South-West. We have enough problems in the North-West. However, as I am asked to vote on the issue, it might be useful to put forward a point which I think is causing anxiety to many hon. Members.

In the last few months, there have been four water debates concerning four different areas: two in Yorkshire, one in Rutland, one coming up for the Derbyshire valleys, and this one. This way of deciding such issues is about the worst possible way that Parliament could choose. First, the "advocate system" of contrasting interests of local authorities, local loyalties and local constituencies. While those who speak in the debate are interested, knowledgeable and deeply concerned, others who have to vote upon the issue may do so for a variety of reasons, very few of which have anything to do with the merits of the case. Chance attendance, personal loyalties, and constituency interests of hon. Members come into it. These are about the worst reasons for deciding the merits of the case.

On the broader issue of the organisation of our natural water resources, in the last few years we have made tremendous changes. When I came to Parliament in 1964 small local authorities like Oldham, Heywood and Middleton were building enormous walls around their water resources and almost refusing to share. We now have the river water boards which are a tremendous improvement. Yet one danger is that while they are, in theory at least, responsible to some elected authority—they have representatives from local authorities who go back to give reports to elected councils—in practice they are almost autonomous bodies. The walls being built round the larger authorities are every bit as strong as earlier ones round smaller authorities.

I come to the point made by the right hon. Member for Devon, North (Mr. Thorpe). No one has suggested yet that I am a revolutionary Socialist or an out-and-out nationaliser. Yet there is wide agreement on both sides of the House about the need for a British Water Resources Authority with national water boards responsible to it and able to coordinate, link together and work through and with other resources. We will have such schemes as the Dee, the Wash and the Morecambe Bay Barrage. There has been much legislation in recent years. I should have preferred legislation to create a national water resources authority.

Photo of Mr Emlyn Hooson

Mr Emlyn Hooson (Montgomeryshire)

The danger about the authority suggested by the hon. Gentleman is that it becomes too remote and centralised and rides roughshod over local interests. The difficulty is to find a compromise whereby we can have a national plan but still have a means of paying true regard to local interests.

Photo of Mr Eric Ogden

Mr Eric Ogden (Liverpool, West Derby)

Local interests are vital. This is the purpose of establishing such an authority. If we are to get sharing and planning for years ahead for water resources it must come in with the whole system who must be responsible to Parliament.

I am not here by chance. I have listened to previous debates, and there is only one principle which can guide me: that the people who live in the area know best what their constituents should want and should have. Where there is a conflict between town and country it is often exaggerated. I have seen a reservoir established in the Peak District National Park which has enhanced it. Another in a different area is a disaster.

While it may upset one or two of my hon. Friends that I vote this way or that, in the main I rely on those from the South-West, the majority of whom want the Bill to have a Second Reading, and I support it.

8.15 p.m.

Photo of Mr Peter Mills

Mr Peter Mills (Torrington)

I should like to congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Tavistock (Mr. Michael Heseltine) on his reasonable speech. Though I might disagree with him on some things, particularly about the Bill, he presented the case very well. As he is my Member of Parliament, perhaps I am allowed to congratulate him.

This is not the kind of debate in which I enjoy speaking. I can think of other types of debate which I would enjoy more. When we talk about water and reservoirs, they become the great dividers.

This is an emotional subject. Indeed, emotions run very high. One has only to attend some of the meetings in my constituency regarding Meldon and other reservoirs to know how emotions run. People become entrenched in their views and in many cases are not prepared to listen.

I have been through all this before. I understand the problems of my hon. Friend the Member for Tavistock. I had six years of Meldon, and my predecessor experienced all the slings and arrows and difficulties.

Looking at all the literature—I am surrounded by it—I can almost believe that the claims on both sides are justified. It is not easy to decide on the right course. After considering all the pros and cons, unless some fresh evidence is produced, I am prepared to support Second Reading of the Bill. I believe it is important that it should be given a Second Reading so that we can examine it more fully in Committee.

I support the scheme. I do not like using Dartmoor for supplying water, but I believe that it is the right decision. It does not give me any pleasure to intrude upon this wild area of Dartmoor, but I sincerely believe that that is better than using agricultural land. My principle has always been, unless I can be convinced otherwise, that in the 20th century it is wrong to use land producing food for reservoirs when there is extremely poor land available on a moor or at other places.

I am concerned about the use of good agricultural land not only for reservoirs, but also for roads, clay-mining, gravel-mining and for factories. We should take more care about the kind of land that we use in future, particularly in the South-West.

Photo of Mr Peter Jackson

Mr Peter Jackson (High Peak)

Would the hon. Gentleman not concede that he is putting the dilemma in a mistaken way and that the alternative is not taking good agricultural land, or even marginal land or open moorland, but the solution is desalination, barrages and ground-water? These are surely the alternatives which we should be considering tonight and which no one has so far mentioned.

Photo of Mr Peter Mills

Mr Peter Mills (Torrington)

I will come to that point. I am pleased that the Minister is here, because I want to quote from an excellent speech he made recently, which sums up the alternative methods very well, much better than I could. Can we afford this loss of land in food production terms? I do not think so. When we come to talk of conservation I want to quote what the Minister said in a recent speech in the North on 26th February. He said I want to take this opportunity to say something about my policy on the development of water resources. When some people talk about 'a national policy' what they are really saying is: 'There ought not to be a reservoir in this or that place, in fact there should not be any reservoirs at all. Let there be desalination and barrages coupled with a massive national water grid. And while we are waiting for these to come along, we can afford to cut our safety margin to the bone and run the risk of shortages developing in dry areas, which are not all that frequent anyway.' I fully appreciate that the motives which lead people to argue in this way spring from sincere convictions about the conservation of our land and scenery, but in this European Conservation Year I must remind them that the term 'conservation' includes the prudent development of our other natural resources as well, and none of these is more important than water. The Minister is absolutely right. I agree with him.

We must not forget that conservation includes the development of our natural resources and we certainly have not got very many of them. Water is the most important.

It is true that Dartmoor must be safeguarded from unsightly development and I would be the first to oppose any further encroachment on the moor by T.V. masts, electricity pylons or even an extension of land for the Army. There could even be a reduction in the use of land for army purposes in future. Real attempts ought to be made to get rid of the spoil from the mines, the unsightly signs and all the other things which detract from the beauty of Dartmoor. I certainly believe that a dam and a reservoir is an entirely different matter. In many cases they enhance the beauty of the area as well as providing recreational facilities.

I am not saying that in the case of Swincombe that there will be recreational facilities there, because it is probably too windy for sailing, but it could and would, enhance the beauty of the area. I hope that those who so bitterly oppose the scheme will put the same energy into seeing what can be done to deal with the problems I have mentioned, particularly in dealing with the waste from clay mines, which is really an eyesore.

I hope too that those who oppose the Bill will not be unduly upset by what I am about to say, but I am slightly irritated when I hear some of them. They are probably in more prosperous areas. They have their homes with flush toilets and a bath. Even in the better farming areas of Norfolk and Suffolk and such places they have modern equipment with adequate water supplies. This is not so in many instances in the South-West and I am irritated by the way some urban people seek to prevent adequate water supplies going to those of us who live in rural areas like the South-West. I would say to them, "You have a flush toilet, you have a bath. Some of us do not. In your areas you have factories, industrial employment, but we in the South-West, particularly in Plymouth, are only just starting this". This is true also of North Devon. We desperately need water for the new industries. We are irritated when those who have facilities are not prepared to encourage us to get on with the provision of similar facilities.

Photo of Mr Eric Ogden

Mr Eric Ogden (Liverpool, West Derby)

I thought I made it clear at the end of my remarks that I was supporting the hon. Gentleman. If he is trying to turn this into a "town versus country" issue, may I remind him that if this Bill receives a Second Reading it will be because it gets the support of the urban Members of Parliament.

Photo of Mr Peter Mills

Mr Peter Mills (Torrington)

The hon. Gentleman was not listening to what I said. I quoted instances of rural farming areas which have these facilities. It is not a question of countryside versus town. Plymouth needs water and will need more in future. The population of Plymouth is increasing. One of the most important factors of all, and I hope to carry the Liberal Members with me on this, is that we have an enormous increase in the population during the summer months as a result of holiday-makers. In the Plymouth area in the summer there are 160,000 such people. Over the whole of the South-West we double our population. This means that we must have a good water supply.

Water consumption per head is growing as the living standard increases. Industrial usage is increasing. Are we to deny the people of Plymouth, Barnstaple, Bideford, North Devon and Meldon the chance of working in factories, the chance to do something other than farming, to work in hotels or service industries? I want to see the young people remain in the South-West or at least a large proportion of them. One of the ways we can do this is by providing technical employment for them. To do this we must have adequate water supplies for the new factories. The case for this is perfectly clear. There is an ever-increasing demand. Taking into account all the various arguments, I believe that it is right to give the Bill a Second Reading so that we can discuss all the other points in Committee.

Finally, there is the question of those who have suggested that we should have a planning inquiry. I am told that the delay would be at least 24 to 27 months, and I wonder whether Plymouth can really afford this. I doubt it. I only remember what has happened to Meldon with not only enormous extra cost through delay but the delay in actually getting the water. I have here the timetable of the delay and it is almost a disgrace. April, 1962, was the start and it will finally be completed in June, 1972.

Photo of Mr Robin Maxwell-Hyslop

Mr Robin Maxwell-Hyslop (Tiverton)

April, 1962, was not the start. That was when they got the consultant's report. That was the end of the beginning.

Photo of Mr Peter Mills

Mr Peter Mills (Torrington)

At any rate, 10 years is quite long enough, and I would not like to see the Plymouth Swincombe scheme take so long, because I believe that the water is needed.

8.32 p.m.

Photo of Mr Douglas Jay

Mr Douglas Jay (Battersea North)

I intervene briefly because I happen to know every part of Dartmoor extremely well and believe that this is the most beautiful part of the British Isles. However, like the hon. Member for Tavistock (Mr. Michael Heseltine), I am not a fanatical preserver in all circumstances, even of Dartmoor. I think that the Forestry Commission has enhanced the beauty of Dartmoor in many places as well as improving its productive value. I also believe, like the hon. Lady the Member for Plymouth, Devonport (Dame Joan Vickers), that probably the existing three reservoirs—not merely Burrator but Hexworthy and Ferrworthy reservoirs—although this is more arguable, have probably enhanced the beauty of these areas.

On the other hand, I thought that the hon. Lady was going a little far when she sought—and here I may be misrepresenting her—to brush aside the aesthetic arguments on the ground that this was rather a bleak and lonely spot and, particularly, that it was largely a bog. My hon. Friend the Member for Bristol, North-West (Mr. Ellis) wanted to know whether it was bleak or beautiful. The factual answer to that is that it depends on the weather, as in a great many parts of Dartmoor, and on the time of year. Certainly many areas, including this one, can look bleak and in some sorts of weather can look exceedingly beautiful. This is admittedly a much less beautiful part of the moor than the Meldon Valley, which is pre-eminently beautiful but is now a closed issue.

Therefore I do not think that we should write off the aesthetic argument nor think that because Fox Tor Mire, is a bog that it is not an area worth preserving. I think that the hon. Lady will agree that a very large part of Dartmoor is a bog, including many of the most beautiful, wildest and impressive parts of it. Frankly, I found on the issue as it is presented tonight that it is exceedingly difficult to make one's mind for or against. I say to the hon. Member for Torrington (Mr. Peter Mills) that none of us would be as foolish as to say that Plymouth or South-West Devon should not have an adequate water supply. But that is not the issue. The issue is whether this is the best way of finding that water supply in a reasonable period among all the possible alternatives.

I am impressed by those who argued tonight that a Select Committee was not the best way of reaching a decision and that some of the important interests—as indeed happens in other cases—would be excluded either for administrative reasons or because they could not afford the costs of engaging the specialists who are necessary. It seems to me that my hon. Friend the Member for Lewisham, South (Mr. Carol Johnson) did make out a case for using a planning inquiry commission in circumstances of this kind. I do not think it is enough to say that in the case of Meldon seven years was occupied. In the first place, Meldon could not have planning permission because that was only introduced by the Act of 1968, which could hardly have been in force in 1962 which was the relevant date according to hon. Members opposite. An inquiry should not take as long as that. I should have thought two years would be enough. On the evidence of the memorandum from the Devon County Council, it does not seem to me that the case for extra urgency has as yet been made out.

I should like to ask the Minister if, supposing this Bill were rejected tonight and the planning application were made whether it would be possible within the existing law for the Government to appoint a planning inquiry commission to go into the whole of this problem and the alternatives and to hear evidence from all the interested bodies and whether it could be done in a reasonable period of time not exceeding two years. We should know this from the Minister and if it were possible I think that some powerful arguments have been advanced for not giving the Bill a Second Reading this evening.

8.35 p.m.

Photo of Mr Christopher Chataway

Mr Christopher Chataway (Chichester)

Other right hon. and hon. Members have set a good example in the brevity of their contributions and I will try to emulate them. I pay tribute to my hon. Friend the Member for Plymouth, Devon-port (Dame Joan Vickers) on the way in which she introduced the Bill and on the work she has done over the weeks in preparation for it. With my hon. Friend the Members for Tavistock (Mr. Heseltine), I believe that the Plymouth City Council could hardly have approached its task more thoroughly or with more courtesy to those involved. I have found its chairman and town clerk and all those involved for the promoters only too anxious to go to considerable trouble to put their case across. I think that one must also be impressed by the case advanced tonight by my hon. Friend the Member for Devonport.

I am sure that few hon. Members are under any illusion that there is not a price to be paid if the House agrees to this reservoir in Dartmoor. One must be impressed by the case advanced by the Countryside Commission. This part of our countryside may not be to everybody's taste. I find that Dartmoor is not my favourite piece of countryside in Great Britain, but it is rare and valuable moorland. It is unique, and when the Dartmoor Preservation Association and the other amenity societies argue that any further encroachment on Dartmoor will have a serious effect on the national park, they must be listened to with very considerable respect.

I hope that the Minister has noticed the near-unanimity with which this procedure has been criticised in the debate.

Photo of Mr Hugh Wilson

Mr Hugh Wilson (Truro)

Such near-unanimity is an accident of the choice of hon. Members called to speak. I hold the view strongly that the Private Bill procedure is much more satisfactory than the other, and I have had personal professional experience of both.

Photo of Mr Christopher Chataway

Mr Christopher Chataway (Chichester)

I did say "near-unanimity". Perhaps I should have said that it was near-unanimity up to this point. Clearly, there is not unanimity in the House. I am sure that many hon. Members would have had their faith in the present procedure undermined had they attended the two meetings laid on earlier this week, one by the promoters and one by the opponents of the Bill. The opponents' meeting took place upstairs an hour before the meeting laid on by the promoters. About four or five hon. Members were able to attend both and they must have been struck by the enormous contrast between the two sets of information advanced to them. Indeed, the photographs produced could hardly have been more different. I believe that many hon. Members will seriously question whether this procedure is such as to give the maximum chance of arriving at a sensible, rational decision in such cases as this. I can see that this procedure does raise doubt among hon. Members.

The feelings about the Bill centre around three considerations. The first is the case advanced by the Devon County Council and the Devon River Authority. The latter argues that it should be allowed to complete the Section 14 survey which it and the Cornwall River Authority assured us at our meeting would be ready by May this year. One must have sympathy with the river authorities concerned when they find that a major decision of this kind is being taken in advance of their being able to arrive at what they consider to be an over all scheme of their own.

Photo of Mr Charles Doughty

Mr Charles Doughty (East Surrey)

The Cornwall River Authority completely supports this Bill. It does not want any delay or anything of that kind.

Photo of Mr Christopher Chataway

Mr Christopher Chataway (Chichester)

I have here a letter from the Chairman of the Devon River Authority, which I could quote but I do not wish to detain the House, arguing passionately that it would be wrong for the House to pass this Bill before that authority has had an opportunity of completing its Section 14 survey, which it says it and Cornwall are just about to complete.

The other matter of major concern which I know troubles a number of hon. Members is the change in the proposal that has apparently taken place since the Water Resources Board investigated the matter and recommended the scheme in question. Much was made of this by a number of the opponents of the Bill. The scheme that now comes before the House is approximately twice the size of that which was recommended by the Water Resources Board; and I hope that the Parliamentary Secretary or the Minister, in replying, will be able to shed light on this factor.

Photo of Mr Robin Maxwell-Hyslop

Mr Robin Maxwell-Hyslop (Tiverton)

If my hon. Friend will allow me, I can shed some light on it right away. On 25th November, 1969, the Water Resources Board wrote agreeing in principle to the revised scheme; so the allegation made in the Committee Room upstairs was entirely misleading. One would like to think it was based on ignorance, but I would not wish anybody else to go on in this belief.

Photo of Mr Carol Johnson

Mr Carol Johnson (Lewisham South)

Will the hon. Gentleman not confirm, because he was present at the meeting to which he referred, that the point was made that though formal approval may have been given for the larger scheme, it never received the detailed examination that the original scheme received?

Photo of Mr Christopher Chataway

Mr Christopher Chataway (Chichester)

Upstairs we did not have the opportunity of going into this question in greater detail and my hon. Friend did have an opportunity of putting there the points that he has put to the House today. All that is apparent is that the Water Resources Board in its sixth annual report published within the last few days, says of the new scheme that it will result in a greater final yield and may influence the design of the scheme, including the possibility of a bigger reservoir; and the board refers to the scheme as now being one not envisaged in its report.

I want to put two questions principally to the Parliamentary Secretary or the Minister this evening. The first relates to the suggestion that has been advanced from various parts of the House for a planning inquiry commission under Section 62 of the 1968 Act. I have had the opportunity of discussing this with the promoters of the Bill. They feel, understandably, a considerable anxiety about this proposal. They fear that it might set the Bill back by up to five years. In a situation, however, where a number of the major authorities in an area are opposed to a scheme of this kind, the commission procedure under that 1968 Act would seem to have considerable attractions.

The other question I would like to put to the Parliamentary Secretary relates to the Plymouth water shortage. I believe there would be very few in the House who would want to jeopardise the water supplies in Plymouth. There is no doubt that the promoters of the Bill, while accepting perhaps that the need for water in South-West Devon is not a matter of such urgency, do believe that in Plymouth, unless the House passes this Measure today, there is a serious danger of a major water shortage within the next three or four years.

On the evidence and counter-evidence that is advanced it is extremely difficult for any hon. Member to come to any decision on this matter. I hope that the Government, with the advantage that they have of expert advice from the Ministry of Housing and Local Government, will be able to give the House their views on what, perhaps, is the crucial issue in coming to a decision on this matter. We have in recent months had a number of Measures of this kind. As the Minister has recognised, there is a danger of a number of further reservoir proposals in national parks. I readily agree with those who argue that in certain circumstances a reservoir can be an addition to the amenities of an area. With the pressure on recreational water, there is no doubt that many reservoirs will be welcomed, but it will not always be inappropriate to place them in national parks.

It is accepted in all parts of the House—it has been accepted since the 1949 Act—that priority should be given in national parks to amenity and access. It will, therefore, be only in very exceptional circumstances, as the Water Resources Board has said in this instance, that one will want to recommend a reservoir proposal in a national park. I hope, therefore, that we may have, perhaps not in this debate but in the near future, further clarification of the Government's attitude to proposals such as this in national parks.

Photo of Mr Peter Jackson

Mr Peter Jackson (High Peak)

Would not the hon. Gentleman agree that the recreational value of this proposal would be absolutely nil because of, for example, the height and situation of the reservoir? In other words, would he agree that there would be no recreational spin-off from this proposal?

Photo of Mr Christopher Chataway

Mr Christopher Chataway (Chichester)

I believe that that is accepted by the promoters—[Hon. MEMBERS: "No."] I can only say that at the meeting which we attended with the promoters of the Bill it was accepted that this reservoir would not be appropriate for sailing and that its recreational use would be virtually non-existent. I thought that it was accepted that nothing could be done about that aspect, though I am not suggesting that it should be decisive in this case.

8.47 p.m.

Photo of Mr Reginald Freeson

Mr Reginald Freeson (Willesden East)

I wish to say at the outset how much I have appreciated the quality of this debate; and this is one of the occasions when one can say that not just out of politeness but because every contribution has been worth listening to rather than just nodding to, as is sometimes the case in this House.

I do not want to extend my congratulations too far because, although as a Government we have a view on the Bill, I do not want to get drawn into a position in which I am taking up a judgment which will, I trust, be made elsewhere, following these proceedings. Nevertheless, the quality of the debate has been really excellent.

I will try to deal with some of the main queries which hon. Members have posed, including some of the questions asked by the hon. Member for Chichester (Mr. Chataway). I hope that I shall be treated in no greater fashion as a ping-pong ball than he was, and on this occasion I commiserate to a certain degree with the hon. Gentleman.

It might help if, first, I made some general observations about the position in regard to projects of this kind. Generally, they come before my right hon. Friend under statutory arrangements laid down by various Acts. Although there has been validity in some of the criticisms that have been made of the procedure, some of them have been rather generalised.

This is an unusual case, as hon. Members have indicated and as I shall show. Generally speaking, there are procedures under the various water Measures which result in these projects coming before my right hon. Friend, who holds an inquiry, weighs the matters for himself and comes to a decision. As was urged on me by the hon. Member for Tavistock (Mr. Michael Heseltine), I hope to indicate that the Floor of the House is not the place to come to actual planning decisions. In this place we deal with the procedure, and that is what is at issue tonight.

Plymouth was debarred from adopting the general procedures for two reasons. The first was its proposal to use the reservoir for water regulation, a point which brought it up against a flaw in the Water Resources Act, 1963, to which reference has been made. This flaw in the Act casts doubt upon the adequacy of an order in the particular circumstances. The river authorities have been advised that an order cannot protect them against possible action by riparian owners downstream to prevent them discharging waters from a reservoir into the stream.

I was questioned as to when the Government hoped to take action on this anomalous position in law. It is hoped and I believe it has been stated already in the House, to introduce legislation later this Session to deal with the anomaly.

In addition to this, a reservoir at Swincombe requires the Bill because the land is owned by the Duchy of Cornwall and therefore, under common rights, could not be acquired compulsorily. The common rights affecting Dartmoor are so complex that it would not be possible to get the title and authority other than by compulsion. The promoters needed to seek approval for their proposals in a Bill in order to put the matter beyond doubt.

What I hope to do tonight—without encroaching on matters proper to the Committee stage of the Bill—is to review the background to this proposal and the considerations which the Minister would have had in mind if the had had to take the decision himself under the more usual procedures.

The case for developing new sources of water to meet the future needs of Plymouth and South-West Devon is not seriously challenged, if it is challenged at all by anyone.

Plymouth provides water for its own needs and for some adjoining districts— in all for a population of 281,000. Consumption was 19·2 million gallons daily in 1967, 20·4 million gallons daily in 1968 and 20·8 million gallons daily in 1969. Present sources can yield only 19 million gallons daily under severe drought conditions, so already the ability to meet statutory obligations is at risk. It is estimated that the population will increase to between 300,000 and 332,000 by the end of the century, that consumption would be between 91·8 and 116·8 gallons per head daily, and that a deficiency of between 9·6 or 21 million gallons daily must be expected, according to the end of the range, within which the prospective figures show this as an actuality during this time. To this must be added the 5 million gallons daily for large and unexpected industrial demand.

Bearing in mind particularly the point made by hon. Members earlier—that there is industrial development ahead and that this is now an intermediate area—one must expect and hope that the demand will grow. If the demand does not grow, this reflects a shortfall in industrial expansion which the Government are seeking in that part of the country. They decided that they must look for a new source of water which would yield 20 million gallons daily.

The position in South-West Devon is somewhat different. As the House knows, Torbay and the surrounding area is a very popular holiday centre. The resident population in 1968 was 227,800, and consumption averaged 11·45 million gallons daily or 61 gallons per head daily during the winter. The large influx of summer visitors boosted consumption during the summer to 13·96 million gallons daily of 61 gallons per head daily of equivalent resident population and to 14·13 million gallons daily during the summer of 1969. The House will recognise that summer is the critical period.

The board can rely upon 14·8 million gallons daily from its present sources. It, too, estimated a resident population of between 291,000 and 315,000 by the end of the century with an assumed consumption of between 73 and 95 gallons per head daily of equivalent resident population. It has calculated the smallest and largest expected deficiencies and has decided that it needs a new source to yield the mean figure of 10 million gallons per day. It is calculated that there will be, between the two areas, a deficiency of about 30 million gallons daily by the end of the century. It is important to bear these basic facts in mind, and it is desirable to get them on the record whatever detailed consideration is given in Committee, as I hope will be the case.

The Water Resources Board reported in August, 1968, on the consideration given to estuarial barrages. These raised many problems apart from construction—influencing of coastal conditions, drainage of low-lying adjacent land, the loss of storage by siltation, as well as the effect of such a scheme on general amenities. A lengthy investigation would be needed, but Plymouth's water needs are immediate.

The Water Resources Board is satisfied that the cheapest means for the desalting of sea water would not be an economic alternative to the Swincombe—Tavy scheme. It has advised that the total capital and running costs of desalting alternatives up to the end of the century would be about three times those of the Swincombe—Tavy proposal. It is important to bear this in mind because the board, and any authority considering these matters, would have to take it into account.

The South-West is well furnished with alternative sites for a reservoir which have been investigated by the Water Resources Board, by the consultant engineers to the promoters, by the Countryside Commission and by landscape consultants, and by several of the petitioners. This is not a case where someone can claim that alternatives have not been examined.

The Water Resources Board examined many sites and made its choice on the adequacy of a scheme to serve both Plymouth and south-west Devon on cost and on the relative effects of each scheme on amenity, agriculture and property. It also considered Huccaby, a site on the River Dart in the national park suggested by the South-West undertakings as being better than Swincombe. The cheapest and most convenient site to meet Plymouth's sole needs was Lee Mill, and this was used as a basis for comparison of the costs of other schemes.

I should tell the House something about the sites which were examined by the board and by the promoters before being passed over in favour of Swincombe. I hope that the House will bear with me as I shall speak probably at some greater length than I usually wish to do so that I may set the scene accurately and dispassionately and so that a fair decision can be made on the Bill.

First, I deal with Townleigh in the Thrushel Valley. This scheme has been referred to mostly previously and tonight as an alternative. It would serve Plymouth and South-West Devon and is favoured by many who are opposed to the Swincombe scheme. Up to 760 acres would be flooded, almost wholly good agricultural land, including three farmsteads and six cottages. Most of the tree would be lost, and extensive landscaping and tree-planting would be needed.

The form of the valley would result in a lake 3¼ miles long, ½ mile wide and gradually narrowing with a much indented shore line. This reservoir could be an attractive one because of the continuation upwards of the valley sides to a height of some 250 feet and more above the water level so that the expanse of water would appear well contained by the surrounding hills. New planting of shrub vegetation would help to fit the dam, which would be a very short one, into the existing landscape.

Moreover, the site offers plenty of scope for making it a regional recreational centre close to the A.30 although 30 miles from Plymouth on the coast, which is the nearest large centre of population. Plymouth feels that the need for water-based recreation in this area is small. The House will be aware that any proposal to build a reservoir at Townleigh would inevitably face strong opposition from agricultural interests and, I assure hon. Members, from local residents. Furthermore, apart from the additional cost factor—Swincombe would be 15 per cent. to 20 per cent. cheaper than the most favourable development of the Townleigh site—there would be operational difficulties arising from the very long pumping main which could make Townleigh less satisfactory than Swincombe for use in regulating the River Dart and giving the South-West Devon Board the supply it requires.

Secondly, Huccaby, a site at the confluence of the West Dart and Swincombe Rivers, two miles east of the Swincombe site, is in the national park at one of the points where the wild moorland begins to meet the smaller scale landscape of the valleys that radiate from the edge of the moor. A reservoir on this site could serve Plymouth and South-West Devon and would drown one of the most attractive stretches of the River Dart.

I now turn to two sites that could serve Plymouth alone. I ask the House to remember that the promotion by Plymouth of a scheme on either of these sites would later necessitate a reservoir elsewhere for South-West Devon.

A reservoir at Lee Mill on the River Yealm would be the cheapest source of water for Plymouth. The site is in the valleys of the Rivers Yealm and Piall. The reservoir would take about 475 acres of land, about 400 acres being farmland. Nineteen houses would be destroyed, some of them attractive and two of them listed as buildings of architectural or historic interest. The dam would be conspicuous in this comparatively small-scale landscape, and the large sheet of water visible from the moor above it would not fit as satisfactorily into the scene as at Townleigh. The site is conveniently placed for recreational use.

Finally, Tor Wood on the River Lynher which could serve Plymouth alone, is in an area of high landscape value. About 300 acres of woodland and about 250 acres of agricultural land would be flooded, and two ancient monuments, Newbridge and the old clapper bridge upstream of the dam site, would be drowned. Fishing in the River Lynher might be harmed. A scheme here would be considerably more expensive than one at Lee Mill, and the water quality is suspect.

The remaining short-listed sites—Hill Bridge, Hawkes Tor, Milton Brook and Hallowell—were rejected by the Water Resources Board and the promoters, after examination.

I now turn to the Swincombe scheme, which is the subject of the Bill. It has been described earlier in outline by hon. Members, so I will not go over that ground again. It is the location and size of this proposal which are contentious. The proposals would increase the reliable yield for Plymouth by 32 million gallons daily and for South-West Devon by 17 million gallons daily. This would yield increases which should secure supplies for approximately 50 years ahead. This part of Dartmoor National Park is notable for its landscape beauty and wild quality. Situated in a shallow bowl, the reservoir, which would inundate an area of no agricultural significance, would nevertheless dominate the view from the higher ground all round, and would be visible from several directions from distances of several miles.

It might be asked whether the effect of a reservoir at Swincombe on the appearance of the area would to some extent be counter-balanced by the opportunities it would afford for the introduction of facilities for water-based recreations, such as were referred to shortly before I rose to speak. But the whole attraction of the area at present is its solitude and wild beauty, and the more attractive it becomes for other recreational purposes, however desirable they may be in themselves, the more its character and the basis of its appeal, in the past and currently, would be changed.

If the House gives the Bill a Second Reading and sends it to Committee, my right hon. Friend the Minister will report to Parliament on the Bill; he has already received reports on it from the Water Resources Board and the Countryside Commission, and, in accordance with his usual practice, he will append those reports to his own for the assistance of Parliament. Whilst I do not want to encroach on a possible Committee stage, it may be helpful if I indicate to the House briefly the views of those bodies, which have been, in certain respects, dealt with by other Members.

The Water Resources Board believes that the objections to this development in the Dartmoor National Park are out-weighed by the benefits of using the site for both the Plymouth and the South-West Devon undertakings. It is also satisfied that desalination is not an economic alternative to meet Plymouth's needs. It accordingly supports the promoters in their choice of the Swincombe-Tavy scheme.

The Countryside Commission, on the other hand, has reported to my right hon. Friend that it is opposed to the Bill. Its main objection is that the project would introduce an artificial intrusion into one of the wildest parts of the moorland. This, it says, ought to be kept in its present state for present and future generations at part of the diminishing reserve of wild country still available for access by the public for recreation of an adventurous kind.

It goes on to say that the drastic and conspicuous proposed enlargement of the leats—those are the stone-lined canals dug at various dates since the 16th century to supply water to Plymouth—would spoil the local scene and the sense of remoteness, besides interfering with access by walkers and riders and with the special enjoyment of those who resort to the wilds for inspiration, recreation and the study of nature. It drew attention to the unsuitable nature of the site for the development of other active leisure pursuits associated with water to which hon. Members have referred briefly.

Photo of Mr John Nott

Mr John Nott (St Ives)

The lack of recreational possibilities has now been mentioned three times. It is not only sailing that provides recreation. The reservoir could provide excellent trout fishing for a very large number of people travelling down to, and holidaying in, the West Country, and all sorts of other forms of water recreation, apart from sailing.

Photo of Mr Reginald Freeson

Mr Reginald Freeson (Willesden East)

I note the point, but I was seeking to outline the views represented to the Minister, having stated the Water Resources Board's representations in outline. It has made the point quite strongly that it would not be appropriate to have this kind of recreational activity for this site.

There have been other objectors to the Bill. There have been six petitions, at least one of which represents a joint effort by six amenity bodies. I do not want to go into their details and merits, because if the Bill is to go to a Committee it will be for the Committee to weigh the petitioners' case against that of the promoters. There are no fewer than six petitions, and they cover a wide variety of interests—the Duchy of Cornwall, as owners of the site, Devon County Council, the Devon River Authority, the Dart Fisheries Preservation Society, the Dartington Hall Trustees, and, last but by no means least, the joint petition to which I have referred on behalf of six bodies concerned with protecting amenity in the countryside.

The most common view is that another site would have been better, and there is strong preference for the site at Town-leigh, especially by the amenity bodies. They also express views that a shorter-term solution should be found or that Plymouth's needs alone should be met at this time. This is suggested in the hope that non-conventional sources like desalination or estuarial barrages will in the meantime become a more practicable alternative. None of the petitions seriously questions the immediate need for water for Plymouth nor the early need for South-West Devon.

I now turn to the point dealt with by hon. Members about the planning inquiry procedure. It has been suggested that a planning inquiry would be the right thing even at this stage, and that this brings into question the whole procedure before us. I do not intend to go into the question of procedure, because I have touched on it earlier, and we hope to deal with this by way of amending legislation later in the Session.

An application for planning permission would be necessary to get started either on the planning inquiry commission procedure or a normal planning inquiry procedure. The statutory requirement for a planning inquiry commission is that a special inquiry is essential to a proper evaluation of considerations of national or regional importance, or an assessment of technical or scientific aspects of an unfamiliar character. Otherwise an ordinary local inquiry is the effective way. That a case is difficult or controversial is not a sufficient reason for a planning inquiry commission, which, with its separate stages for identification of issues and local inquiries, takes longer than the ordinary inquiry procedures.

I was asked several times what we estimated the time taken to be. We believe that if a decision were taken on planning inquiry commission procedure immediately following a planning application it would take 27 months for that procedure to be gone through, even with everything smoothed out, tied up and neatly arranged. Beyond that, it is not possible for me to give an estimate, because whatever the decision arising from the public inquiry commission procedure it would still be necessary to have a Bill presented to Parliament. It would be open to Parliament to consider the matter again either shortly or, if it was referred to a Committee, to go through it in as much detail as it chose through the Select Committee procedure, which is where we come back full circle to tonight's business.

Photo of Mr Douglas Jay

Mr Douglas Jay (Battersea North)

Supposing the Bill were rejected on Second Reading, it would be possible under the law for this alternative procedure to be followed. Could my hon. Friend make the position clear?

Photo of Mr Reginald Freeson

Mr Reginald Freeson (Willesden East)

I was going to touch on that matter as I worked my way through my remarks on the planning inquiry commission. My right hon. Friend is correct on that matter, but I will come back to it later. If I can proceed through the matter stage by stage, I was indicating that there will be this length of time, 27 months, for these procedures. There are no unfamiliar technical or scientific questions involved here, though there are certainly questions of regional importance which are already fully known and appreciated.

One raises an important question as to whether within the terms of the 1968 Act the planning inquiry commission procedure would be the right one. But I am not tonight rejecting it. I am stating that there is a big question and that it should not be automatically assumed that it was the right alternative procedure. The alternatives in any case have been evaluated by a statutory body, namely the Water Resources Board, which is specifically charged with this task. It is difficult to see what more could be done in the way of research of evaluation by a commission than has already been done. I stress that, whatever may happen tonight, a Bill is in any case necessary.

The short question is: would Parliament be satisfied to accept the work of a commission as a substitute for its own Select Committee stage inquiries? It could be summed up in those terms.

Photo of Mr Carol Johnson

Mr Carol Johnson (Lewisham South)

This is a very important point. Surely the distinction would be that if the planning inquiry commission procedure were used, by the time the matter got back to the House we should all be fully informed about all the alternatives. As at present we have only one side of the story.

Photo of Mr Reginald Freeson

Mr Reginald Freeson (Willesden East)

That is fair so far as it goes, but I am not aware that it would not be possible for evidence and representations to the Select Committee, if the House decides that to be the right procedure, to cover the very ground mentioned by my hon. Friend.

Photo of Mr Carol Johnson

Mr Carol Johnson (Lewisham South)

I drew attention to that point, but I was pointing to the financial burden imposed on the opponents of the Bill, and particularly the amenity societies, which cannot afford to undertake these matters.

Photo of Mr Reginald Freeson

Mr Reginald Freeson (Willesden East)

I take the point to a degree. It is more expensive to go through the Select Committee procedure, but nevertheless there is expense involved in submitting evidence through the planning inquiry commission procedure. What is more I repeat this—it would still require a Bill. It would still be open for the same procedures to be adopted and evidence to be sought. No doubt objectors of one kind or another would be involved in the same kind of expense. I am not saying what is right or wrong about the issues involved, but whether they come before a Select Committee or before a planning inquiry commission organisations would be involved in the same kind of expenditure, whichever way the House decides tonight.

Photo of Sir Henry Legge-Bourke

Sir Henry Legge-Bourke (Isle of Ely)

Having had considerable experience in the past of being chairman and member of this type of Select Committee, may I be allowed to disabuse the House of the suggestion that it is automatic that enormous expenditure is involved? I have myself presided over a Committee which has heard independent petitioners who have had no legal assistance at all and in the face of whose evidence the Committee has bent over backwards to give every possible opportunity.

Photo of Mr Reginald Freeson

Mr Reginald Freeson (Willesden East)

The House will welcome that observation. There has been a tendency, which I regret, to treat the Select Committee procedure as if it is a kind of abuse of people's rights. I am not saying that those words have been used. It is a good procedure and we should be proud of it. We should not tend to criticise it because we have a particular problem that we are worried about.

I hope that I have summarised the matter fairly. The House is deciding tonight whether it prefers a commission as a substitute for its own Committee stage inquiry. Both ways would require investigation and evidence, and in the end a Bill would still have to come before the House.

It is true that a local inquiry, whether held by a commission or in the ordinary way by an inspector, would allow the views of objectors to be expressed and taken into consideration in a more informal and somewhat less expensive way than under the Private Bill procedure. But the promoters, in considering whether to test the Minister's view by making a planning application in a case like Swincombe, where a Bill would in any case be necessary, would have to take into account both the additional time, to which I have referred, which it would be necessary to allow for the procedures, and the extra expense to which they might be putting objectors, who may wish to petition against the Bill even though planning permission has been obtained.

Discussions about the possibility of some kind of planning inquiry into alternative sites have taken place with promoters of the Bill on several occasions. On the most recent occasion, elected representatives of the authorities promoting the Bill discussed the matter with my right hon. Friend the Minister. Apart from any other considerations, the promoters took the view that it was extremely important for them to get a decision about at least this one site as soon as possible, and, of course, they would get such a decision, one way or the other, by proceeding with their Bill.

The House may well ask—and this point has been put by my right hon. Friend the Member for Battersea, North (Mr. Jay)—what would be the position about holding an inquiry into alternative sites should the Bill not succeed in Parliament, whether in the House tonight or if it is referred to a Select Committee? If Parliament rejects the Bill, this would not necessarily exclude Swincombe from further consideration. Beyond that, the form of any inquiry into all alternatives would have to be decided in the light of specific proposals put forward.

At the outset, I said that there were a number of public interests involved. I hope I have said enough to show that each of the main alternative solutions I have mentioned has its own share of them. The need for water conflicts with the desire to preserve existing amenity. In some cases the desire to preserve amenity would also come into conflict with wide recreational use of a reservoir. Elsewhere, it is farming land which must suffer, or people's houses, or listed buildings. Some sites are more expensive than others. Some can offer a solution for only one of the promoters.

Swincombe is cheapest. It does not affect farm land but it does affect amenity. Huccaby has the same disadvantages, and it affects agriculture. Townleigh could make a good recreational centre; a reservoir there could probably enhance the amenity; but it would be more expensive in money terms. More important, the site is more expensive in terms of farm land and houses. Lee Mill gets good marks recreationally, is likely to be less offensive to amenity, but is again at the expense of farm land and houses, and this time some of the houses are listed buildings, architectural and historical.

The Water Resources Board advised Swincombe and still supports it, and so, after much investigation do the promoters. My right hon. Friend's other advisers, the Countryside Commission, would prefer the choice to fall on Townleigh. But it is Plymouth which is now pressingly in need of new sources of water.

Although I and other hon. Members have spent time this evening speaking about the alternative schemes to Swincombe, the object of the exercise is, as I hope I have stressed, not to choose the one which we prefer but to decide whether the Bill should go forward for examination in Committee. I think it should, and I believe that the promoters have formed a view about the most appropriate site for a reservoir in the light of many conflicting pulls and interests. I think they should have the chance to deploy their arguments in greater detail than they have been able to do this evening.

Moreover, I think that we are dealing with a particularly difficult case. There is no doubt in my mind that the arguments on water grounds and those on agricultural grounds very strongly support the choice of the Swincombe site for the reservoir. If that were all we had to think about, there need be no hesitation in accepting Plymouth's proposals. But here there are very cogent amenity arguments to be weighed in the balance against the scheme. I would like to see all the evidence produced and tested before a Committee so that it can assess the situation and weigh the arguments. For these reasons, against the background which I have described, I hope not too wearisomely, I recommend that the Bill be sent to the Committee for examination.

9.20 p.m.

Photo of Mr Robin Maxwell-Hyslop

Mr Robin Maxwell-Hyslop (Tiverton)

May I begin by saying that I have known Dartmoor all my life? I was born at Ivybridge, on the edge of it, and as a child I wandered, as many others have done, over Dartmoor and I am passionately fond of it. Secondly, I have visited the Swincombe site as recently as the Sunday before last. Dartmoor is not homogeneous. Dartmoor is not Exmoor. Exmoor can be accurately described as a wide open space, devoid of habitation except for farms at its edges.

Traditionally, Dartmor has a very considerable industrial element. Those concerned with the industrial archæology of the West Country know that the Stanary towns, of which Lydford and Tavistock were certainly two, had their own laws. The private ownership of land was rigorously circumscribed by the Stanary rights of search and mining for tin. The waters which flow from Dartmoor were harnessed early on, and towns like Ashburton have been wool centres and centres of manufacturing for centuries.

Although it is obvious to those who look at Dartmoor today that there are extractive industries at work in the form of clay work and quarrying, we should remember that much of the history of Dartmoor, which was only called a "forest" because the forest laws of pursuit of game applied to it, is the history of industrial activity, such as it was in those days. It has provided men throughout the centuries with their liveli- hood, not just by farming, but by works of one kind or another, by using the waters that flow from it for productive purposes.

This distinguishes Dartmoor from Exmoor, from probably the Highlands and many other parts of England. This is as much a part of the tradition of the West Country as is seafaring which sprung not only from fishing but the carrying of tin to the Mediterranean and further afield.

Photo of Mr Hugh Wilson

Mr Hugh Wilson (Truro)

I, too, have been on Dartmoor, since 1910. My hon. Friend is quite right about the industrial bit, but would he not agree that it also applies to a great many other West Country moors? There is, for example, Bodmin Moor.

Photo of Mr Robin Maxwell-Hyslop

Mr Robin Maxwell-Hyslop (Tiverton)

Yes, but we are not discussing putting a dam on Bodmin Moor. I would not dispute with my hon. Friend the number of years that we have each of us tramped Dartmoor. It is true that there are other moors with industrial connections, but it is probably fair to say that most hon. Members in this House have never visited Dartmoor. My mention of tin-mining is even more relevant, because when I visited this allegedly remote spot a couple of Sundays ago I drove all the way there by tarmac road. Upon arrival I found that there was a modern, derelict house with boarded broken windows, some derelict farm buildings, some worked out or unsuccessful tin mines. This cannot be called a spot remote from human habitation, left in pristine loveliness, which is typical of many parts of Dartmoor.

Photo of Mr John Ellis

Mr John Ellis (Bristol North West)

As a seeker after truth, and having listened to the debate since 7 o'clock, may I ask the hon. Gentleman to tell me whether this is a bog or whether it is an area of outstanding beauty? There is precious little time and I would like to know from somebody who has been there.

Photo of Mr Robin Maxwell-Hyslop

Mr Robin Maxwell-Hyslop (Tiverton)

I think that the hon. Gentleman is getting some conflicting advice from his right hon. Friend the Member for Battersea, North (Mr. Jay), but I will give him an accurate first-hand picture 10 days old. One arrives by travelling on a public tarmac road from Princetown, a remarkably unlovely venue. This road terminates in a cluster of four old cottages painted with tar varnish, two of which are inhabited as holiday houses. The remainder of them, together with the derelict farm buildings and derelict house I have described will be just above water level—alas, they will not be flooded by the reservoir.

The area which is bog varies with both the time of year and the rainfall. It is accurately said that much of Dartmoor is boggy. But, having said that, much of boggy Dartmoor is heather-covered. This is not. It is a fairly shallow bowl without many of the distinguishing characteristics of Dartmoor which, in particular, are the granite out-crops known as tors. Those are not found on Exmoor, and certainly they are not a feature of Swincombe. The area is accessible. It is not untouched by man. It is abandoned by man, which is rather different. Like anywhere else, it is a variable part of national parkland.

Emotionally, I would prefer to see no part of Dartmoor used for reservoirs. However, Burrator Reservoir is one of the most beautiful features of Dartmoor, with the surrounding tors reflected in it. The same considerations do not apply to Swincombe, because there are no tors to be reflected. I would not claim that, like Burrator, the formation of the reservoir would add to the natural beauty. Swincombe is remarkably undistinguished by natural beauty. It is a bit of abandoned land. Certainly it has a wild character, but so do many other parts of Dartmoor. It is not a loss which will cause me pain and, as I have said, I speak as a lover of Dartmoor. I was born on the edge of it, and I still love it.

It is a happy circumstances that we have not a battle between town and country in this case. We have agreement between the two. It is necessary also to say that Plymouth has very severe problems. Recently, the Government have made it a "grey" area. Is it sensible to do that with a view to attracting additional industry and employment for its people, and then to deny it the water that it needs to sustain the industry which it is hoped to attract? That does not seem very sensible.

Photo of Dr Horace King

Dr Horace King (Southampton, Itchen)

Order. Interventions prolong speeches. Many hon. Members wish to speak yet.

Photo of Mr Robin Maxwell-Hyslop

Mr Robin Maxwell-Hyslop (Tiverton)

I shall take your hint, Mr. Speaker. I will not cover all the ground that I wanted to. Most of it has been covered. But I wanted to disabuse the minds of those hon. Members who do not know Swincombe, as opposed to just a general outline of Dartmoor, of any false impressions of its characteristics.

Having started emotionally opposed to this project and having given the Parliamentary Agents acting for the promoters of the Bill a rough ride, I am satisfied that it is a necessary evil. It is the best of the alternative sites. I do not know anywhere in Dartmoor where a reservoir would do less violence to the environment. I do not know any area of Dartmoor which is less valued by people who know the moor. Obviously it has its devotees. Anywhere has. But, on balance, I think that this House should give the Bill a Second Reading and leave the Select Committee to examine the specific merits of its proposals.

9.29 p.m.

Photo of Mr John Ellis

Mr John Ellis (Bristol North West)

Having been approached or lobbied by various hon. Members who have interests, whether of their own constituents or otherwise, or being fearful that if the reservoir did not go to this place it would go to another which would affect their area, I determined to do my duty as a Member, and I have been here since six o'clock.

I have no axe to grind in any way, shape or form. I came into the Chamber purely to listen to the arguments and to decide whether it would be right to give the Bill a Second Reading. The time having reached half-past nine, I believe that I am now in a fair position to make that judgment.

I have heard demonstrated the fact that there is a need for water in Plymouth. That has not been argued against. I have also heard talk about other sites that have been looked at and considered in some detail.

I had great trouble earlier in deciding whether this was an area of outstanding distinguishing feature and beauty. I ran into some trouble on that score. There was a dispute whether it was a bog or not, whether it was a beautiful bog, and whether this was a characteristic of the area. I have the view in mind now that it is not an area that can be described as of outstanding beauty and typical of the moor that it represents, but that if there is a need for water in Plymouth, that there must be a reservoir, and that it would be a fair place for it because it would not ruin the nature of the area altogether. If that is right, I think that the House should now be in a position to give the Bill a Second Reading with all that that entails.

However, one serious point should be made. I noted in the course of the arguments that some hon. Gentlemen seemed to think that once an area had been designated as a national park not one scrap should ever thereafter be taken from it. I dispute that view. I believe that it is right that this House should decide the matter.

From that point of view, whatever the procedures are, one matter we always discuss is whether people and pressure groups have an adequate channel for their discussions. I think that people in this area, whether they agree or not, will rest easier in their beds tonight knowing that that place has been discussed in this place. This is a fine institution, and I think that we have done justice by seeing that all those voices were represented here tonight. Hon. Gentlemen opposite have played a part. Therefore, I am not unhappy about the procedure that we have adopted in this case, not one iota. I hope that the Bill will get a Second Reading, because I believe that we have tried to satisfy the different points of view expressed tonight about the need for water in that area.

If the reservoir is built, there will, I am sure, be a natural concern in making water supplies available; but I should like people to be able to get to it and see it. If possible, sailing and fishing should be allowed. I believe that it should be used for some kind of recreation.

I come from North Yorkshire where there are moors. I do not accept that the building of a reservoir destroys the natural beauty of a place. Some of our most beautiful views are of reservoirs which have been tastefully built. A reservoir can enhance the appearance of a valley. But all too often in the past—I am talking about places serving Leeds, Bradford and other areas—because local authorities had greater powers, they sought to exclude the public. I do not share some people's ideas of having a national park in solitude, because no one goes to enjoy it. We must keep a balance. We should have regard to making it accessible to cars so that people can get out to enjoy it, because nowadays most people do not bother to walk very far. There are many places in which people can find solitude. I believe that we can do justice to the area and to the various conflicting interests.

9.35 p.m.

Photo of Sir Peter Emery

Sir Peter Emery (Honiton)

I shall be as brief as possible because at least five more hon. Members wish to speak, and I hope that they will all be able to do so if we limit our speeches to about four minutes each.

We appreciate the Minister's finally coming down in support of the Bill, but when we have only three hours for debate I deprecate a Minister's taking 20 per cent. of the time. It is rather encroaching on the good nature of the House, particularly when we are considering a local matter affecting so many people.

I was in some difficulty about the decision I had to make. What is wrong about the way in which the decision has been made is that we have had to have a decision on Meldon and then a decision on Swincombe. The necessary water requirements of the South-West should have been decided initially and there should have been one scheme—perhaps even an enlarged scheme. The Water Resources Board should have done this with the South-West Regional Economic Planning Council. I only hope that other areas can learn from this example that we should not deal with such a problem piecemeal, because we then have the worst of all possible worlds.

There is no doubt that Plymouth has gone to great trouble in the way in which it has presented the proposal. There is an essential need in the South-West.

I am somewhat concerned about the way in which Devon County Council has been at sixes and sevens over the matter. Hon. Members have been kept in touch about what is going on, and it was only today that I was informed finally that the council was petitioning against the Bill absolutely. Technical reasons were given to us previously. I believe that the council has taken this view mainly because the Dartmoor National Park Committee is a committee of the council and it feels an obligation to go along with the views and feelings of one of its committees, whereas I still know that there is very strong opposition to the council's having had to take the view that it has in petitioning against the Bill.

Photo of Sir Peter Emery

Sir Peter Emery (Honiton)

I hope that when the Bill reaches Committee, as I hope it will, extra thought will be given to the question of fishing on the Dart. There are some real problems about fishing on the Dart, but they can be overcome. When the Committee considers this, the views of the river authority should be borne in mind, together with those of the people who own fishing rights on the Dart. I believe that their rights can be properly safeguarded.

I urge the House to give the Bill a Second Reading.

9.38 p.m.

Photo of Mr Arthur Blenkinsop

Mr Arthur Blenkinsop (South Shields)

I intervene very briefly because I have always had a very special interest in the development of our national parks and the problems inevitably associated with developments proposed within them.

Some time ago, before I was a Member of this House, I prepared a report on the whole future and development of our national parks and visited them all, including Dartmoor. Therefore, I have a particular concern about the way in which the proposals put forward tonight might very well affect that national park.

The House has a specific and very special responsibility for national parks. The priority that preservation must take in these limited areas has often been stressed. Most of us understand, particularly in European Conservation Year, the almost exceptional reason why we should give it special consideration. We in this country face pressures on all sides, and it is all too easy to give way, first for one reason and then for another, and in the process to lose certain facilities that we should protect, facilities which meet certain needs. It is the responsibility of the House to protect them.

I agree with those who have said that one certainly should not assume that the development of an artificial sheet of water is necessarily a destruction of amenity values. It entirely depends upon where it is. There are many which we have welcomed in many parts of our countryside, and I am one who has welcomed some of those on certain occasions. There are others coming up affecting the area where I live, and again in all probability we shall regard them as a valuable contribution to the variety of the landscape and to the appearance of the area.

But here I do not believe this can be said. Already considerable areas in Dartmoor have been lost, and this is one of the tragedies, both by military action and also by other reservoir developments which have already taken place. I agree entirely with the hon. Member for Tavistock (Mr. Michael Heseltine), who perfectly fairly put the case, that one cannot examine this proposal on its own. One has to examine its effect together with the effect of the other developments which have taken place on Dartmoor. It is for that reason that I think that we need to have a very special concern about what effect this will have. I am rather surprised that hon. Members should have cast doubt—and I am sure they know better than I do—on the attitude of the county council, because, after all, Devon County Council has submitted its views to us at the end of which it says very clearly: the County Council therefore humbly submit that your honourable House should decline to give a Second Reading to this Bill. Nothing could be clearer than that.

I share the anxieties of hon. Members about the whole of the procedure that we use. I do not agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Bristol, North-West (Mr. John Ellis). I do not think this is a satisfactory procedure for dealing with these matters. I should like to see a different procedure developed, but as the matter is before us I sincerely suggest that we cannot, as matters stand, give a Second Reading to the Bill.

9.43 p.m.

Photo of Mr Charles Doughty

Mr Charles Doughty (East Surrey)

First, I should like to deal briefly with the question of the procedures which we adopt. What has been suggested by some hon. Members is that we should have a double procedure first, with a lengthy and expensive inquiry, and then, a procedure involving coming back before the House for some proposal of a Second Reading of the Bill and matters of that kind, followed by reference to a Select Committee. I think this is so, unless hon. Members are suggesting that we should delegate our decisions to an independent body, and I am certain that they are not doing that. Therefore, it is incumbent upon the House to decide whether to give the Bill a Second Reading or not.

Many Members will be wondering why, since I represent a Surrey constituency, I am talking about this matter. I shall enlighten them. On the map provided by the promoters of the Bill, they will see the rivers of Walkham and Tavy which meet at what is appropriately called "double waters". Just south of there is a house with fishing on the Tavy, which is owned by my family. I go there frequently in the summer, if not the winter, and I know the district extremely well. I say at once that I also know that Plymouth is in need of water. It is just about now running level. Although this matter does not affect the Bill, I think that they are taking too much from Hopwell dam and should go further downstream. However, that is another story.

I want to put on record for the Select Committee that it is high time that the electricity board which extracts a lot of water from the Tavy which otherwise would go for Plymouth's availability should not be doing so. I do not believe that it needs that water. It has a very small hydro-electric scheme there. It takes the water from the Tavy at Tavistock and has a generating station on the River Tamar into which the water is finally put. This is wrong. I am sure that if pressure were put on the Board to stop taking that water it would do so.

The Plymouth authority and the South-West Devon Water Board would have to come before the House separately. I heard what the hon. Gentleman had to say about the Lea Valley, but that is not suitable for Plymouth and the South-West Devon authority as well. Two separate applications would have to be made. They would both concern agricultural land and would entail destroying farms and houses and so forth. I do not want unduly to run down the alternative site, but hon. Members who have received from some amenity societies a picture of a lovely top of a tor with hikers going around it should realise that it does not bear any relation to Swincombe.

The best place for the reservoir is where proposed. It would provide the water required. It would take a few years to build but it would be an advantage to the amenities of the district. The Plymouth Water Board itself said that there is good fishing at the Burrator reservoir. Indeed, it is a great asset to the neighbourhood. I am certain when the new reservoir is constructed it will have the same amenity, although whether it is too windy for sailing I cannot tell. I shall not express any opinion as to what form of recreation could be provided on the reservoir. However, I am certain that amenities could be provided, for fishing, or sailing or water skiing, and that it would be an attraction even to those who merely visit in their cars and look at the scene while picnicking.

I have a knowledge of the district and of its needs, and certainly of Plymouth's needs. I ask the House to give the Bill its Second Reading. I am not unmindful of the interests of the national park and of the need to preserve green belts and amenities. Every thing must be considered against the background of needs and common sense. I am certain that, when hon. Members have fully considered this matter, they will conclude that they should give the Bill a Second Reading and let the matter go to a Committee which can hear all the objectors and report back to the House, Perhaps I am anticipating the outcome, but I am sure that such a Committee would let the Plymouth and South-West Devon Water Boards build the reservoir where they wish.

9.49 p.m.

Photo of Mr Raymond Mawby

Mr Raymond Mawby (Totnes)

Like my hon. Friend the Member for Tavistock (Mr. Michael Heseltine), I have had to make almost an agonising decision about this plan. This is a joint exercise by Plymouth and the South-West Devon Water Board. In joining together to promote the Bill they are doing what Parliament has asked them to do, through the Water Resources Act. That Act was passed in order to avoid small authorities having to come with piecemeal proposals. The idea was to move to an entirely new system. In this case the South-West Devon Water Board is just as interested as Plymouth, and if its need is not perhaps as great as that of Plymouth, nevertheless it has a need.

The hon. Member for South Shields (Mr. Blenkinsop) raised several important points. He dealt with the amenity questions. Obviously, this is one of the great considerations one has to take into account, because those who are Members for this area have to balance amenity considerations with the more human needs of our constituencies. Obviously, a balance will always have to be maintained between the two factors, and one can certainly not do other than consider that balance.

It has been said that many surveys were made. As I understand it, this is the first water Bill to come before this House having received the blessing of the Water Resources Board. After all, that board was set up to do this kind of job, and this is the first Bill to have the benefit. The hon. Gentleman quite fairly referred, as did others, to the Section 14 survey being carried out by the Devon River Board and asked whether we could not wait until this had been completed.

If we look at the needs of Plymouth we see that the average summer demand will exceed the reliable supply by 1971. If this Bill goes through its normal process before a Select Committee it means that when the works are completed the additional water supply will not be available until 1975; so even if we give the Bill a Second Reading tonight those concerned are four years adrift in all the projections they make.

The question of the planning inquiry council, again, is extremely important, and we should consider what it would mean. First, it would mean that the kind of timetable mentioned by the Minister, 27 months, would result in the process over that period of time quite possibly blighting a number of properties. After all, all of us have seen examples of properties which remained blighted over a period of time when everyone knows that it may well be that at the end of the day the property will not be required. Nevertheless, over that period the owner of the blighted property cannot sell it if he wishes to do so. Thus, the citizen is considerably restricted for no apparent good reason. This is one question which we have seriously to consider.

While the planning inquiry commission idea looks attractive at first sight, it has a number of drawbacks. The big drawback is that mentioned by the Minister, that even after the commission a Bill has still to be drafted. As he pointed out, through the flaw in the Water Resources Act and the peculiar circumstances of the powers which are required for these two authorities to carry out their works, those cannot be done by Order procedure and must be done by a Private Bill procedure.

It may well be that this House in its wisdom at some future date will change the law with regard to these particular matters. Obviously, this is something on which we all have our own ideas although I would certainly refute the hon. Gentleman's suggestion that people cannot appear before a Select Committee objecting to a Private Bill without large funds. I support my hon. Friend's point. After all, he has had much more experience of Select Committees than I have. But I have known of many cases in which a Committee has leaned over backwards to make sure that someone with no funds at all has been able to put his case effectively before the Select Committee so that it could amend a Bill if that particular objector, even though he was not legally represented, put before it a good case for a change.

Whatever we do in future, Plymouth and south west Devon cannot wait. This is the most important factor.

Photo of Mr Frederic Bennett

Mr Frederic Bennett (Torquay)

Is my hon. Friend saying that if the Bill is not given a Second Reading tonight the people of South Devon will shortly be short of water?

Photo of Mr Raymond Mawby

Mr Raymond Mawby (Totnes)

Yes. My hon. Friend asks a question which raises a major problem. The Government have set up various boards and are trying to interest people in visiting the West Country. Not all the visitors want to tramp on Dartmoor, and even those who do want the luxury, after their walk, of a hot bath and food cooked in wholesome, fresh water.

I have been worried by a letter which purports to come from the Chairman of the Devon River Board. The hon. Member for Lewisham, South (Mr. Carol Johnson) and others have quoted from it, but although the River Dart runs right through the middle of my constituency, I have not received a copy of of it. While I make no complaint about that, I obviously cannot comment on the letter, except the point in it about the so-called pollution of the River Dart.

This matter is not referred to by the Devon River Board in its objection to the Bill. Indeed, the point has never been raised. The fishery authorities are, naturally, concerned about the Bill and about any possible change in the flow of the Dart because salmon still spawn in the higher reaches of the river. However accommodations have been reached between the promoters and these bodies, including the Devon River Board, with a view to altering the original flows to ensure that the objections are met.

The South-West Devon Water Board abstracts water from the gravels just before the weir and estuarial flow of the River Dart. The water of the Dart will be more regulated over the year between the seasons; and if Plymouth were to prevent a good flow of water down the Dart it would be damaging its

partner, the South-West Devon Water Board, which will continue to seek to abstract water from the gravels in the lower reaches of the Dart. Thus, water will be added to the Dart in low flow conditions, and this will mean a better regulated river than we have at present, with an abnormal flush compared with almost drought conditions.

Having considered all the facts, it seems that, by and large, the operation of the Bill will be of benefit to, rather than to the detriment of, the River Dart. On that basis we should support the Bill. The Minister pointed out that we are not making a decision tonight as to the final appearance of the Bill. He made a valuable suggestion when he said, in effect, "Let the Bill go into Committee upstairs, where it can be thoroughly considered". On that basis, I urge the House to give it a Second Reading.

Question put, That the Question be now put:—

The House divided: Ayes 120, Noes 23.

Division No. 98.]AYES[10.0 p.m.
Armstrong, ErnestFletcher, Ted (Darlington)Lubbock, Eric
Ashton, Joe (Bassetlaw)Ford, BenMacArthur, Ian
Astor, JohnFoster, Sir JohnMcBride, Neil
Bagier, Gordon A. T.Freeson, ReginaldMacColl, James
Barber, Rt. Hn. AnthonyGalpern, Sir MyerMackenzie, Alasdair (Ross & Crom'ty)
Bennett, Sir Frederic (Torquay)Ginsburg, DavidMaclennan, Robert
Bessell, PeterGower, RaymondMcMillan, Tom (Glasgow, C.)
Binns, JohnGreenwood, Rt. Hn. AnthonyMcNamara, J. Kevin
Bishop, E. S.Gunter, Rt. Hn. R. J.Marks, Kenneth
Boardman, Tom (Leicester, S. W.)Hamilton, James (Bothwell)Maxwell-Hyslop, R. J.
Braine, BernardHamilton, William (Fife, W.)Maydon, Lt.-Cmdr. S. L. C.
Brewis, JohnHamling, WilliamMiller, Dr. M. S.
Brown, Bob (N'c'tle-upon-Tyne, W.)Hannan, WilliamMills, Peter (Torrington)
Buchanan, Richard (G'gow, Sp'burn)Harper, JosephMitchell, R. C. (S'th'pton, Test)
Buchanan-Smith, Alick (Angus, N & M)Harrison, Walter (Wakēfield)Monro, Hector
Campbell, B. (Oldham, W.)Hart, Rt. Hn. JudithMorgan-Giles, Rear-Adm.
Chataway, ChristopherHawkins, PaulMorris, Alfred (Wythenshawe)
Concannon, J. D.Hay, JohnMorris, Charles R. (Openshaw)
Cooper-Key, Sir NeillHeffer, Eric S.Nott, John
Crawshaw, RichardHeseltine, MichaelOgden, Eric
Crouch, DavidHooson, EmlynO'Halloran, Michael
Davidson, James (Aberdeenshire, W.)Howie, W.Osborn, John (Hallam)
Dodds-Parker, DouglasHoy, Rt. Hn. JamesOwen, Dr. David (Plymouth, S'tn)
Doig, PeterIrvine, Bryant Godman (Rye)Pannell, Rt. Hn. Charles
Doughty, CharlesJenkin, Patrick (Woodford)Peel, John
Dunwoody, Dr. John (F'th & C'b'e)Jones, Dan (Burnley)Pentland, Norman
Ellis, JohnJones, T. Alec (Rhondda, West)Perry, Ernest G. (Battersea, S.)
Emery, PeterKitson, TimothyPerry, George H. (Nottingham, S.)
Errington, Sir EricLeadbitter, TedPowell, Rt. Hn. J. Enoch
Eyre, ReginaldLee, Rt. Hn. Frederick (Newton)Probert, Arthur
Faulds, AndrewLegge-Bourke, Sir HarryRhys Williams, Sir Brandon
Fernyhough, E.Lewis, Ron (Carlisle)Ridsdale, Julian
Fisher, NigelLomas, KennethRoberts, Rt. Hn. (Normanton)
Fitch, Alan (Wigan)
Short, Rt. Hn. Edward (N'c'tle-u-Tyne)Varley, Eric G.Williams, Donald (Dudley)
Silvester, FrederickVickers, Dame JoanWilson, Geoffrey (Truro)
Steel, David (Roxburgh)Wainwright, Edwin (Dearne Valley)Woodburn, Rt. Hn. A.
Taylor, Edward M. (G.gow, Cathcart)Wainwright, Richard (Colne Valley)Woof, Robert
Temple, John M.Wall, Patrick
Thorpe, Rt. Hn. JeremyWatkins, David (Consett)TELLERS FOR THE AYES:
Turton, Rt. Hn. R. H.Weatherill, BernardMr. John Pardoe and
Urwin, T. W.Wilkins, W. A.Mr. Ray Mawby.
NOES
Allaun, Frank (Salford, E.)Hornby, RichardNoel-Baker, Rt. Hn. Philip
Bennett, Dr. Reginald (Gos. & Fhm)Houghton, Rt. Hn. DouglasPrice, Thomas (Westhoughton)
Bidwell, SydneyJackson, Peter M. (High Peak)Roebuck, Roy
Blenkinsop, ArthurJay, Rt. Hn. DouglasSt. John-Stevas, Norman
Body, RichardJohnson, Carol (Lewisham, S.)Spriggs, Leslie
Booth, AlbertKirk, Peter
Brinton, Sir TattonLee, John (Reading)TELLERS FOR THE NOES:
Davies, E. Hudson (Conway)McGuire, MichaelMr. Angus Maude and
Davies, S. O. (Merthyr)Newens, StanMr. A. H. Macdonald.

Question put accordingly and agreed to.

Bill accordingly read a Second time and committed.