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Orders of the Day — Rural Water Supplies Bill.

– in the House of Commons on 22nd February 1934.

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Order for Second Reading read.

3.59 p.m.

Photo of Mr Edward Young Mr Edward Young , Sevenoaks

I beg to move, "That the Bill be now read a Second time."

It might be difficult for me in explaining the present Bill to deal with considerations which must be present in the minds of hon. Members if I did not make some statement on the temporary state of affairs brought about by the present drought. There are really two situations, a temporary situation and a permanent situation, which grade one into the other. What is the present position of affairs? For the last 10 months we have had a drought of exceptional severity, but the House will be interested to know that, although severe, it is by no means unprecedented. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Wakefield (Mr. A. Greenwood) will remember that the last drought which took place in 1929 was not as bad as this one. The drought before that was the great drought of 1921, and figures show that that was a more severe drought than the present one. There is an illuminating figure. The percentage of average rainfall was as low in 1921 as 70 whereas in the drought of 1933 the percentage was only as low as 86. So far, therefore, the present drought, although severe, is not so bad as that of 1921. It is better in one circumstance, and that is the very good rainfall that we had at this time last year which stored the reservoirs of the water undertakings. It is worse in one respect in that it has gone on rather longer than the drought of 1921, and, unfortunately, at the present time, there are no signs of a break, although, of course, we know in this climate that it is capable of raining at any time without any notice.

What is the state of affairs which has resulted from that unfortunate record of dry months? Let me deal with it under two heads, which are really quite different questions—first of all, the position of the towns which have their great water supplies, and, secondly, the position of the rural districts which have their special difficulties. In the towns at the present time, owing to the fine organisa- tion of the water undertakers, the position has been well maintained. The reserves are, indeed, seriously diminished. On an average, I think, one might say that they stand at about one-half what they would normally be at this time of the year. Notwithstanding that, up to the present time there has been no exceptional difficulty or hardship in getting regular supplies in towns, and that position is secure for the immediate future. I think that I cannot better put the state of affairs before the House than by reading the report of one town where the position has been exceptionally difficult, that is, the city of Bristol. It is typical of a town which has had special difficulties. The engineer of the Bristol Water Company said in an official statement reported in the issue of "Water and Water Engineering," for 20th January: Of all the large cities, Bristol has been the most unfortunate in its rainfall. The company's storage capacity is 2,500 million gallons, and when by the fourth week in November this capacity had been reduced to 700 million gallons the company started a publicity campaign calling the attention of consumers to the serious position, and asking them to co-operate in preventing waste. This campaign had the very gratifying effect of reducing the consumption by upwards of 25 per cent. and, with the help of an adjoining authority, whose surplus has been purchased, the company has been able to maintain constant service. Although the continued absence of rain is causing some misgiving as far as the supply during the summer is concerned, there is no immediate anxiety as regards the near future. I quote this particular case to bring out these points. As I said, the situation is secure for the immediate future, but there is some anxiety as to further periods. In the meanwhile this company, which is characteristic of others, has been taking emergency measures within its powers, both by restricting the use of water and increasing the supply, to deal with the situation.

How are we to confront the possibility of a continued drought as regards towns? I would summarise the present position in this way: We have a serious warning that we must not leave measures neglected to secure the future in the event of a continuation of the drought. The engineers report that if during March we have a good rainfall, then the situation will be completely secure, apart from minor inconveniences. If not, then we must be prepared for exceptional measures, and now is not too early to take exceptional measures to secure the position. I must not deal with too many technical details, but I think the House will be interested to hear very briefly what the exceptional emergency measures are that can be taken as regards town supplies for security in the future. I will mention the headings in the catalogue. First of all there is the question of the reduction of compensation water allowed to flow from the reservoirs of the companies to maintain in the rivers a regular supply of water. If need be, that is to be reduced so as to secure the essential supply. Secondly, there is the removal of restrictions on increasing the amount of water taken from various sources. Next there is the emergency development of new sources which are known to be available but which have not at present been exploited. Next, and of course, most important, and also most inconvenient, is the restriction of the user of water which is necessary in order to economise supply. Lastly, in this little catalogue there are measures which may be taken to secure a more effective distribution by enabling one authority to get the water of which another has a surplus.

These measures are well known to those in charge of these undertakings. I have addressed a general circular as to these emergency measures to all water undertakings, enjoining the immediate adoption of such emergency measures where they are necessitated by the state of the reservoirs of the water supplies in question. If I may say so, the issue of that circular is well understood by those responsible for the technical side of water undertakings. It is understood as a symbol that the time has come for taking such emergency measures as may unfortunately be necessary in the public interest. The result of the circular should be that by agreement and arrangement as many of those precautions as can be taken will be taken by those responsible for town water supplies. Let me say, in order to justify those responsible for town water supplies, that many of these measures in many cases have already been taken, and where they have not already been taken, they will by agreement and arrangement be put into force by the water authorities.

We may be confronted by an even graver situation which, fortunately, is not yet in view, but of course it is necessary to give some consideration to the necessity of even further measures other than the signal for initial precautions now given. These further emergency measures must, if necessary, take the form of special powers in order to make absolutely sure that all these precautions—these additional supplies, these restrictions on user, the spreading of the available water—can be enforced in the interests of industry, agriculture and the public at large for its domestic use. Needless to say, such a further step as that entails very great inconvenience, and probably other consequences which must not be lightly incurred. Nevertheless, if the drought does continue during March, it will be necessary for our authorities, and for this House, to confront the advisability of taking measures of that sort.

I am in immediate consultation with the following bodies as regards the time and the nature of such emergency measures—the British Waterworks' Association, the Institute of Water Engineers, who, as it were, concentrate only on town supplies, the County Councils' Association, and the Rural District Councils' Association, who bring to a head the knowledge as to the rural position. I am in consultation with them, and, when the moment comes for the further steps to which I have referred, in the event of the continuation of the drought, such further steps will be taken. We have the programme of measures ready, and we shall steadily and progressively put them into force, in order to mitigate the evils of the drought, if the continuance of the drought makes it necessary, in addition to those steps which we have already taken.

I am sure the House will realise that such measures as I have described—the over-riding measures of protecting the water supply—are not such as ought to be prematurely taken, unless they are necessitated by a continuance of the drought. They are not such as ought to be taken prematurely, because they must necessarily impose inconvenience to the public, and inconvenience to industry as well, and such inconvenience should not be imposed unless it is necessary for the protection of supplies. On this aspect of the question, I would like to call attention to a letter by a well-known practical water engineer, Mr. Howard Humphreys, which appears in the "Times" to-day, dealing with the technical side of the matter in such a well-written manner that I think it may be interesting to the House to consider the aspect which he puts forward in confirmation of the view I have just presented to the House.

Let me turn from the position of urban supplies to the more difficult question of rural supplies. In the rural areas, of course, the position is always most anxious, always more difficult, because there you have not got the great powerful organisation of the town water undertakings to rely upon, and when drought comes, as it is coming at the present time in this country, it is unfortunately the case that, in the rural areas, hardships are suffered, and suffered in proportion to the remoteness of the rural area, and also in proportion to the physical conditions of the area and the natural facilities for obtaining a water supply. The question is, what can be done in order to mitigate the characteristic hardships of drought in the rural areas? Let me emphasise that you cannot, when you are dealing with rural areas, do as I have just been doing in the case of urban areas, and lay down any general programme of more or less formal measures which will be applicable to all the rural areas. That is impossible, because the water problem and its relief in rural areas is intrinsically a problem which varies from area to area, and according to the natural conditions of the area.

Let me mention two or three special measures which are of use in protecting a rural area against such hardships as can be suffered in case of drought. There are, of course, in the first place, measures for making available new sources of water supply which are known to be there, and which can be brought into use in any emergency. Secondly, and even more important, there is the question of purifying sources which otherwise would not be available because they are impure. That, I think, is almost the most important measure that can be taken in rural areas. The modern process of purification, so easily applied and requiring but little technical knowledge, renders it possible to bring into use perhaps some stream which has not been used, or some well which has not been quite safe to use, and make it available in case of emergency with complete safety to the public health. The last of the important measures which I will mention for assisting in the mitigation of the hardships of drought in rural areas is that of distribution from house to house. In the last resort, when all other supplies have failed, it may be necessary, in order to come to the rescue of a really afflicted community, to organise house-to-house distribution.

I have dealt at such length with the technical aspect of the mitigation of the hardships of drought in the rural areas in order to lead up to the measures which are most effective for their prevention. Special measures have to be applied in the case of particular areas; it is not possible to lay down hard-and-fast schemes for the whole country. As to the manner in which I propose to deal with them, I am communicating with all the rural district councils in the country, and requesting them to report to me as a matter of urgency, in the first place, what emergency measures they have already taken to relieve any water shortage—I should say that that will bring out the places where there is a water shortage—and, in the second place, what further measures of the sort can be taken.

The engineering inspectors of the Ministry of Health will be available at short notice to help rural areas to create emergency measures. That is essential because often a rural area has not the necessary technical staff available for dealing with its own situation. If necessary, I shall make temporary additions to the expert staff of the Ministry in order to deal with any press of work. The replies of the councils, when I get them, will be dealt with at the Ministry of Health as a matter of urgency, and the assistance which the Government can give in carrying out their proposals for dealing with the state of emergency and hardship which exists when there is lack of water will be promptly given by the Ministry of Health and by the Government. Let me make it clear that the assistance which must then be brought to bear on the emergency owing to the drought in the rural areas is distinct from the permanent assistance which is proposed. I am sure the House will realise the extreme importance from the public point of view of dealing with the difficulties of the present conditions, and of trying to relate the emergency measures now taken to the permanent measures which we hope will be taken under the Bill, in such a manner that there may be no waste of effort as between the two.

That is the present state of affairs as regards the difficulties due to the drought, the emergency remedies which it is proposed to apply, and the machinery by which those remedies shall be applied. Let me pass on to deal with the permanent scheme contained in the present Bill, to which I am asking the House to give a Second Reading. It must be well known to all those, of whom there are many in the House, who are acquainted with the conditions of life in the rural areas, that this problem of the improvement of water supplies in the rural areas is one which has been rapidly ripening for attention and effort in recent years. I think that that is due more than anything else to the spreading out of the town into the country, which has intensified the problem in two ways—first, of course, by increasing the population and creating fresh demands for water for domestic and industrial purposes, even in rural areas; and, secondly, the problem has been intensified by the rural dweller's knowledge of the standards of convenience enjoyed by the town dweller. Knowing of the greater measure of convenience which can be enjoyed by so many people, all of us, quite naturally, come to look upon that as a convenience and amenity which we all ought to be able to share. In fact, the standard of civilisation is slowly rising, and what yesterday may have been a luxury becomes to-day, quite naturally and properly, a necessity of life for civilised families.

I have dealt with the demand; now as to the supply. I have already emphasised the outstanding circumstance that the supply of this demand in rural areas is, owing to the nature of the problem, a local problem. Ample supplies of water are available at a certain price in the local areas. In many cases adequate supplies can be made available at a price by tapping or linking up with neighbouring water supplies. It is very tempting sometimes to contemplate large ideas about the distribution of water as a universal commodity all over the country from central sources of supply, but I do not think that that idea is entertained by practical men. The cost of the great mains that would be necessary would be entirely prohibitive from the point of view of the rural dweller.

I would suggest for the consideration of the House that the great advance that can be made towards improving our standard of civilisation in this matter as regards rural dwellers is lying waiting to our hands in the better development of the actual supplies available in the rural areas themselves. For instance, there is of course plenty of water under the soil, and that can be got by driving a borehole and by a small expenditure for a reservoir and a simple pump. A small expenditure—now we come to the actual crux of the matter. The expenditure is small, but in the past it has been too much for the rural areas. There is a gap between the possible permanent enrichment of the standards of life in the rural areas and what is just possible economically by the unsupported finances of the rural areas themselves. This is a shining example of the kind of gap which exists between the possibility of creating a real asset and the direct finances available, and which it is appropriate to cover by spreading the financial burden over a wider area than the rural parish itself, and as is now proposed, by spreading it over the widest possible area, namely, the area of the nation as a whole.

I have considered a very large number of possible rural schemes from the financial point of view, and I think the following figures are typical. In order to get a supply which would be on quite a reasonable basis as regards engineering outlay, it would be necessary to impose a consumer's rate of about 2s. in the £, and, in addition to that, a rate-in-aid of at least 3s. would be necessary. Small as that rate becomes when it is imposed on a small agricultural cottage or the like, it is nevertheless undeniable that a financial burden as great as that in order to obtain an improved water supply is one which is too great for the unsupported finances of the parish itself to bear, and in these circumstances we come forward with a proposal to continue, as I have said, a policy initiated in the past by a further spread of the financial burden over a wider area. What I mean is that at the present time there is on our Statute Book an enactment that the county councils and the rural district councils can of their own will make their contributions in order to provide water in a rural parish, and spread the burden of the rate-in-aid over the area of the rural district council and of the county council. The present proposal carries that a step further by proposing to spread the assistance over the wider area of the nation as a whole.

I do not think I need justify the use of public money for this present purpose. It is, as I have said, a matter of common knowledge to those who are acquainted with the conditions of life in rural areas that here is a valuable asset which may be realised at a comparatively small expense, an asset which I do not hesitate to say is the most valuable that can be at once developed by financial help in the improvement of the conditions of the rural dweller. Let me now say a word about the actual scheme, and the conditions under which the Bill proposes that the finance shall be met. The sum put at the disposal of the Ministry of Health for the purposes of encouraging these works is £1,000,000. That sum, in accordance with the survey which I have had made of the possibilities of the work to be done, will be enough to enable us to reap, if I may so put it, that harvest of benefit for the rural districts by carrying out the work which is ready at hand waiting to be done in the improvement of their water supplies. Let me, however, call the attention of the House to the fact that the £1,000,000 does not represent the total cost of the schemes which will be carried out. The £1,000,000 is the State contribution, and that £1,000,000, added to the contributions from the local authorities themselves, making a very much bigger sum, will be the total cost of the work when it is completed. This £1,000,000 is not the measure of the work to be done; the measure of the work to be done is the larger sum arrived at by adding the £1,000,000 to the contributions of the local authorities.

As I have said already, it is not proposed to override the existing law under which the county councils and the rural district councils are expected to contribute towards making these improvements in the parish areas or in the larger areas as the case may be. That is a most important and most appropriate provision, which we have done our best to recommend to the attention of the county councils. It will now be brought into co-ordination with the employment of the grant under the new scheme. The first condition of affairs necessary to attract the grant will be that there is need for help in the rural area owing to the financial condition of the area—that the case is one of those to which I have referred where the gap is too big to be covered without some central help. The second thing to be seen to is that the county council makes its proper contribution in all cases in which it is right that it should make a contribution in order to attract the State grant. The rural district council, which is the responsible authority for carrying out water undertakings, where it is right and proper that it should do so, will be asked to make its contribution. The grant we are making will come in to bridge the gap after you have brought into account the consumers' rate—the consumer will be expected to pay a reasonable rate—and the contributions of the local authorities.

Photo of Mr George Lambert Mr George Lambert , South Molton

Must the local authorities contribute before the Government contribution is available?

Photo of Mr Edward Young Mr Edward Young , Sevenoaks

I have not said "must." I have not specified that as an absolute condition but, where it is right and proper that other local authorities should contribute, they will be expected to do so. There may be cases in which no such contributions will be appropriate. That will depend upon the circumstances in the actual case.

Photo of Mr David Kirkwood Mr David Kirkwood , Dumbarton District of Burghs

Is it not the case that, if the county councils had played their part, the rural districts would not be in the dreadful straits that they are?

Photo of Mr Edward Young Mr Edward Young , Sevenoaks

As regards that, let us let bygones be bygones. What we want to do is to get the best possible supply, and for that purpose the co-operation of the county councils is necessary. I should not like to let pass in silence the suggestion that all county councils have been backward. I will provide the hon. Member with an interesting and encouraging list of county councils which have done very good work indeed in making contributions for assisting rural schemes. The House will, no doubt, be disposed to ask what are the conditions. I do not think I could specify any conditions. It is an elastic scheme as regards the way in which the money is to be spent and as regards the amount of the grant. No percentage is, specified for the grant. That, again, is a necessary recognition of what I have described as the extremely local character of the problem of the supply of water in rural areas. I anticipate that the amount of the grant necessary will vary within wide limits from one locality to another, and to make the best use of the grant and not waste any of it in places where it is not required, so as to have more available in places where it is required, is, no doubt, a wise course, without any specification as to the amount of the grant.

The Amendment is characteristic of an opposition which finds itself in the very familiar difficulty of being entirely in support of the general nature of the proposals that are put before it, and very hard put to put up an opposition at all. It is so familiar to all of us who have moved Amendments of the same sort. We begin with a general denunciation, taking very good care that it shall not be reduced to any particular which can be answered. Then with a little more particularity we come down to more detailed matter in the end. There is one phrase which I particularly admire. The right hon. Gentleman says he cannot assent to a policy which leaves to local authorities in isolated areas the responsibility for removing this menace to public health and places a limit upon the amount of State assistance. It is a characteristic utterance of the right hon. Gentleman that he should object to placing a limit to the amount of State assistance. Was it not he who in bygone and happier days was the author of that pearl of great price that the nation can afford what it wants? I admire the long continued consistency with which he continues to apply that maxim on every possible occasion. Since we all like a fight at times, I could not but be sorry when I came to the words at the end, because the promise of the earlier words is sadly belied. That a national co-ordinated scheme should be instituted without delay. I am always in difficulty and doubt when I find myself doing something that the right hon. Gentleman likes. Instituting a national co-ordinating scheme is precisely what we are doing by this Bill. The right hon. Gentleman cannot mean an extravagant system of mains from the Highlands of Scotland to the South of England. He must mean something else by co-ordination. What else can he mean but the co-ordination that we secure by the Bill? The problem is local but the finance must be co-ordinated, and that is secured. There is a further measure of co-ordination which we secure. Unfortunately, local government areas do not coincide with water-sheds and water areas, and very often it is necessary to co-ordinate water supplies from other local areas in order to make the best economic use of the water. That is done by a system of regional water committees, and it is the intention of the administrators of the Bill to develop to the full such practical opportunities as the Bill will leave them in order to encourage that and promote the formation of such regional committees in order to get over the difficulty of the legal area and make use of the natural area. The last sentence of all really leaves us with nothing between us. A fair proportion of the capital expenditure found to be necessary shall be borne out of moneys provided by Parliament. I could not find a phrase more concise or more accurate to express the purpose of the Bill, which is that a fair proportion of the moneys necessary for carrying out this great work in rural localities shall be provided by Parliament. I am confident that in this matter we have an opportunity for the expenditure of a small sum which will bring us a very large return, not only in the welfare but in an actual improvement of the economic state of the country. I do not think it would be possible to take £1,000,000 of our national resources and spend it in any manner which would secure a greater return.

4.40 p.m.

Photo of Mr Arthur Greenwood Mr Arthur Greenwood , Wakefield

I beg to move, to leave out from "That" to the end of the Question, and to add instead thereof: this House, realising that the grave shortage of water supplies in many parts of the country is a national concern, cannot assent to a policy which leaves to local authorities in isolated areas the responsibility for removing this menace to public health and places a limit upon the amount of State assistance regardless of the total expenditure which may be required, and this House is of opinion that a national co-ordinated scheme should be instituted without delay, accompanied by measures to ensure that a fair proportion of the capital expenditure found to be necessary shall be borne out of moneys provided by Parliament. The right hon. Gentleman's speech is one of much cry and little wool. If he agrees with the last sentence of the Amendment, I am glad to think that he has shown so much sign of normal recovery that he is reverting to the policy which I left behind in 1931. He has tried to allay public fears, which have no doubt been accentuated by the Press, as regards the water situation both in urban and rural areas. I remember one night when out of kindliness of heart and because of the weariness of the House, we let him have a money Resolution formally. He said the time factor in this matter was important. As long ago as last May he issued a circular of exhortation to local authorities on this question of water, because he had become a little uneasy in his mind about the prospects of the following summer. He had then been in office for over a year and a-half. He had undone what the previous Government had tried to do by way of financial assistance to local authorities, and it is interesting in the Report of his Department for 1932–3 to read that the falling off in the amount of loans sanctioned as compared with last year"— which was my last year— —"which has been most marked in the rural areas, was to be expected in view of the general financial position, the withdrawal of grants and the large amount of work undertaken in previous years, much of it in advance of requirements. There was a confession, after 18 months of office, that the withdrawal of the grants which the Minister found in existence when he took office had been responsible for a considerable diminution in the provision of water supplies, especially in rural areas.

However, in May he issued his circular appealing to local authorities to carry out the Act of 1929, which they really never had done. I hope he will provide my hon. Friend with those illuminating particulars about the operations of the county councils in this matter under existing legislation. Then in the Debate on the King's Speech—true, it was not mentioned in the King's Speech—when the Minister of Health made his contribution, we had the announcement that, because of the seriousness of the rural situation, £1,000,000 was to be provided for England and Wales. The matter was so urgent that the House never heard of it again for about 10 weeks, during which time the newspapers still recorded that vil- lagers were having to transport their water for miles and pay 3d. and 6d. a bucket. On 8th February, 1934, we had the Money Resolution, and in his speech the right hon. Gentleman said the time factor was important. After another fortnight's delay, during which time one of the greatest cities in this country had to beg charity from another—because Liverpool had had to beg water from Manchester—we have the Second Reading of this Bill. All that the right hon. Gentleman has to say is, "Things might be worse, and if they do get worse we shall have to do something about it, but anyhow here is £1,000,000 which we shall distribute to local areas where they are hard pressed." For a Government of action such as this claims to be, the Minister of Health has not acted with precipitancy in this matter, having regard to the very serious lull which has taken place during the last few months and which appears likely to continue.

What is the position before the right hon. Gentleman to-day? In the last year of the Conservative Government of 1928–29, the loans sanctioned for rural water schemes amounted to £161,000. In the year 1929–30, when by an act of Providence a more enlightened Government had taken the place of the Conservative Government, the loans sanctioned for rural water schemes amounted, not to £161,000 but to £424,000. In 1930–31, when we were pretty well in the saddle and the scheme was going, the amount of capital expenditure sanctioned for loans for rural water schemes rose from £424,000 to £680,000. In 1932–33 for loans, practically all of which were sanctioned before I left office, instead of the £680,000 of the previous year there was £917,000 sanctioned. Those figures are worth remembering.

When we took office in 1929 practically nothing was being done to promote and encourage rural water supplies. In the three years of activity for which we were responsible over £2,000,000 worth of rural water schemes were sanctioned. We have had no figures for 1932–33 and none for 1933–34, but it is obvious that the amount of money sanctioned for expenditure on local rural water supplies since 1931 has shrunk to an insignificant amount. The right hon. Gentleman is relying on existing legislation; he is relying on the Local Government Act, which allows rural district councils to come to the aid of parish councils. But rural district councils as a rule are not the kind of local authorities that willingly come to the aid of any parish council. The Act empowers county councils to come to the aid of rural district councils, but most county councils are not generous-hearted, and they are unwilling to come to the assistance of rural district councils. That is the legislation on which the right hon. Gentleman has relied, and on which he still relies.

That was the situation which we inherited in 1929. We took office in June of that year. In August, 1929, our first circular, dealing, with water supply schemes for the alleviation of unemployment and the improvement of conditions in rural areas, was issued. That scheme was intended to deal with the water problem in so far as it concerned those who were engaged in agriculture, and we made a variable grant of 33⅓ to 50 per cent. for the provision of water for groups of agricultural holdings. Towards the end of 1929 there was a conference in Guildhall, which the then Prime Minister and the present Prime Minister attended and at which local authorities were urged to carry out constructive schemes—partly in the public interest, to provide services which were essential to the community, and partly to make a contribution to the solution of the unemployment problem. We made fairly favourable conditions under the Unemployment Grants Committee for water supplies. That is why the number of water schemes in rural areas and the amount of capital expenditure involved in them very substantially increased during the time that we were in office. We offered 100 per cent. of the interest for seven years on the amount of the loan raised, and in addition to that either 50 per cent. of the interest for the remainder of the period or for eight years, whichever was the shorter period. That plan was put again to the rural authorities of the country in July, 1930, and in March, 1931.

The result of all that activity on the part of the Labour Government was in three or four years to raise the annual capital expenditure of rural water supplies from £161,000 to well over £900,000. Then the present Minister of Health took office. It was said that there was a finan- cial crisis so grave that all local authorities were advised and almost directed to cut down all their financial commitments. The grants which had been given in aid of rural water provision came to an end. After that the right hon. Gentleman never lifted a finger. He never cared about rural water supplies until there was a prospect of serious trouble last year, and he then sent his circular out saying, "Please, county councils and rural district councils, do something about it." Then, of course, we had the announcement in November which is now beginning to fructify almost three months later.

What is the right hon. Gentleman's proposal? He is relying on the existing law of the land. He has asked my hon. Friend the Member for Dumbarton Burghs (Mr. Kirkwood) to let bygones be bygones. I am not prepared to let bygones be bygones. The truth is that the law as it stands to-day has not succeeded in making effective water provision for the people in rural areas. It has not even worked satisfactorily as regard the great urban areas, and, although we have got this Bill, it is a Bill merely to dole out £1,000,000, and it does nothing whatever to deal with what is the real water problem to-day. The right hon. Gentleman referred to highfalutin proposals which had been made about a national grid. I do not myself believe in a national grid. I think that those people who are talking about it have been misled by false analogy into saying that because there is a national electric grid it is possible to have a national water grid. The difference is that, whilst electricity may be manufactured everywhere, water is where providence sends it.

In the next place electricity can easily be manufactured and carried by cables, but water often enough lies at levels which are below the level of the areas to be supplied. These are practical geographical difficulties and natural physical difficulties which we have to face. But because the idea of a unified grid system, with water mains whereby the people in London can drink water from Loch Katrine is not practicable, it does not mean that we have to be satisfied with the law as it is to-day, because it is quite clear what the trend of legislation and administration has been. The biggest experiment this country ever made with regard to water was the establishment of the Metropolitan Water Board.

Photo of Mr Arthur Greenwood Mr Arthur Greenwood , Wakefield

Yes, a local grid. It was an attempt to get over local difficulties which had arisen in connection with local water supplies, some of which were not sufficient for the population in the area. We got the larger unified area, and to-day the Metropolitan Water Board is the largest water authority in the world. To me it is one of the great examples of practical Socialism. In London, with a reasonable area—perhaps not a large enough area, and I would like to see it extended still further—there is practically no serious risk of people suffering from lack of water. That is the more remarkable in such a large urbanised centre where water consumption per head is very much higher than it is in small towns and rural areas. Here you have far more houses, and they are equipped to use more water. Every house on a new housing estate in the London area has a garden, which means a hose-pipe, and certainly means a watering can. The multitude of Austin Sevens and the multitude of London Passenger Transport Board omnibuses have all to be washed, and there is also the washing of the streets. The expenditure of water per head, with several millions of people, is inevitably much higher than it is in a very small area. Yet notwithstanding the larger consumption per head here, the London area is the one area covering so large a population in which the people are never going to lack water. That is because the area is large enough and is governed by an executive authority.

That brings me to my next point. It has been the considered national policy of this country for some years, whatever party is in office, to establish and develop regional water committees. I went up to Yorkshire myself and brought one into being. Those bodies are purely advisory. I have no doubt that the real reason is that no large city ever likes to give up one atom of its power to a larger authority. A large city council suffers as much from the politics of the parish pump as the smallest parish council if it comes to the giving up of any kind of authority at all. It is clear, with the experience of the Metropolitan Water Board behind us, that larger water areas governed by an executive authority is the right way to deal with this problem. It is not much use to the right hon. Gentleman to be doling out his £500 to some rural district council when the problem still exists and can only be dealt with by a co-ordinated water supply for a larger area.

The right hon. Gentleman has talked about spreading the burden. He is spreading the burden to the extent of £1,000,000. That is as far as he means to go. He is not prepared, in spite of the experience of the drought of 1929 and the drought of 1933–34 which is still with us, to do what is fundamental, and that is, to alter the law. Although we have not had a February fill dyke, he is hoping to goodness that it is going to rain in March. It is all very well his advisers saying, "That will be all right." Believe me, it will not be all right in many rural areas in this country. If it rains in March, there will be rural areas in this country which will not feel the effect of it for several months. That is not the way to deal with the problem.

I put out of mind any idea of trying to unify the whole water supply of the country, but it is clear that there ought to be a national water policy. It is clear that the Government ought to regard it as a primary responsibility that one of the most important essentials of life should be reasonably available for all its citizens. I am not making impossible demands. I do not believe, if people are prepared to bury themselves in rural areas far from towns, that they can expect the best of both worlds, and to ejoy all the advantages of rural life and all the amenities of town life. I do not think that that is possible, but there is a moral obligation resting on the State to see that none of its citizens go short of a necessity which can be provided from a common source. We ought to have some co-ordinating authority with a measure of executive control over regions which ought to cover the whole country. The development of these regional committees has been, in my view, most disappointingly slow, and, in view of the situation which is now afflicting urban areas as well as rural areas, local authorities must give up a little of their pride and their imperialism and submit to regional authorities. They exist in a few areas to-day, but they are not executive. I should like to see them made executive.

I do not believe that the county councils of this country ever will come to the aid of the rural district councils or the parish councils. I am no lover of ad hoc authorities, but, in this case, I am satisfied that if you had a regional water authority charged with dealing with this special problem, with no other axe to grind, not finding itself in conflict with all kinds of interests on a reactionary county council, with a power to levy a rate, with people who would be keen on their job, such as the members of the Metropolitan Water Board—the provision of water is a fascinating job—I think that then you might deal with the problem. I am not suggesting for a moment that the great corporations should give up their sources of supply. I am not asking the city of Sheffield, for example, to give up all the water that it possesses, but I suggest that what water it has to spare—and Sheffield has looked ahead a generation—the regional authority ought to be able to purchase at an agreed price for distribution in outlying rural areas in that part of the country which, to-day, are likely to be short.

A regional authority would be able to go to the rural areas, and, with the expert knowledge that the large regional authority would possess, with specialist water engineers such as no parish council or county council possesses, would be able, efficiently and cheaply, to provide a supply for rural villages from rural resources. I am with the Minister in the utilisation of rural resources. But I want the regional authority to make sure that those rural resources are going to be used for the rural areas and that no rural areas are deprived of the water which they ought to have for domestic consumption in the interests of health, and, it may be also—I cannot develop this point, but it is bound up with the whole question of drainage—a question of water for the use of agriculture.

Another question to which the right hon. Gentleman referred is that of compensation water. Compensation water was a nightmare to me in the summer of 1929. Our Statute Book is encumbered with scores and scores of private Acts of Parliament dealing with the question of compensation water. To-day compensation water has no real meaning. Compensation water arose at a time when, in the North of England, we were developing the industrial system and relying upon water power. The new industrialists of the North obtained special legislation to compel or to ensure that where there was a flow of water, they should not be robbed of it for their industrial purposes. It was a perfectly reasonable demand, but that compensation water is still there to-day, millions of gallons. I believe that I am right in saying that in Sheffield alone they have to give away 5,000,000 gallons a day. During the drought of 1929 Sheffield provided the neighbouring town of Barnsley with 2,000,000 gallons a day, a very generous act on the part of Sheffield. It is perfectly proper, and it ought to be done. Here is water going down the rivers, 5,000,000 gallons of it a day, sufficient to supply the normal needs of a town two and a half times the size of Barnsley—a town perhaps of 180,000 inhabitants. The whole system of compensation water is wrong, and the right hon. Gentleman ought to sweep away all those obsolete Acts of Parliament, and give to the regional authorities a complete and final power. That seems to me to be the way really to deal with the problem.

The right hon. Gentleman says that we were hard put to it to object to his Bill. We thank him for his £1,000,000 for what it is worth. Far more than that would have been spent in the last two years if he had not stopped the development of rural water supplies which was going on when I left office in 1931. He is giving back to the rural areas a little that would already have been spent and which would have minimised the effects of the serious drought of the last eight or nine months. We object to it, because, after two and a-half years, and after having killed the schemes of the local authorities for rural water supplies, he comes creeping back to the House with a £1,000,000 in his pocket which he has extracted from a very reluctant Chancellor of the Exchequer. All Chancellors of the Exchequer are reluctant. They are bound to be so. With his £1,000,000 he is doing nothing to deal with the fundamental situation—the organisation of our water supplies, and the provision of water, sufficiently near and adequate, pure and wholesome, for all the people of the country.

Now that he has finished his present legislation, and his place here is taken most days by the Minister of Labour, and that he has far more leisure, I should have wished that he could have dealt with this problem in a statesmanlike and comprehensive way. Instead, he has produced the money—he has failed to deal with the problem; he is leaving the situation as it was—and when the £1,000,000 is spent, if three years from now there is another drought, there will be no effective machinery in the country either to work against it or to be working so as to be able to avoid its worst results. The right hon. Gentleman has got emergency measures up his sleeve. He does not mean to use them. He is only saying that if it does not rain in March, he will produce them then. They will not be used. The point is that if it rains in March there may be a drought this summer, and there may be a drought next summer. His £1,000,000 may have been spent. He will have his emergency measures still pigeon-holed. They will not come forward. I submit that the great failure of the Government in this matter is, that, while they have very reluctantly and at long last, after having forbidden the expenditure of money on this question for a considerable time, come forward with a small amount of money, they are still leaving the problem essentially as it was before.

5.14 p.m.

Photo of Sir Francis Acland Sir Francis Acland , Cornwall Northern

I really ought to apologise to the House for venturing to say a few words on this subject, having missed the speech of the Minister about it. I have had a very heavy day attending to some other works dealing with allotments for the unemployed, and I could not help being late. It seems to me, considering this matter from the point of view of the member of a parish council, of a rural district council, and of a county council, that there is a danger of mixing up three things, namely: What can be done to meet the present emergency? What can be done to improve the general water supplies in the villages? And what can be done to improve arterially large schemes of water supplies? If we mix them up and try to get the Government to look at the matter in too big a way, we may fail to get much done on useful lines. I am afraid of mixing up drought emergency with our ordinary rural water supplies. In regard to drought emergency, from all I can learn and see, it is already very serious, and it is bound to become a great deal more serious whatever rain there may be in the next two or three months. If we had 10 inches of rainfall in the next three weeks, which is inconceivable, there would still be a very considerable water emergency this year. I do not think that, in general, our local authorities are taking the matter half seriously enough. Ii is very natural for them not to wish to frighten their inhabitants in advance, but most of our water comes ultimately from springs which are gradually failing, and they will go on failing, however much surface water falls in the form of rain in the next two or three months.

There is bound to be a very great water emergency this summer in many parts of the country, quite independent of what amount of rain may fall between now and then, simply because the main water supply comes from deep springs, and whatever falls on the surface does not get through to the depths of the springs for months after it falls on the surface. The authorities ought to be now definitely restricting the use of water. If they do not do that, they will be in a worse emergency in the summer. I think the right hon. Gentleman was overstating the case when he said that London need not in the least fear any restriction of supply. I do not believe that even London is going to be saved this summer without restricting its consumption. Although I imagine the Minister has given his idea of emergency owing to the drought—I was not able to hear what he said—I do not think that I am overstating the emergency that now exists and which is certain to exist whatever rainfall there may be in the next two or three months.

In regard to the rural districts, I have been told that the Minister is issuing a letter to the rural authorities asking them to state their needs, to submit schemes and to say how they are dealing with the emergency. That is all to the good, but I should like to make a serious suggestion which the Government ought to consider. In many parts of the country men are having to give up small holdings and to decrease their head of stock and poultry because of the water shortage and because they cannot afford the charges for the carriage of the water from places three or four miles distant. I know of many instances of that kind in my experience as a forestry commissioner, and so on. That position will become worse unless it is tackled. The people who can deal best with the emergency which necessitates the cartage of water, and which will become worse in the country districts, is the Army. We ought to mobilise the Army Service Corps for this purpose. It would give them very good practice in part of the work which they do extraordinarily well. Men ought to be appointed to take charge of the emergency in the country districts and to act in close co-operation with the Army authorities, and take emergency action to help the rural districts. The rural districts do not get their views really heard.

If I am right, as I believe I am, in saying that, whatever happens in regard to our rainfall, the lot of the rural districts is bound to become worse, all sorts of things will have to be improvised in the way of water carriage. I hope the Government will consider my suggestion and that when the spring and summer come along they will ask the Army to lend its organisation, its men, its material and water carts, in order to assist water transport in the rural districts. The Army Service Corps would be very popular in the country villages and their presence would act as a very good recruiting agency in getting more men to join the Army, which is one of the things we want.

In regard to the scheme of ordinary village supplies, I am not disposed to look a gift horse in the mouth. A million pounds will help. It is a great deal better than nothing. I do not want to go too much into the question whether the Government were right or wrong in discontinuing the work on water supply, drainage schemes, and schools, when the financial emergency happened in 1931. Many of those things ought to have been set going again long before now. When I consider that the scheme for senior schools is still entirely suspended, and that the question of water supply is being revived by the grant of a bit of money, I am glad to give thanks where thanks are due, to say that we are getting a little bit back, and that the pressure applied during the financial crisis is being a little relaxed. Let us be thankful for that.

My experience and knowledge is not that rural district councils are unwilling to help parishes or that county councils are unwilling to help rural district councils. That may be because we are getting more of the spirit of doing things not on a parochial basis but on the larger basis of the district and the county. There is certainly much greater willingness on the part of large areas to help small areas than at any time I have known, or that my friends have known in their experience of the counties. It is right to get this matter off the parochial basis. The schemes that have been coming forward are steadily moving in the larger direction. There is no doubt whatever that the basis of a small watershed of five, six or 10 villages within the watershed area, is the more practical basis rather than each village sinking its own deep bore wells or pumping up its supply from local springs.

The thing can be handled better by the district councils surveying and helping the parish and the county councils helping the districts, than by the old method of leaving it to each parish, or by the new method of super authority imposed on a county council. Very likely in some of our great industrial urban areas you might do very good work by a sort of big covering authority on the lines of the Metropolitan Water Board, covering a couple of millions or so of population, but I am sure that if you try to impose super authorities covering two millions of rural population, taking in five or six counties, you will normally add a fifth wheel to the coach. It may be that in a concentrated rural area there is a river running through which can be tapped and from which you can supply an area like a quarter of Lancashire or half of Staffordshire, and in doing that to supply one million or more people, but there are not supplies available in the rural districts which can be made useful for a million or more people. The districts are far too scattered for that.

I am afraid that any idea of setting up super authorities on the lines of the Metropolitan Water Board for dealing with very big provincial areas, would simply complicate and delay the progress which is so necessary to make, but do not let us abandon the idea that the county councils are willing to help or that the district councils are beginning to tackle the matter, not on a parochial but on a district basis. It would be perfectly justifiable to do what the Minister has suggested, namely, to require some help from the district area and also from the county councils as a condition for participating in the grant. I realise that there is practical difficulty. Many parishes have already got schemes. Some parishes have schemes and have paid for them; the debt is paid off. Therefore you can do nothing. You cannot repay to people what they have already paid, and yet if there is a district rate they must be rated, and if there is a higher county rate they must be rated again. That cannot be helped. They have had the forethought to get their water before other people. Let us hope that they have enjoyed it. You cannot put them outside any district rating scheme or any county rating scheme.

Then you come to the places which have already supplied their water and have got rates now. What are you to do with them? It seems to me that even if a parish has been willing to finance its own water scheme it ought to be helped as long as it is paying for its scheme. It is very hard to say to a parish which is still paying for its scheme: "We will leave you to pay for your scheme, and we will rate you for the parishes outside which are not paying for their scheme, but whose scheme we are now developing." You have to leave the parishes which have provided themselves with water and paid for it, without any help, because they have paid for it, but you must help the parishes now in the process of paying for their water, because it is only by doing so that it will be fair to rate them to help neighbouring parishes, and to rate them under the ordinary county rate. Subject to its being legitimate to help in regard to schemes already started, I think that we ought to look to the county as being the area, and that we ought to look normally for help from the county to the district and help from the district to the parish.

In regard to the idea of having a super-organisation, I agree that no system of grid is possible. That was a phrase coined by somebody who knew aboslutely nothing about it. I repeat that however useful large co-ordinating water authori- ties might be in semi-industrial areas from the point of view of the ordinary rural water supply we should stick to the county councils and district councils and encourage them to pool their rates and treat water supply no longer as a parish matter but as one for this whole district or the whole county. I fear that my remarks have been rather much at random, but I did not hear the Minister's speech. As far as the Minister's offer now goes, I should like him to have got to work a little earlier, but I am disposed to be grateful for what we are getting. Before they have done with this question, the Government will find that they will want more than £1,000,000, but it is a good thing to make a start, for then they will discover how useful it is and, therefore, how necessary it is to do a good deal more.

5.32 p.m.

Photo of Mr Thomas Levy Mr Thomas Levy , Elland

I listened carefully to the speech of my right hon. Friend the Minister of Health, and I must confess to a sense of deep disappointment at the speech and with the character of the measures he outlined for dealing with this serious problem. For months past attention has been directed in this House and throughout the country, with growing emphasis, to the imperative necessity of national organisation in the matter of water supply and distribution. Public interest has been roused, especially of late, because of the inescapable evidence of the approach of an unprecedented water shortage. But although presented in an aggravated form it is by no means a new problem. For nearly 80 years this water problem has exercised the minds of the legislature. There have been Royal Commissions, committees, inquiries, reports, and recommendations and surveys, galore. I think it is true to say that the water problem, and housing problem and other matters which so closely affect the general health of the population, was the reason why since the War the Government of the day set up a separate Department presided over by a Minister who could give undivided attention to their solution.

I have been given to understand that my right hon. Friend is very able, has great ability, and tremendous drive. He has an assistant, my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary, who also is very able. Is it unreasonable for the country to expect a comprehensive plan to be put forward by the department and brought into effect for the solution of these problems? I had hoped to have risen in my Place and been able to congratulate my right hon. Friend, but I regret that, unfortunately, I feel compelled seriously to criticise this provision for rural water supply. I appreciate the Minister's difficulties, and I daresay that it was not easy to get £1,000,000 out of the Treaasury for the purpose, but I should be doing my right hon. Friend no service, nor discharging my duties to those rural communities who expect me to plead their case in this House, if I did not speak their mind and my own on this matter. The provision, frankly, is niggling and utterly inadequate. It is like trying to irrigate the Yorkshire Moors or the Wiltshire Downs with a water-can. For nearly 80 years large-scale organisation of the country's water supply, without regard to existing local boundaries, has been discussed, recommended and urged. A generation of political gestation; and now a product so puny that one is uncertain whether to laugh or to be horrified.

One would like to be able to think that the treatment of the problem of national water supply is due to an imperfect realisation of its importance and magnitude, but the mass of reports and recommendations concerning it make any such charitable conclusion difficult to accept. The problem faces us now in a gravely accentuated form. We have just had an abnormally dry summer. That is bad enough, but it is being followed by an abnormally dry winter. Water sources which should now be restored are in many cases dry, or all but dry, and many districts are even now on very short commons for water. It is estimated that at least three months of steady rain are necessary to raise the levels of water supply to normal. The conditions which will exist in all probability next summer can be imagined. Anyone who saw as I did, when I took a tour last summer, the distress and danger to public health of water scarcity and water pollution will realise that these conditions will be greatly intensified in a few months unless we get a totally unprecedented rainfall. It is only too obvious from the plight in which even the large urban centres with organised water supplies find themselves that emergency measures must be taken. Large centres like Bristol, Liverpool, and Kettering, are already short of water. Liverpool is being supplied partly from Manchester. What is going to be the position of these and very many other centres in a few months? Above all, what is going to be the position of rural areas with no organised supplies and no means of relief like Liverpool? Yet the Ministry of Health is apparently prepared to leave the solution of the problem to unhappy chance except by placing further responsibilities on local authorities and except for this Bill, which cannot affect it for several years, and then only in the most incomplete and fractional way.

What is most urgently needed is careful and comprehensive planning, if one of the greatest essentials of modern life is to be provided for the country. If such planning was considered necessary by a Royal Commission over 60 years ago, is it not far more necessary now, when water is required on an ever-increasing scale for domestic and industrial purposes? Mills have been obliged in recent months to work short time, or to stop overtime, in consequence of water shortage. That is a great reproach and a great condemnation of the haphazard water system of the country. I said "system," but that is a fiction. Over a great part of the country which is about to receive an elaborately organised £50,000,000 national electricity supply there is no water system at all, and before long, unless we get a move on, rural England will be electrically lit and electrically heated, but will still be getting its water for man and cattle from the doubtful well and roof tank and the ambling water cart. Let me put it in a sentence: It is a sublime spectacle of luxury in the unessential and deprivation in the essential. Comprehensive water planning must necessarily take some time. Let us employ the money now provided to the best advantage, but, above all, let us start organising and planning now. We must plan not by small local areas but by greater regional areas, according to geographical relationship and economy of water supply.

May I submit to the House, with great respect, for its consideration, a scheme which, I think, would probably be a solution of the difficulty. There should be a national water authority, appointed, not elected, so as to get continuity of purpose. They, in their turn, should appoint regional committees who should have the control of the supplies of water for the regional areas. That is a broad outline of the scheme without going into any details. I know that we shall get opposition from those water undertakings which now have a surplus, and opposition from those large areas which also have a surplus of water, but I contend that if there is any justification for the pooling of road transport, for the amalgamation of the railways, for a national electricity scheme, there can be no justification for not having a national water scheme, the greatest essential of life to-day. There is one thing I want to emphasise and that is that there is plenty of water in the country. Experts assure me that only a small part of our water resources is utilised. There are subterranean rivers and subterranean reservoirs which are yet untapped, to use the right hon. Gentleman's own words, there are resources which have not yet been exploited. Vast supplies now run to waste. Birmingham, for instance, has a potential supply of 100,000,000 gallons a day, and uses only 30,000,000 gallons.

An authoritative and expert survey of the country to discover sources of supply, to estimate their extent and to define areas which lend themselves to reasonable treatment for water supply purposes, is an essential preliminary. Some sort of survey has been going on by the Ministry of Health for 10 years, but the Department is so shy about it that one cannot discover what data exactly it has collected, how much it has got, and what use, if any, is going to be made of it or when the survey is going to be finished. The character of this menace to the country cannot be glossed over by vague and diplomatic phrases. The time has come, and rightly, when this country demands that some action shall be taken with regard to this essential, and in conclusion I would urge my right hon. Friend and the Government to give this matter their urgent attention, and discard this Lilliputian conception of its importance. I beg them also to examine the regional idea, and whatever scheme they adopt to take out of the hands of 1,700 odd local authorities a responsibility for water supply which, for the most part, they cannot discharge.

5.45 p.m.

Photo of Mr Robin Turton Mr Robin Turton , Thirsk and Malton

I do not share the disappointment of my hon. Friend the Mem- ber for Elland (Mr. Levy) at this Bill, but I rather think that he has stolen a speech which really belonged to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Wakefield (Mr. Greenwood). When I listened to the speech of the right hon. Gentleman and compared what he was saying with the terms of the Amendment, I could find little relation between the two. The Amendment asks for what we always expect to find in a Socialist proposal, namely, a blank cheque. The blank cheque in Socialist resolutions has become rather like the comedian's gag about the mother-in-law. When a Socialist proposes an Amendment, he always asks, not for a paltry few millions or so, but for a blank cheque which may be for millions, or may be for only £1. The Amendment expresses a dislike of giving this money to local authorities, yet my right hon. Friend attacks the Government on these lines. He says, in effect, that when he was Minister of Health he handed out £400,000 a year to the local authorities, but that when he and his friends had brought the local authorities face to face with penury and financial crisis this niggardly Government came in and stopped doling out that money to the local authorities. He then went on to complain that the £1,000,000 in the Bill was not enough. I think my hon. Friend the Member for Elland, alone on that side of the House, would vote for the Amendment, because he, I understand, favours the policy of the blank cheque, and he very frankly and boldly expresses his view with regard to the 1,700 local authorities in relation to the question of water supplies.

Photo of Mr Thomas Levy Mr Thomas Levy , Elland

I take it that neither I, nor any Member who suports the National Government, is precluded from criticising any Bill that is brought forward, and that there is no reason why I should not criticise this Bill without the hon. Member endeavouring to suggest that I have robbed the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Wakefield (Mr. Greenwood) of his speech.

Photo of Mr Robin Turton Mr Robin Turton , Thirsk and Malton

I am not blaming my hon. Friend. I am only saying how pleased and grateful hon. Members of the Socialist party ought to be that at least one other Member of this House supports their proposal. I have found no one else in any other quarter of the House supporting the Amendment which has been moved from the Socialist benches. I appreciate the Bill, but I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Elland in this respect—that I do not believe the sum of £1,000,000 will be sufficient for carrying out the full policy of providing proper rural water supplies. I regard this as an instalment, and I hope that the Minister when he has finished with this £1,000,000 will come back to the House for more. It is true that in the course of one year we could not expect to spend more than £1,000,000 on rural water supplies.

Photo of Mr William Cove Mr William Cove , Aberavon

Three years is the period.

Photo of Mr Robin Turton Mr Robin Turton , Thirsk and Malton

Even so, I would suggest to the Minister that at the end of three years we should come back and ask for further money for these rural water supplies schemes. There is no class of undertaking which gives greater employment for unskilled labour than these water schemes. There are miles of trenches to be dug and the supply of new pipes will help the heavy industries of this country. My criticisms of the Bill may be put shortly. I reinforce what has been said by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for North Cornwall (Sir F. Acland) about the schemes that have already been embarked upon, though I would not go as far as he has gone in that respect. He talked about extending the Government grant to those authorities who have completed the work, but have not yet finished paying off the charges for the scheme. But what is the position of those local authorities who, acting on the encouragement of the Ministry of Health and on the Minister's appeal of last summer, embarked upon schemes for the supply of water to villages in rural areas? Are they debarred from getting any of this Government grant?

There is great consternation in my constituency arising from this aspect of the problem. I give this as a case which illustrates this important point and the possibilities of what the Government can do by this Bill. There are three villages in my constituency, Bagby, Thirkleby and Hutton Sessay. Last summer the people in those villages were obtaining water by means of water-carts. They were compelled to buy water. With the Ministry's encouragement, a scheme was outlined and after a public inquiry was approved. The cost of that scheme is £4,700 and the yield of a penny rate in those three villages combined comes to £5. The House will appreciate that it is impossible to-day for those villages, without Government help or county council help, to embark upon that scheme. It would involve, at the present time, a special rate of between 3s. and 4s. in the £ in addition to 2s. in the £ water rate, and, taking into consideration the county rate, it would mean a full rate of some 15s. in the £ upon persons such as farm labourers who are only earning 30s. per week. Is it not unjust that those schemes should be deprived of the benefit of this Bill, just because they were first in the field? If the Minister is going to draw the line of demarcation at the date of the passing of the Bill, he will only be helping the unjust and not the just. The line of demarcation, I suggest, should be drawn at June of last year, before the drought began, so that those who took the Minister's advice would not be penalised in the later stages when the Minister is coming to the help of the authorities.

I should like to express my own disappointment that this Bill is confined to the question of water supplies. I believe that the question of sewerage must be considered in conjunction with the question of water supplies. Three water problems come together—the initial land drainage, water supply and, finally, sewerage schemes. If it is not too late, I would ask the Minister to provide for grants, not only for water supply schemes by themselves but also where they are joined with sewerage schemes. The House will appreciate that if you initiate a water supply scheme in an area which has a faulty sewerage system, your money is going to waste and you may have a tragedy such as that associated two years ago with one of the chief towns in my own constituency.

I would also ask the Minister what he means by the phrase "rural locality." Is it to be confined to the area of the rural district council? There are many market towns in this country no larger than towns within the areas of rural district councils. The Parliamentary Secretary will possibly recognise that I have in mind one particular town. The town of Malton has a population of less than 5,000 and a penny rate upon that town brings in only £96. At the moment, owing to the mischances and misfortunes of two years ago we are trying to embark upon a very large scheme for the improvement of the sewerage system as well as of the water supply. The sewerage system is, I believe, excluded from the scope of this Bill, but I would ask the Parliamentary Secretary to reassure us on this point. Will he allow urban district council areas, anyhow those of not more than 5,000 inhabitants, to be eligible for this grant? They are in the same situation in this respect as the isolated and scattered rural areas. The depression in agriculture and the drift to the large towns are two factors which have brought those towns to a low ebb. I think in the case of the town of Malton where the people have suffered bereavements as a result of the typhoid outbreak and have had to bear all the cost which that tragedy involved, it would be a graceful gesture on the part of the Government to help that town to get over its difficulties and to pave the way to a healthier and happier future for it.

There is one point, probably a Committee point, which I would ask the Parliamentary Secretary to consider, even if he does not deal with it in this Debate. Throughout the country there are many small schemes for extensions of existing supplies. One or two farms or a few cottages situated perhaps a mile from an existing supply, may desire to be connected with that supply. I see nothing in the Bill to prevent applications being made in respect of these small schemes. These schemes are usually carried out with the help and under the supervision of the local authorities' employés. The rural district council engineer and surveyor perhaps acts in connection with them and thereby a certain saving is made. I understand that according to the usual practice in the Department expenditure on the ordinary employés of a local authority would not count for the grant and would not be allowed to rank as loan expenditure. That means that many small extensions which could be made are not being carried out to-day.

I know one case in my constituency where a farm and a few cottages are about a mile from the existing supply, and it is desired to join them up to it. We can only do so by using the local authority's employés. But the yield of a penny rate over the whole of that parish comes to £1, and unless we can get either a Government grant or some concession in the way of allowing the expenditure to rank as loan expenditure, that extension cannot be carried out at the present time.

Generally speaking, those who represent rural areas welcome this effort to develop the backward parts of England. We have been for a long time neglected, and it is a great pleasure to me to support what I believe to be the first Government which has come forward with a policy of developing the rural areas, whether by the marketing schemes under the Ministry of Agriculture or by these water supply schemes under the Ministry of Health. The right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Health is making a great name for himself for his drive at slum clearance in urban areas. But I can assure him that we have longer memories and warmer hearts in the rural areas, and if he will embark on these water supply schemes and the general development of the countryside, in regard to both rural housing and sewerage, he will earn a gratitude that will last as long as he continues his political life.

6.1 p.m.

Major LLOYD GEORGE:

While I cannot join with the last speaker in congratulating the Government on all their good deeds, I would like to congratulate them on the fact that they have at any rate realised at last that you can spend money in this country with advantage to the country generally. I am afraid, however, I cannot congratulate them on the Bill itself, because in my opinion the sum mentioned in the Bill is totally inadequate for the situation that we have to meet. I believe that the problem has been tackled in the wrong way. As far as I can make out, a sum has been fixed, and out of that sum we have to do the best we can, instead of the Minister first ascertaining the real needs and then finding out what it would cost to meet those requirements. The Minister told us this afternoon that there were two separate situations involved in this crisis. The first was a temporary situation, one of great urgency, which, of course, had peculiar reference to the existing drought, and the second was a permanent situation, which probably might be referred to as a long-term policy.

I do not want to blame the Government for the drought, but the right hon. Gentleman seemed to take comfort from the fact that the drought of 1933 or 1934 was not as bad as that of 1921 but was rather worse than the drought of 1929. I do not think any Minister of Health has a right to take any comfort from the fact that we have had those two droughts in those years. Rather, I should say, is it a condemnation not of the present Minister of Health, but of Ministers of Health in the last few years that they did not take notice of what was a very serious warning indeed. I remember very well in the Parliament of 1929, I think it was, constant questions being asked in this House with reference to the serious situation especially in rural areas, and as far as I am concerned it is a matter of very serious criticism that no steps were taken as a result of those warnings to try to do something to avoid the present situation.

In one way the drought has been a very good thing, because it has drawn attention to the situation in our rural areas, and, if I may say so with respect to the Minister, it seems rather late in the day to circularise the various local authorities as to what they can do and ought to do in this matter. The drought has done one good thing. It has drawn attention to the futility of the policy of the Government in more or less stopping the grant that was given to the rural areas to improve their water supplies. I remember the Chancellor of the Exchequer speaking some months ago, in reply, I believe, to a Motion censuring the Government for their lack of policy, and in answer to appeals that money should be spent to provide employment, the right hon. Gentleman said that they had expended practically all they could by way of anticipation of need, and that that remedy was no longer open to them. I suggest that the best answer to that statement is the present situation. We in this country flatter ourselves, and rightly so, on having probably the finest social services in the world, but I think that the situation which is facing the country to-day ought to make us think very seriously as to whether we are justified in claiming for all our social services that they are the best in the world.

Here we have a country with not only ample rain during the year, but the sort of country where, in the middle of the cricket season, you find the wicket about six feet under water, a country where you cannot arrange any out-door function with certainty because you do not know what the weather will be like. In fact, for some portion of the year, our great problem is to get rid of the water that is floating about, and it seems to me to be a matter of very serious consideration that in a country like ours, that has no shortage of water, you should, whenever you have a drought at all, find large areas of the country and large numbers of our population suffering severe hardship because of the drought. The one thing that is necessary, of course, is money. I am glad that the Government are making a beginning, but I do not think it is a good enough beginning, because everyone is aware of the very serious effect that the shortage will have on our agricultural industry if the drought is not broken soon; and not only is it going to have a serious effect on our agricultural industry, but the health of our people in the rural areas is bound to suffer, and we all know the hardships that they are undergoing to-day with their efforts to be supplied with water.

The Minister told us the other day, I think, that £1,000,000 was sufficient for the rural needs, and would like to ask the Parliamentary Secretary on what calculation that is based. If the Minister says that £1,000,000 is sufficient to meet the rural needs, is that based on a really close survey of the needs of the rural districts to-day? I would like to ask him something that has puzzled me, namely, Does that include urban areas? As far as I can read the Bill—and I would like an answer to this question—a local authority for the purpose of this Act includes "the council of any borough or urban or rural district." Throughout the speech of the Minister, he did not refer to the smaller urban areas, but confined his remarks entirely to the rural areas, and I would like to know whether urban districts will be eligible for grants out of this £1,000,000.

I do not know if hon. Members realise, although we have just heard of it from the hon. Member for Thirsk and Malton (Mr. Turton), the seriousness of the situation in some urban districts. I would like to give two examples. One is a very serious case of an urban district with a population of something like 2,000, where you find that in regard to sewerage: This is still carried out as before, i.e., earth closets are used, the contents of which are collected in a closed cart and deposited a safe distance from the town, whilst liquid refuse runs down the sides of the streets, greatly to the annoyance and detriment of the public. Nothing can be done to rectify the sewage system until we obtain a water supply, and the responsibility of this lack of water lies with the Council and the Ministry of Health. Then I find that they have been constantly urged by the Ministry of Health to put forward a scheme. They put forward a scheme, and I find that: the only factor which prevents the council proceeding with one or other of the schemes is the lack of financial assistance, and I can say, without doubt, that in the event of sufficient and adequate financial assistance being forthcoming the scheme would be put in hand at once. There is another case of a small urban district where the water supply is of vital importance, because it is a seaside resort, and, as far as I can gather, they have no means of getting water under a distance of 20 miles, which would involve the expenditure of something like £70,000. In the present position of that particular urban area, they are quite incapable of undertaking a scheme of that magnitude, although it is absolutely essential to the welfare of the town, without substantial financial assistance. I would like to ask whether these urban districts throughout the country will be eligible for grants out of this sum. There is no doubt whatever that there is an enormous number of schemes. I have seen a figure mentioned of something like 76 local authorities who have schemes but are held up because of lack of cash, and it seems to me absurd that you can find cash for other purposes, but that you cannot find the money for such a vitally important matter, not only for the industries but for the people of this country. We can find money for a sugar beet subsidy. We have found over £40,000,000 in the last 10 years to subsidise what is after all a comparatively small section of the rural population, and I should have thought that the thing that really mattered was to do what we could to benefit the rural population as a whole. We all know that the need is there, and we believe that more cash ought to be forthcoming than we have had up to date.

The Minister was rather inclined to be amused at the Amendment, especially that part which speaks of a policy which leaves to local authorities in isolated areas the responsibility for removing this menace to public health and places a limit upon the amount of State assistance regardless of the total expenditure which may be required. That seems a perfectly reasonable point of view. It is not that they want unlimited expenditure, but the point of view which they take, and which I share, is that the sum has been fixed with no relation whatever to the needs of the country as a whole, and I suggest to the Parliamentary Secretary that the Minister ought first to ascertain the needs of the rural districts in this country, and then come down here and ask for the money and let the House decide whether or not they can afford it. We have been told by the Prime Minister on more than one occasion that the present Government would never turn down any scheme that was of value. I cannot imagine any schemes of greater value than schemes for giving a decent water supply to our rural population in this country, and I beg of the Government to reconsider the sum which is put in this Bill. Let them first of all ascertain the needs, and let them then come boldly to the House of Commons and say what it will cost—nobody can expect perfection—to make a great advance at any rate from the position we are in to-day. It is a very great opportunity for the Government, because they are always telling us that they want schemes that are practicable. Here is a scheme that is practicable. Not only would it help to develop the country, but it would improve the health of our people and make them less likely to be liable to epidemics. I am certain that if the Minister would make up his mind that the needs of the country were so-and-so, and say that the sum involved would be so much, and then come down here and make out his case, the whole House would support him.

6.15 p.m.

Photo of Mr Henry Cautley Mr Henry Cautley , East Grinstead

This Bill is designed, not to meet an emergency, but to provide a method of supplying our rural districts or villages with water, and as such I welcome it. It is only because I have some doubt whether the Minister has realised the great difficulties in the way of attaining that object that I rise to point out some of those difficulties, with a view to seeing whether they cannot be met in this Bill, at any rate in its further stages. The difficulty in supplying the rural village is not, as a rule, or commonly, that of finding water. The difficulty is to get it to the village and to distribute it in the village. As was pointed out by the hon. and gallant Member for Pembroke (Major Lloyd George), it is really entirely a question of cost. The Minister told us, and my experience confirms it, that in the ordinary village which is supplied with water, you have to charge a rate equal to 2s., and I think up to 2s. 6d. on the consumers. In addition to that, there is in nearly all cases a rate-in-aid to be levied, which the right hon. Gentleman put as high as 3s. Therefore, on his own figures, the average cost is a rate of 5s., and it has to be recollected that that is for supplying water to a limited number of people, and that while the whole village is not suppied, the whole village has to pay the rate-in-aid. That seems to be a prohibitive cost.

I do not think that the Minister has taken into consideration the point raised by the hon. Member for Thirsk and Malton (Mr. Turton) that as soon as you bring a water supply into a village, you must, within a year or two years, provide a sewage scheme. The consumption of water, which was hitherto two or three gallons a head, rises to at least 20 gallons, and probably up to 25, and the old system of sewage disposal by cesspools is totally inadequate. Unless a sewage scheme is provided at once or within a short period, the village is likely to be attacked by disease. Therefore, the difficulty has to be faced in getting out a scheme, which we all desire to see, of the expense of the water itself, which is put at the rate of 5s., which I think is rather high, and then, on top of that, there has to be another rate for sewage disposal, which will run into as much money if not more, so that the whole thing becomes impossible.

I believe the Minister is on entirely right lines in making the rural district council the proper authority to provide these schemes. I think he is right also in requiring that the county council should give assistance by the advance of money grants and that the district council should find some money. Even then it will be difficult to provide for the cost, for consider the difficulties of these local authorities. The county council ratepayer and the rural district ratepayer are one and the same. The county council has to rate the whole county, and the district council has to rate part of it. Can you wonder that the county council and the district council are chary of putting into operation their powers to make grants under the 1928 Act? In the areas concerned there are villages with all states of water supply. Some have had a water supply for years and have paid for it, and others have got one and have partly paid for it. Anybody who sits on a county council or a district council feels how unfair it is that those villages which have already been taxed to pay for their own supply, or are being taxed to pay for it, should be taxed for another village which has not been so prudent, and has made no effort to help itself.

The criticism I make is that while the Minister will undoubtedly bring in some cases water to the village, he makes no provision for getting it away, and the two things ought to he provided for in some way if this Bill is to be a success when it is put into operation. The other criticism is that there is nothing in the Bill, so far as I can see, to bring the county council and the district council up to scratch, to make them energetic in providing these schemes or in rating their areas to raise the money. I think everybody will agree that it is most desirable to bring water to our villages, and that there is no insuperable difficulty in bringing water to about 90 per cent. of the villages. The question is entirely one of finance. If the Minister can make it more certain that the county council and the district council will financially help, and if he will take into account, if not the provision of sewage schemes, the future cost that will have to be paid for them, I think his Bill will do a great deal. I welcome the Bill, but in that direction I think it can be improved.

6.22 p.m.

Photo of Mr Henry Haslam Mr Henry Haslam , Horncastle

The House will have welcomed the remarks of the hon. and learned Member for East Grinstead (Sir H. Cautley) in bringing us face to face with the practical realities which will confront the Minister when he works out this scheme. Previous speakers have criticised the Minister on account of the inadequacy of the scheme, and we have been treated to vast, and I am afraid distant, visions of nationally co-ordinated schemes, huge schemes described in very long words, which I am afraid are impracticable at the present time. I would venture to remind the House that we are only just emerging from one of the most serious financial crises of modern times. We ar enot yet out of one of the most severe world-wide depressions that has ever afflicted us, and surely it is not a time to launch vast schemes which must take a very long time to materialise.

For my part, I prefer the practical scheme put forward by the Minister. I specially welcome what the Minister has said in regard to the emergency owing to the continued drought which may face us throughout the summer. I welcome the fact that he is in constant touch with the local authorities, especially in rural areas, and is asking them to put forward schemes to cope with the emergency; and that he has offered assistance so readily. I do not think that has been fully realised by the House. As a rural Member I am fully conscious that if the drought continues, the countryside will be seriously afflicted. I therefore welcome very much the energetic way in which the Minister is preparing to tackle this possibility. The hon. and gallant Member for Pembroke (Major Lloyd George), while advocating the expenditure of public funds on water, mentioned with disfavour the fact that public funds had been spent on beet sugar. I venture to remind him that the subsidy on beet sugar brought in work and wages to a large number of countryside workers who would otherwise have been unemployed. I do not think that the alternative of supplying them with water would altogether meet their necessities.

I would like to mention the rural area with which I am acquainted in order to bring forward some of the difficulties which must confront us, namely, the Fen area of Lincolnshire. That area is entirely flat, reclaimed land, with drains which intersect it, and which form part of the system whereby this fertile land has been brought into cultivation. They are not fit, of course, for water for human consumption, and the population has to rely on rain water gathered into cisterns from the roofs of houses. That is a very common system in rural areas, and it depends, like many others, on good working. If the cisterns are kept clean, a fairly good supply of water is obtainable, but where that is not done there is danger. The inhabitants of this part of Lincolnshire are working people. It is not a part which attracts residents, and the people are in the same position as the inhabitants of the villages mentioned by my hon. Friend the Member for Thirsk and Malton (Mr. Turton) in that they cannot possibly afford to pay for any water themselves. If they had a scheme whereby they were heavily rated, it would not give them much satisfaction. Therefore, I welcome the statement of the Minister that he is endeavouring to help and will indeed supply engineers to give assistance to see that all local possibilities of supply are explored and made use of.

I was glad to hear, too, that he mentioned wells. There are, I believe, modern methods of bringing well water to the surface which will enable that ancient system of water supply to be made much more available in village communities than has hitherto been the case. Wells at considerable depth can be bored and machinery installed at a far less cost than a system of bringing water from great distances if modern methods are taken advantage of. Finally, I think the Minister's scheme may assist the erection of canning factories, which have been made possible by the agricultural policy of the present Government. Canning has increased to a very great extent in this country, and it requires a great deal of water, and if canning factories were put up in some of the rural areas where produce suitable for canning is grown, the inhabitants might very well be supplied with water as a kind of by-product of the factories. I hope that the Minister will not overlook that point when he comes to allocate the £1,000,000.

6.31 p.m.

Photo of Captain Richard Evans Captain Richard Evans , Carmarthen

A misfortune from which I often suffer when I rise to address the House is that nearly everything I had intended to say has already been said, and not infrequently said very much better than I could hope to say it. I rise now to put some questions to the Minister which affect not only my constituency but, I should imagine, a number of other constituencies. First of all, there is the question of what is to hap- pen in the event of county councils refusing voluntarily to make grants. There is a great deal of apprehension on that point. I have received from the Secretary of an important association of rural district councils a communication which contains the following statement: I am to state that it was pointed out by members of the association that some of the county councils within the area of the association have refused to contribute towards the expenditure incurred in the provision or maintenance of either a water supply or sewerage works, although authorised to do so by the Local Government Act of 1929. I would like to have the position clarified by the Minister or Parliamentary Secretary telling us what will be the position of rural district councils in the event of a county council refusing to make a grant. Will compulsory powers be taken, or will the refusal be overlooked and direct negotiations entered into between the Ministry and the rural councils? Secondly, I imagine that the members of authorities in a large number of urban areas in rural districts will want to know what will be their position. I have in my constituency a number of small towns: although hardly more than villages they have urban powers. Some of them are without water schemes or any sewerage system. I want to know whether the benefits of this Measure will be extended to urban authorities in rural districts. This matter is arousing a good deal of interest, and I would like to have a categorical answer.

Thirdly, I wish to know whether the Minister is prepared to relax the stringency of the terms for loans for water and sewerage works. Not once or twice have I conducted deputations to the officials of the Ministry of Health to say that water is urgently needed and sewerage schemes are urgently needed, but invariably they have been turned down on the ground that the cost would be too heavy—that the addition to the already heavy burden of rates makes the schemes impossible. I want to know whether, in addition to grants, the Minister has considered whether he can facilitate the raising of loans either by a reduction of the rate of interest or an extension of the redemption periods. Another point is as to what extent the Minister is prepared to assist these local authorities, frequently utterly destitute of technical advice, with free expert guidance from the Ministry? There was a case in my constituency not long ago in which an authority urgently in need of a water supply prepared plans, but these were turned down by the Ministry of Health on the ground that the rate burden would be an impossible one for the ratepayers. But in the preparation of their scheme that authority had already spent the equivalent of something like 9d. in the £ on the rates, and up to the moment, nothing has resulted from the expenditure. Therefore, I wish to know to what extent rural authorities will have the assistance of Ministry experts.

I am not going into the question of regional water committees. Obviously there are varied local conditions, and those distinctive conditions must be studied. It may be that a county is not always the best area, that its boundaries are not co-terminous with an area appropriate for water development. Let us assume that a county council refuses to assist. Is the Ministry prepared to send down an inspector to advise these people—to tell them, "Your area is too small; but by three districts joining together you can pool your resources and co-ordinate your water supplies and secure a joint scheme which will cost much less than three separate schemes"? To what extent is the Minister prepared to take the initiative in these matters? I am not going to indulge in flattery or discuss the question of whether the £1,000,000 is adequate. I am certain it is not, but as the beginning of a scheme of this kind perhaps it will do. Once we create a desire for water schemes, we shall find demands pouring in to the Ministry. I am prepared to accept it as a beginning. But I want to know to what extent the Ministry is prepared to give practical guidance. My experience of local authorities is that "Barkis is willin'," but is singularly lacking in technical capacity. To what extent is the Ministry prepared to give practical guidance, to facilitate the securing of loans either by a reduction of the rates of interest or a lengthening of the period of redemption, and what is to be the position of small urban authorities in the rural districts?

Photo of Mr Edward Young Mr Edward Young , Sevenoaks

In that connection I would call the attention of the hon. Member to the words at the beginning of Clause 2: Local authorities for the purposes of this Act shall be (a) the council of any borough or urban or rural district.

Photo of Captain Richard Evans Captain Richard Evans , Carmarthen

I had read that, and I am very glad to secure this oral confirmation of what I hoped was true. I have nothing more to say, but I would like to have fairly clear and categorical answers to my questions.

6.39 p.m.

Photo of Mr Irving Albery Mr Irving Albery , Gravesend

There is one aspect of the Minister's Bill which causes me a little concern. I understood him to say that he was prepared in certain cases to advance the whole of the money necessary for certain water schemes, and to provide other authorities with lesser amounts according to the means of the district. He did not give us any indication of what kind of "means test," if I may call it that, he proposes to adopt, and I hope that the Parliamentary Secretary will give us some information on that point. It always seems to me that there is one great drawback to subsidising works by local authorities: we cannot have the best of everything, and we generally lose something on the swings that we gain on the roundabouts. The Minister's object is to get this work speeded up. I cannot help feeling that on former occasions when such a subsidy has been offered many local authorities who had had the intention of putting work in hand have deliberately refrained from doing so because there was a subsidy to be got if they could manage to hold out for it. As long as this £1,000,000 is available, one can almost take it for granted that no local authority is likely to put in hand a new water scheme, unless it has some share of that money.

That brings me to the real point I wanted to make. I see nowhere in the Bill any provision for a stated time within which proposals for waterworks must be put forward. I hope that on the Committee stage, if he does not put in some Amendment himself, the Minister will consider favourably an Amendment which will give a definite time-limit for applications. If that is done, all those authorities who really mean business will get on rapidly with their applications; and after that date all those people who have refused the special assistance which has been provided will know they must get on with the work without assistance. From a purely financial point of view I do not like Bills which provide for the spending of money over a long period without any definite date of termination. It does not seem to me to be clean finance, and there, again, I would like to see inserted some date on which, if the whole £1,000,000 has not been expended, it ceases to be a Vote of this House.

6.43 p.m.

Major MILLS:

I rise to oppose the Amendment, because it vitiates the excellent principle that local needs should be cared for by local authorities and mainly, if not entirely, out, of local funds. The right hon. Member for Wakefield (Mr. Greenwood), though speaking on a Bill dealing with rural water supplies, talked a good deal about the water supply of the Metropolis. He did not go into any great details about rural supplies, except once when he mentioned the parish pump. He wanted to take from local authorities the duty of supplying water and to have a national water policy and to hand the duty over to a national co-ordinating authority with executive powers; all of which would, no doubt, make nationalisation very easy when the "perfect state" comes along. If the House were to abandon unreservedly the principle I set out at the beginning, there would be a danger of losing the existing inducement to local authorities to make the most of their local sources of supply and to see that their schemes are as economical as is compatible with efficiency. All the same, I think the provision of a water supply is of such vital importance that it cannot be left entirely to the resources of small local authoritites, and that it is right for the Government and the nation to step in and help. I was very glad indeed to hear my right hon. Friend, in introducing the Bill, speak with so much real knowledge and sympathy on this matter. Like him, I attach great importance to the finding and the development of new local sources of supply, so that, if possible—if I may mix my metaphors—we may not carry all our eggs in one basket. In that connection I would not even exclude the gentle art of the "dowser."

The question is as to whether £1,000,000 will be sufficient. Nobody can tell now, but quite probably it is the most that can usefully be spent during the coming year. If experience shows that more is needed another year, I am quite sure that the Minister will come back to the House and, like Oliver Twist, will ask for more. As a representative of a typical rural constituency I should like very briefly to give an example of our needs. I will take the little village of Bramshaw and Brook, which is within the area of the New Forest Rural District Council. It is a small parish of some 5,000 acres with a population of 645 people, where a rate of 1d. in the £ produces £12. How can a parish of that sort do very much towards providing its own water supply? The place is not even within the area of any water undertaking. The domestic water supply there has always been unpalatable, and the position as regards quantity is getting very unsatisfactory. The drinking water has always been taken from three estate wells, and is satisfactory for the moment. An artesian well in the parish has run dry. I am anxious as to how long the estate wells will continue to supply the local needs.

It is quite obvious that a parish where a penny rate only produces £12 must have the help of the rural district council, that the rural district council must have the help of the county council and that all of them will obviously need a grant from this fund, which I hope will be generously forthcoming if a scheme is put up. Even that is not the worst case in the New Forest. Emery Down is, I believe, worse, but I will not go into details about that. In this case the rural district council take their responsibilities seriously, as was proved last year when they succeeded in getting water mains extended by no less than 10 miles in this area. I suggest that, in allocating grants from this fund, past activity might be considered as an asset, and as entitling any claim that might be put in, to receive really sympathetic consideration. That Heaven helps those who help themselves is a very excellent maxim to go upon.

There is one other way in which the Minister might help. He may well be asked for a grant from this part of the country to help to take water to the village of Burley, in the New Forest, where the supply is hung up by a difference of opinion between the rural district council and the local water under- taking on the one hand, and the Forestry Commission on the other, as to how much is to be paid for wayleaves for the watermains and service pipes. If he could use his good offices as a mediator, he might get the Forestry Commission and the Treasury, who are very often the real stumbling-block behind the Forestry Commission, to realise that in this changing world they should not be too slavishly bound by precedents which are 30, 40 or 60 years old, but should reduce their easements to the lowest possible point, and to a purely nominal figure. If he could thus get the Forestry Commission and the Treasury to set a really good example, he would be saving money which he might use elsewhere in getting water distributed, as his actions show he is so anxious to do, and of which he has spoken so sympathetically.

6.50 p.m.

Photo of Mr William Spens Mr William Spens , Ashford

I want to say a word in regard to a particular problem which has not yet been mentioned in the Debate. It arises in certain rural areas, neither from inadequate water supply nor from a deficiency of water. It arises now, and will arise more year by year, owing to a change in the habits of the population. In the summer months a vast number of persons arrive in the most rural areas and around the sea coast, in motor cars and caravans, and seem to expect to be able to spend their holidays there for periods up to weeks. They find a water supply which is adequate for the few hundred people resident in the parish, and they proceed to consume vast quantities of it, with the result that those rural areas are faced with the alternative that either people must be prevented from spending their holidays in those areas—I Am certain that nobody can contemplate that for one moment—or steps must be taken very quickly to make the water supply adequate to supply such visitors.

This is a new problem. In the ordinary seaside or country district to which people go for their holidays there are generally a number of people who desire to buy land and develop it in order to put up houses or hotels, which very largely increase the rates in the district, but the very reason that the people to whom I now refer go to the rural areas is because there has been no development, and the moment development starts they cease to go there. Last August, Members who were representing that type of area were faced with an appalling situation right along the south coast.

I support what was said by the hon. Member for Gravesend (Mr. Albery) that a time limit should be set for application for a grant from the £1,000,000, but I go further. I ask the Ministry to insist that, in respect of such areas, application shall be made without delay, and that the Ministry shall assist in enabling those local authorities to ascertain what must be done to cope with the problem, which will arise every summer. These rural areas, in particular, must be assured of getting the necessary financial assistance to enable them to escape from the dangers and difficulties in which they found themselves last summer.

6.54 p.m.

Photo of Mr Alan Chorlton Mr Alan Chorlton , Manchester Platting

This is a very wide subject for Debate. The Minister began by acknowledging the great scarcity not only in rural districts but in towns, and it is not unfair to go a little further into the urban question. When comparing the present drought with previous droughts, he did not take any account of the great increase in consumption per head that has occurred. That is really one of the fundamental factors of which serious account must be taken. We have all grown accustomed, at any rate the older among us, to speaking of saving water. It is strange that we do. It is the only thing that we have learned to save. Compare the consumption that is taking place between a country place and a town. We find that in Scotland some towns are using over 100 gallons per head per day. In England it is considerably less. I do not quite know what the explanation is, and probably some of my hon. Friends from Scotland will tell us.

The general tendency is for that increase to continue. The Metropolitan Water Board supplies about 30 gallons per head. If, in the near future it rose to 50 gallons per head, on the way to the 100 which the supply has reached in some towns, it would take a very long time to provide for such an increase. Such provision ought to be part of a general plan. A good deal has been said rather slightingly about the water famine in the country, but it is really an important matter, and something to which great attention ought to be given. I do not mean that there is in any sense a panic, but we may be dealing with emergency conditions so far as rural supplies are concerned. Surely we can give careful attention to this problem as part of a whole, and can make the whole country part of a collective system for the supply of water.

The Minister went on to recount the advice that he was giving with regard to the scarcity of water in towns. The measures that he proposed were well known to those who are concerned with water supplies. He spoke of compensation water, but he did not say how he was going to bring this about. The conditions of which he spoke are all dependent on some change in the law. You cannot obtain any satisfactory result if you are going to attempt all this by agreement only. The amount of compensation water allowed in the past has, in many cases, been far too great for ordinary consumption. There are other restrictions which he proposed to remove. Among those restrictions was the limitation of the supply areas and the limitation as to the amount of water that is to be taken from a river. That will require legislation. The Minister spoke latterly of interconnection, and that is one of the points that I stress more than any other. Nothing is more illuminating than to find out how little people understand what you really mean from what you say. In this case I am afraid that it is very largely owing to people not reading what has been written.

It is not inappropriate to refer to the early history of how this came about. In 1932, I proposed that we should have inter-connecting in South Lancashire. A paper, in commenting on the proposal, used the term "water grid." That was the beginning of that term and it only means the interconnection of undertaking. To use it as it has been used as a direct analogy with the electrical grid, and to suggest that it means therefore a lot of special mains being laid down over the county is really an exaggeration that does no credit to the people who make it. It is a great satisfaction to me to know this week that a proposal made two years ago has now been brought about and that Liverpool will be supplied with water by means of a juncture between the Liverpool and Manchester mains. That is the first of the big interconnections, and no doubt it will go on. The Metropolitan Water Board is possibly the best example of the grid that we have. Formed from the amalgamation of eight separate companies, it has been so successful that many authorities agree that it will be extended. If you interconnect a sufficient number of companies, the system becomes more or less country-wide. It is true that does not deal with the question of rural supplies.

The difficulty seems to me to be that while the encouragement given by the £1,000,000 grant is a great one, something much more definite is required if the state of emergency is as great as it is said to be. If we are nearly on the edge of risk, merely putting up money will not be sufficient. The division of the country into areas under regional committees has not been completed. When it is, I hope that one of the first things to be done will be that power will be given to committees appointed for each area, or to some body working in conjunction with them, to enforce the conclusions at which they arrive. So far as my information goes as to the operation of these committees, they have been surprisingly ineffective. The members go there, I am told, with the object of seeing what they can obtain for themselves. It is necessary, if these regional committees are to be made as useful as they should be, that power should be given to them to enforce their conclusions. In the rural areas, and particularly in place like South Lincolnshire and the Holland district, where a complete scheme has been got out, it has failed because some of those concerned were against it, whereas if the majority decision had been acted upon and there had been the power to enforce it, the scheme would have been through now.

The Minister in dealing with the rural problem should also, I think, consider whether he should not take more active steps than merely offering advice and sending engineers to a district if called for. Applications already received have come from districts in Berkshire, Buckinghamshire, Cambridge, Cornwall, Derby, Dorset, Durham, Isle of Ely, Essex, Gloucester, Kent, Lancashire, Leicestershire, Lincolnshire, Norfolk, Northampton, Oxford, Rutland, Somerset, Southampton, Stafford, Suffolk, Isle of Wight, Wiltshire and a number more. How are you in the time now available to tackle all these in the usual way that such schemes are being tackled? There must be some very bad places, where action on the part of the Minister through his own officials or in conjunction with some body that he might set up—if the scarcity is going on, as we are told that it is—must be taken, or else they will have no water at all. If the Minister is not prepared to act, why does he not get somebody else to do it? Why cannot we have a company set up with whom he would make arrangements for engineering appliances to be put down and supplies brought to these hard-pressed districts? I do not mean pipe supplies. I am not suggesting it should go so far as that, but, at any rate, standpipes in some places, with the rest of the water carted.

In all that the Minister has told us to-night, nothing has been more disappointing than the continuation of the old system of the Ministry "passing the buck" to others. He is writing fatherly letters of advice up and down the country telling people how to save water, and what they should do. He follows a very different line of action in regard to slums. I should have thought the water question was infinitely more important. It concerns our good health. We have the Minister of Agriculture telling us to-day of huge sums to improve our milk supplies, when the improvement of the water supply is one of the best ways of doing it. If the Minister of Health would have the courage to do what others are doing, and what he himself is doing in regard to slums, and undertake a really active policy in helping these distressed areas where the scarcity of water is so great, there would be far more satisfaction to all of us. So far as I am concerned, representing one body of engineers, and as far as the hon. Member over there, representing another, is concerned, we are only too willing to do all we can to help in this matter. But let us have a little more definite policy. I thank the Minister for starting up with £1,000,000, but if he will take his courage in both hands and organise the work as well as providing the money, we shall be infinitely more satisfied.

7.10 p.m.

Photo of Sir Archibald Sinclair Sir Archibald Sinclair , Caithness and Sutherland

The Minister of Health in his admirable speech drew a distinction between providing by emergency measures for the effects of the drought, and the need for raising the permanent standard of civilisation in this matter of the water supply of the rural districts. He rightly pointed out that this Bill deals, not with the first, but with the second of these two vital problems, and it is on the latter in its special relation to Scotland that I wish to speak.

How far behind the standard of common decency and the normal civilised standard of water supply our townships and villages are I am sure that a great many Members from Scottish constituencies will wish to testify. Let me give, as an illustration, the Doll, near Brora, in Sutherland, which is not one of those remote villages to which the Minister of Health referred, but a thriving township, within a mile of the railway and with the main road from John o'Groat's to London running alongside it. Yet even there they have no water supply. They have a school and 16 scholars, with no water supply. They have only some wells, and when they petitioned that the water in them was unfit to drink nearly all the wells were condemned by the Medical Officer of Health. I hope this problem will be dealt with under the help provided by this Bill. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Wakefield (Mr. Greenwood) made what was to me an astonishing reference to "people who choose to bury themselves in rural areas," and said they have no right to claim all the amenities of town life with all the advantages of rural life. But these are the men and women of the soil. In these places are their homes. They have a right to be there and a right to be furnished with help to find the means for maintaining a decent standard of civilised life in their homes. It is a matter of national policy that these people should be kept on their holdings. We are suffering now in the rural districts, and especially in the Highlands of Scotland, from depopulation, and that is what we want to stem. Surely hon. Members who represent urban constituencies do not want to see a drift of unemployed labour coming from rural districts into the towns. It is an urgent matter of public policy that we should give these rural districts the water supplies which they so much need.

The right hon. Gentleman said the Government were not tackling the real prob- lem, which he said was constituted by the Imperialism in some respects and the parochialism in others of local authorities. But this statement bore no relation to the reality of the situation as we see it in the rural areas, and particularly in the Highland areas of Scotland. Our problem is precisely what the Minister described as bridging the gulf between the necessary raising of the standards of rural life on the one hand and the resources available in the localities on the other. To give one example of that, there are two townships in the county of Sutherland, Elphin and Knockan, two very isolated townships where the rateable value of the whole district is only £33 5s. and where the average rent of the holding on which the households live is only £5 per annum. You may say the county councils could make a contribution under Section 33 of the 1929 Act, but the yield of a penny rate in the county is only £275. You cannot go very far with a weapon like that. Therefore, I hope that we shall have a contribution for a scheme of that kind under the Bill, and that the Minister, when he comes to reply, will be able to give me that assurance.

I should like also to emphasise what was said by my hon. Friend the Member for Carmarthen (Mr. R. T. Evans) about the necessity for technical advice. If this money is to be well and economically spent, and is to yield the best results, I think it is advisable that local authorities should be given that assistance. It is not true that local authorities are reactionary, as some hon. Members have said, and are hanging back. Many of them have shown a very good example, and I think I may claim that in my own county of Caithness, where I live, the county council has shown a fine example; but it has made mistakes, like many other even more august bodies. My hon. Friend the Under-Secretary knows of the Dunbeath scheme, where three important townships, Borgue, Ramscraigs and Knockally were left out, although the reservoirs are situated just alongside those districts. The ratepayers have petitioned for an inquiry into that scheme, and I hope that the Government will give the petition immediate consideration. These people were compelled last summer to get water from any hole or bog where they could find it, and it is impossible in such circumstances to maintain health or the ordinary decent standards of domestic cleanliness. The Under-Secretary has already shown his practical sympathy in this matter, and I would like to pay a tribute to what he has done and is doing in regard to it. I hope that he will not only give us satisfaction in this particular case, but will give us that help and technical advice which will prevent similar occurrences in the future in connection with these water schemes.

Many references have been made to the very difficult situation of our great towns and of our industries in the drought emergency, and demands have been made for powers to sweep away Acts of Parliament and such things as the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Wakefield described as his nightmare in 1929—the question of compensation water. Those problems, however, bear no relation to the one which we are discussing this evening, which is that of rural water supplies. This is a Rural Water Supplies Bill, and for that purpose what we need is a Measure of this kind with plenty of financial backing. I think it is right, as the Minister of Health said, to separate the emergency problem from the permanent problem of improving rural water supplies, but it is in districts like the Highlands and other rural districts of Scotland, where the permanent problem is so serious, that the emergency is most acute, because there ordinary supplies are inferior, and become dangerously bad in an emergency such as that which we went through last summer and the still more serious emergency which we seem now to have in prospect. Therefore, I certainly intend to support the Second Reading of this Bill, but I do administer that warning to the Under-Secretary that I think more money will be required than seems to be envisaged in the Bill and in the White Paper.

7.21 p.m.

Photo of Lord  Scone Lord Scone , Perth

The hon. Member for Platting (Mr. Chorlton), who is not in his place at the moment, asked why more water was consumed per head in Scotland than in England. I think the answer is self-evident. My main object in intervening in this interesting Debate is to draw attention to one matter which I think has not been mentioned at all, except by the hon. Member for Platting, and that was only in passing. I refer to the increasing use of water in rural areas. The last Conservative Government passed some very admirable Rural Housing Acts, both for Scotland and for England, and, taking advantage of those Acts, landlords all over the country have been with great enthusiasm bringing houses for their tenants and workpeople up to date. Many of these houses, before their conversion, had no proper water supply whatsoever. They had no baths, they had usually earth closets, and water was got direct from a spring, well or pump, or in some cases, where there was no fear of pollution—and often, I regret to say, where there was—from a running stream. Where one finds, in a small parish which has no great supply of water, a number of houses provided with all modern conveniences, it is obvious that a great and ever-increasing strain is thrown upon the local water supply if it is not of very great extent. There are now baths, wash-hand basins, washing coppers, water closets, and, on farms, apparatus for the washing of farm implements and extra troughs in the fields so that the animals may be better watered. All this puts a great strain on a small local supply, and, therefore, the problem is not merely one of keeping these remote districts from suffering in times of drought, but of providing them with adequate water in the future as their needs increase.

I want to mention the case of a certain Dumfriesshire parish in which I spent the greater part of last autumn. It is a small parish with very little water indeed—so little that its own source of supply actually lies outwith the parish boundary. Last September or at the beginning of October there was less than one week's water in the reservoir. Very little was coming in, and only a sudden rainstorm saved the situation. This year the situation will very probably be worse. The catchment area which can be drawn upon for the present supply is limited, and, before a satisfactory supply can be assured, this parish will have to be included in a very much larger scheme. It is already a special water district, and has to pay a considerable rate, and obviously the parish itself is quite incapable of providing the necessary assistance. My own County of Perth is equally faced with many difficult problems in regard to the supply of water, and, while I congratulate the Government very much on this not by any means ungenerous grant, I hope they will realise that, whether £1,000,000 is sufficient for England or not—and I do not think it is likely to be—£137,500 is certainly not going to be sufficient for Scottish needs in the future.

Last year showed that, even without the ever-increasing use of water to which I have drawn attention, there are many towns and villages in the rural districts of Scotland where the water supply is utterly inadequate in times of drought, and there is reason to fear that, even should rain come now in large quantities, there will still be a very great shortage this summer, because many deep springs do not show the effect of the drought until at least a year, and sometimes 18 months or more, afterwards. The attitude of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Caithness and Sutherland (Sir A. Sinclair) is more reasonable than that of the main Opposition. Whether one regards the grant as adequate or not, it is at least a great step forward, and I think it would be exceedingly ungrateful of any Member of the House to register a vote against it. Though it may not be sufficient, and certainly is not sufficient for our Scottish needs in the future, it will go a long way, if properly applied, to satisfy the immediate requirements of both Scotland and England.

7.27 p.m.

Photo of Mr Archibald Skelton Mr Archibald Skelton , Combined Scottish Universities

I should like to begin by thanking my right hon. Friend the Member for Caithness and Sutherland (Sir A. Sinclair) and my Noble Friend the Member for Perth (Lord Scone) for the enlightened attitude of mind, if I may say so, with which they have approached the proposals of the Bill. No one is ever offered money who does not think that he might have been offered a little more; that is familiar in all branches of human existence; but, leaving that aside, I think that both my Friends have appreciated the effort which this Bill represents. For our part, we fully reciprocate the expressions which have fallen from them as to the need in Scotland for such assistance as we propose to give. I do not propose to go fully into that question. The situation does not vary very greatly from that in England, because it is based on the same consideration, namely, the small rateable value of rural areas and the consequent difficulty of their finding provision for the necessary work. As my right hon. Friend the Member for Caithness and Sutherland truly said, it often happens that the county is not in a much better financial position than the local area. I would, however, like to draw the attention of Scottish Members of the House, and of Scotland generally, to the variation in the form of the Bill in its application to Scotland. We have put into the Bill, as among those who may receive the grant, burghs as well as counties, and for this reason: As the House well knows, there is a considerable number of small burghs in Scotland in the case of which the yield of a penny rate is not much more than in a rural district.

Photo of Sir Francis Acland Sir Francis Acland , Cornwall Northern

It is the same in England.

Photo of Mr Archibald Skelton Mr Archibald Skelton , Combined Scottish Universities

I am not responsible for matters in England; I am merely pointing out the form of the Bill with regard to Scotland. We propose to include these burghs within the possibility of receiving a grant for this purpose. Inquiries which we have made with regard to the drought of last summer, and which are still continuing, clearly show that among the areas which are suffering the greatest anxiety at the present position are some of the smaller burghs.

Let me now say a word as to the procedure which we propose to adopt. Scottish Members are well aware that the normal procedure, when public authorities undertake the provision of water, is the erection of a special district. We propose that, where assistance is needed in an area which is not a special district, a special district should be formed, and there should be the contribution from the county council to which my right hon. Friend referred. In that way we shall achieve, by the slightly different machinery necessary in Scotland, the aim expressed by my right hon. Friend the Minister of Health, that the district concerned, the county and the State will all do their share in improving the water supply. I will not pursue the question of the actual position at the present moment in Scotland. In some districts it is giving us real anxiety. I think that in every case the local authorities are taking care to warn the users of water as to the precautions which it is necessary to take. As far as I am able to judge, everyone is alive to the necessity of care and watchfulness. We shall watch the situation with the greatest care, and no effort will be wanting on our part to give any assistance that can be given to deal with the state of dearth if it continues or develops. We, too, propose, like the Ministry, to keep in our own hands a complete discretion as to the distribution of the grant. That is the only way in which the fullest use can be made of the money available, and, although I appreciate the passages in my right hon. Friend's speech in which he appeared to be staking out a claim on behalf of the counties, in which he is specially interested, I must in the meantime turn an entirely deaf ear to his pipings.

7.31 p.m.

Photo of Mr Edward Ruggles-Brise Mr Edward Ruggles-Brise , Maldon

Several Members have been at some pains to discover the limits of this Bill. The Minister drew attention to Clause 2 where it says: Local authorities for the purposes of this Act shall be the council of any borough or urban or rural district. The only local authority which is excluded from the operation of the Bill is the county borough. If that is so, as far as I can see, there is no limit whatever to the demands that may be made upon the Government for a share of the £1,000,000 by any of the great towns if they happen not to be county boroughs. I shall be glad if the Parliamentary Secretary will clear that matter up. You may say it is limited by the words at the end of Clause 1 (1), with regard to providing a supply of water in a rural locality, but, if that is the case, we ought to have some definition of a rural locality. As far as I am aware, that term has no meaning in an Act of Parliament, and I really think we should be told definitely the limit that is intended to be imposed on an authority representing a population of a certain size in claims on a share of this £1,000,000. The Bill, being entitled the Rural Water Supplies Bill, naturally has brought a great deal of satisfaction to the rural community, and the action of the Government in bringing it forward is warmly welcomed in the country districts. It will be disappointing to them if they are to be told now that, after all, they are merely sharing in with the larger towns in this general fund.

The right hon. Gentleman in introducing the Bill said there were two phases of this question of water supply. The first was an emergency one and the second was what may be called the long-term phase. I was rather alarmed to hear him say that the first phase had nothing to do with the Bill. As far as I understood him, he intended to convey the impression that the money available would only be granted where there was to be a definite and permanent new water system supplied by any local authority. We are on the eve of a very grave emergency in hundreds of villages, and I should like to see the fund made available for emergency measures. I can visualise that within a few weeks from now in some quite small isolated villages there literally may not be a bucket of water for human or even for cattle consumption. Is none of this money to be available to help a local authority in making some emergency provision in a case of that kind? If that is the case, it is a profound mistake, and I hope the right hon. Gentleman will consider afresh whether he will not allow the Bill to encompass cases of that kind.

I should like to see a circular issued from the Ministry to all local authorities in country districts calling their attention to some very simple suggestions. For instance, a village is short of water, or has no water, and immediate measures must be taken. The surveyor of the local authority is sent off post haste to investigate the situation. Perhaps he has a map which tells him that there are ordinarily 10 or 12 wells, or perhaps there is a small brook running through the parish, and that is the water supply generally available. He is at a loss to know where to turn to make any emergency provision. I suggest that he should be invited to go at once to the nearest landowner or his agent, or the largest farmer. Frequently there are springs or supplies of water in some spot unknown except to the owner or occupier of the particular piece of land, but still an available supply in an emergency. Having discovered it, the surveyor might possibly be able to improvise, very quickly and at extremely little cost, an emergency supply. For instance, if there was a spring in the side of a hill he could make a small catchment and lay a rough pipe line, which need not be underground, brought down to storage tanks on the road near the village, and that might make the whole difference between the village becoming inhabitable or not. A simple scheme like that might be of the utmost value in a large number of villages within the next few weeks. Surely my right hon. Friend does not mean to draw the Bill so close that schemes of that sort will receive no assistance from the fund. If he is going to do that, he is making a very great mistake indeed.

When we turn to the long-term plan for improving the water supply generally of the country, if the larger towns are to benefit from this £1,000,000, in almost every instance they will go into rural localities to get their water supply. They will tap, presumably by boring, some subterannean spring perhaps several miles away from the town itself. Has the right hon. Gentleman any expert knowledge available in his Department to enable him to say exactly where the main subterranean streams run? I think that has an important bearing on the problem of water supply. I have no knowledge of water engineering, but my belief is that it is the subterranean streams which give us the little springs which we so often see near our villages. They are, so to speak, little bursts in the pipe springing up from the main stream below which enable us, by making shallow wells, to get an adequate water supply for normal needs. If that is the case, we in the country want to be careful that the great cities and towns do not so denude these subterranean streams as to make these little siphons unavailable for us in our villages. It is a matter for experts to go into very carefully, and I hope my right hon. Friend, if he has not the information already, will see that it is obtained and the most expert advice got; otherwise, I can see that a village which to-day is quite adequately supplied in a normal way with wells and springs might after a year or two become completely dry and deprived utterly of its water supply, and then we should have the rural community asking: What about the Rural Water Supplies Bill? If the money is intended to be earmarked for rural water supplies, the rural community may well rejoice, and I hope my right hon. Friend will not overlook the fact that some of these small and almost insignificant schemes are well worthy of a grant from the fund.

7.43 p.m.

Photo of Mr John Eastwood Mr John Eastwood , Kettering

I represent an area which is certainly suffering as much as, perhaps more than, any other. It is a curious thing that, whenever there happens to be a long period of drought, there are always exaggerations and rumours as to the terrible state of affairs that is going to arise. There appeared in a big London daily yesterday the heading: "Kettering people forbidden to have baths." It said: No other town of the size of Kettering has been so badly hit by the drought, and, according to this newspaper, for quite a long period the people of Kettering have been unable to perform their ablutions. Of course, there is a difficulty. The supplies have been reduced, and at night the main is turned off and people are warned publicly and privately, as is perfectly proper, to be as careful as they possible can be. But the real position is this: At the present moment they have supplies for eight to 10 weeks, and in addition they have been able to help a neighbouring town whose supply was getting shorter. I mention that for this reason: Obviously something has to be done as far as Kettering is concerned if matters get any worse. We are at the moment in the position that there has been a drought for a long period, a drought which as far as my area is concerned is probably worse than any experienced before, but in spite of that we have got adequate though slight supplies and have been able to help a neighbour. This Bill seems to me to be making a promising beginning. It is exactly the type of Bill which will give the greatest assistance to my constituency. On those grounds I welcome it and I hope that other hon. Members will do the same.

7.47 p.m.

Photo of Mr James Milner Mr James Milner , Leeds South East

The more the Debate proceeds the more the House appreciates the insufficiency of the Government's proposals. We are obviously still substantially in the last century so far as the organisation of the water supplies of the country is concerned. One had only to listen to the hon. and gallant Member for Maldon (Colonel Ruggles-Brise) to realise how little is the knowledge of our resources or possibilities and of the scientific requirements of the situation, and how little the water supplies of the country have been given attention by Governments in the past. In view of some of the appalling particulars that we have had given not only in this House but in the newspapers for months past of the water difficulties of the country, the Government proposals are wholly inadequate. They bear a close analogy to the proposals which the Minister of Health made originally in connection with the slum clearance campaign. It will be remembered that in bringing in the Housing (Financial Provisions) Bill of 1933 the Minister proposed as a maximum that some 12,000 houses should be demolished in the first year. The Parliamentary Secretary shakes his head, but I looked at the report to-day, and unless I am very much in error that was what the Minister intended to convey. The Minister thereupon proposed to put an additional sum of £75,000 only at the disposal of local authorities for the purpose of slum clearance.

Now, in this vitally important matter of water supply, the right hon. Gentleman offers what is a mere sop in the way of a contribution extending over the next three years, of £1,000,000 in all, to deal with this problem. Faced as we may quite easily be in the next month or six weeks with the greatest drought within living memory, the right hon. Gentleman will be guilty of a grave dereliction of duty if, having the opportunity that he has to-day, of bringing forward a Bill to deal adequately with the problem, he does not take appropriate and sufficient steps to deal with it. The Government as a whole cannot escape responsibility in the matter. In 1931 the right hon. Gentleman stopped the greater part of the provision which was being made by the Labour Government for works of all kind throughout the country, and in particular for works in relation to water supplies. My right hon. Friend the Member for Wakefield (Mr. Greenwood) told us just now that in the last year of the Labour Government he made grants amounting to something over £900,000 for the very purpose that we are discussing to-day. Since the present Minister of Health and his Government have been in office we have had no details as to what grants have been made, but we do know that they have been very considerably reduced. It has been the policy of the Government to reduce grants in these and in all other matters where they thought it possible to make economies. Therefore, the Government must bear a share of responsibility for the position in which the country finds itself to-day.

I was a little surprised to hear my hon. Friend the Member for Thirsk and Malton (Mr. Turton) criticise the Amendment which has been moved from the Labour benches, for the hon. Member must know that had the grants of the Labour Government been continued, and had there been an active and energetic local authority in that portion of his constituency which suffered something like a calamity some time ago, it is extremely probable that that calamity might not have occurred. It ill becomes my hon. Friend, therefore, to criticise the Labour Government on that ground. If he reads the Amendment I am sure that, as a member of the legal profession, he will see that one of the objections to the Bill is that it places a limit upon the amount of State assistance—the hon. Gentleman did not complete his quotation—"regardless of the total expenditure which may be required." The whole point of the Amendment, in that connection, is that the sum of £1,000,000 bears no relation whatever to the need of the situation.

In our view it is the needs of the situation as a whole which ought to be considered by the Government. The Minister of Health spoke of the £1,000,000 as being enough to reap a harvest. We think that the sum is wholly insufficient. The Minister said that the scheme was an elastic one. Elastic, I understand, is an article which is capable of expansion or reduction. I would like to know from the Parliamentary Secretary whether there is any probability or possibility of the sum of £1,000,000 being added to or extended as the original sum of £75,000 for slum clearance had eventually to be increased by reason of the force of public opinion. In our view the term "elastic" can easily cover a multitude of sins. It may mean that the right hon. Gentleman intends to exercise very close control over the distribution of this money, that he intends to make a scheme elastic within the £1,000,000 and not outside it, and that he is to be the judge as to the authorities to whom he makes grants, and as to the amount of grants and the circumstances under which grants are to be made.

I ask the Parliamentary Secretary, who will be the judge of the cases in which grants are to be made to local authorities? Will it be the Minister? Nothing is said in the Bill about it, and we have not been told anything about it to-day. The Minister claimed, I think with his tongue in his cheek, that the Bill did provide what we in our Amendment demand, a co-ordinated national scheme. I submit that it does no such thing, that the Bill merely provides a sum of money to be doled out on unknown and unstated conditions to local authorities, apparently both rural and urban, though that is not clear, in the next three years. As there are some 9,000 parishes without pipe supplies of any kind, a very small percentage indeed, something like £80 or £90, may be the contribution which the Minister will find it possible to make to the great majority of these villages.

One other comment on the Bill which it is proper to make, is that it contains no powers of compulsion or even of persuasion on local authorities. As one who has served a considerable number of years on a local authority, I am aware that some local authorities are extremely energetic and are likely to put forward schemes. But there are others which are very lax and do not take advantage even of the few opportunities that the Government give to-day to obtain assistance. I ask the Parliamentary Secretary, what are the courses proposed, apart from the pious circular of a day or two ago, to prevail on local authorities to carry out their duties and provide a sufficient and suitable supply of water in their district? There seems to be very little doubt in the minds of most hon. Members as to the necessity for the provision of water supplies throughout the whole of the rural areas.

I received only this morning an account of the conversation between a gentleman travelling in the East Riding and a farm labourer, a conversation which illustrates the views of thinking men in the country districts. This gentleman came on a farm labourer who was straining a filthy green liquid through a cloth. He asked, "What are you doing with that stuff?" The farm labourer replied, "I am getting it ready for the Missus." He was asked, "What will she do with it?" and the man replied "We boil it for our tea." The gentleman continued, "Why man, you, seem to live under worse conditions than some savages I have seen, if you are using filth like that with which to make tea." The labourer's reply was, "Yes, I often thought we were worse off, but it is as I am telling you. You could not expect anything better from such —— gentlemen as rule us to-day." The traveller went on to say to the labourer, "But, surely, my man the so-and-so you called them have nothing to do with your using such filth as that." He said, "Why of course they have. Look at those pylons over there. They say that it costs millions to provide electricity and bring it to the villages, and do you think that anybody with any —— sense would bring electricity to a village before water? While we can manage with candles, oil lamps and acetylene lamps, we cannot manage without water." He said that it was the life stream of man and beast, and that last summer cattle broke out of the fields in search of water. He also said that they could not spend any money, that they did not care for such as him, and that they could not expect anything better from those who ruled them to-day. I have not the pleasure of knowing the gentleman who wrote the communication, but it is a striking comment on the situation. There is electricity being provided in various country districts, certainly in Yorkshire, where pylons have been erected wholesale over the landscape, and it must be agreed on all hands that water is, at any rate, as great a necessity—and, in the view of many of us, it is a greater necessity—as electricity.

I think that there is some misapprehension in the mind of the Minister in regard to the position of urban supplies of water. The Bill apparently gives power—perhaps the Parliamentary Secretary will say if it is so—to make contributions for the provision of water, not only to rural authorities, but also to urban authorities. That is equally as necessary, because there are many urban authorities to-day in various parts of the country as badly off as the rural authorities. That is one of the reasons why in our view this is a national, and not a local problem, as the Minister said is the case. The time has come when you cannot divide up the question of water supplies between rural and urban authorities. It is futile to attempt to do so. They are so intertwined that it is impossible to deal with them separately, and only a national authority in some form can properly do so. Therefore, for that reason alone, the water supply of the nation could be dealt with as a whole.

There is another factor in the situation to which I wish to call attention. The towns of the West Riding of Yorkshire draw their water supplies, which are very good and ample, from the eastern side of the Pennines, and the cities of Leeds, Bradford and Sheffield, have millions of pounds invested in their waterworks schemes. There are some cities like Wakefield, which is represented by my right hon. Friend, who supply surrounding areas in bulk and have boards for waterworks purposes. But as the West Riding becomes more industrial and urban there is a likelihood of conflict of interests between those authorities. A corporation goes to Parliament to obtain powers to extend its waterworks scheme and is frequently in conflict with other local authorities seeking to safeguard their own interests. That kind of conflict will obviously increase as time goes on, and, therefore, it is essential that in the immediate future there should be a national authority to plan the nation's water supply. Though that would not solve all the problems it would certainly go a long way towards solving them.

Something was said by my right hon. Friend with regard to the parochialism of local authorities. There has been justice for some complaint in regard to that matter in the past, but the situation is now a good deal easier. I feel confident that some of the West Riding authorities who in years gone by appropriated, just as Imperialists in the Empire did, large portions of land for the purposes of their waterworks, will be willing to do what the Minister suggested and hand over their surplus water to other authorities who need it badly. I do not think that I can give a better opinion of the Bill than that contained in the speech of the hon. Member who told the House that he was deeply disappointed with its provisions, and that in his view there was an imperative necessity for some national organisation of the water supplies. He said that the provision made in the Bill by the Minister was niggling and inadequate to a degree. He almost went into poetry when he spoke about water supplies in future being left to unhappy chance. I thought that perhaps he was going to quote from Hamlet, and say to the Minister: O cursed spite!That ever I was born to set it right! There is a necessity for a national water authority because of the essential nature of the commodity with which we deal, and of the increasing conflict of interests between authorities of one sort or another, and particularly because of the division which exists to-day between urban and rural areas. An appropriate and sufficient financial provision is not possible to the great majority of the small authorities in this country, even if several, or many of them join together. We have had some instances to-day of the rate which will have to be levied, even with such assistance as may be given by the Government under this Bill, in order to provide a water supply. The provision of a sufficient and suitable water supply is necessary, and it should proceed pari passu with the development of agriculture and the settlement on the land, which, we understood from a speech of the Lord Privy Seal the other day, was to be one of the immediate tasks of the Government. Obviously, if there is to be increased settlement on the land, this question ought to be tackled, and, in our view, it ought to be tackled first. It can only be tackled satisfactorily nationally. For all these reasons and those adduced by my right hon. Friend the Member for Wakefield (Mr. Greenwood) I commend the Amendment to the House.

8.10 p.m.

Photo of Mr Charles Williams Mr Charles Williams , Torquay

I wish to clear up a point which has been raised by a good many Members upon which some of us are not clear. Who is to benefit from this particular Measure? The Minister referred us at one time to the council of any borough, urban or rural district. After reading the Bill I do not believe that a small borough of, say, 7,000 or 10,000 inhabitants, and which is entirely urban, would be able to get a single penny as a result of the Bill. I do not think—and I should like to have this made very clear—that there will be any money in this Bill—I wish there was—for the improvement of a water supply in an urban area which is partly rural and partly urban except in the particular part of the area which is absolutely rural in outlook. I would like that point made plain.

I thank the Minister for having made a very considerable advance to-day when he laid down so well and ably the extraordinary advances which have been made in purifying water apparently in the last few weeks. I thought that it had been going on for years. I congratulate the Minister upon having discovered that fact. I hope that he will urge the policy of purification wherever possible, particularly in view of the shortage of water in certain localities whenever he gets a chance. I thank him most heartily for saying—and I hope this will go beyond the rural districts—that he is going to do everything possible in the future, both by means of his engineering staff and his inspectors, to encourage and help the local authorities in their very great difficulties. The Minister in that respect is taking a line which every one of us would expect him to take. I hope that he will urge the hon. Members behind him to be really helpful to him on all these occasions, and so help us out of our difficulties. There are many things in the Bill of which I disapprove, and I agree with an hon. Friend opposite that there should be a time limit. However, I again thank the Minister for his helpful outlook on this matter.

8.12 p.m.

Photo of Mr Geoffrey Shakespeare Mr Geoffrey Shakespeare , Norwich

Although there is admittedly a shortage of water, I am glad to say that there has not been a shortage of appreciation from a large number of Members who have spoken. A number of questions have been put to me, and I shall have to deal with them quickly. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for North Cornwall (Sir F. Acland) asked me whether the Bill would be retrospective, and my hon. Friend the Member for Thirsk and Malton (Mr. Turton) put the same point. The answer is "No." We all know that there are hard cases, but immediately you start to make legislation of this sort retrospective it is impossible to draw the line fairly. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for North Cornwall also asked whether the Royal Army Service Corps could not help in bringing supplies of water in cases of emergency. It was a very helpful suggestion, and it will be submitted to the Financial Secretary to the War Office should an emergency arise. My hon. Friend the Member for Thirsk and Malton and the hon. and learned Member for East Grinstead (Sir H. Cautley) raised the question of sewage, which is a very important question in connection with water supplies. In estimating the burden on the locality and their ability to pay for the water scheme, the Minister will no doubt take into account the extra burden caused by the addition of a sewerage scheme necessitated by a water scheme. The hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Pembroke (Major Lloyd George) and a number of other hon. Members asked a question as to the participation of boroughs and urban districts.

Let me make the position plain. The Bill is designed to help the rural areas, whether in a rural district or, as we hope, in a smaller unit still, in a parish. If it happens that there is a borough with an outlying area which amounts to a small rural locality, then the borough will be able to make a claim under the Bill in respect of that smaller area. In our view, that will be a fractional case. It is not our intention to help boroughs which can, for the most part, rely on their own resources. We are out to help those who cannot help themselves, but I can conceive the case of a large urban district or a large borough with a small rural village on the fringe of it, to which this Bill would apply. I hope that I have made that plain.

Sir WILFRID SUDDEN:

At a local Government inquiry there could be raised such questions as the rate-carrying capacity of the district and quid pro quos in respect of special facilities, where sometimes the boundaries are increased in the urban districts. I understand that what the hon. Member is now proposing will not cut across that system.

Photo of Mr Charles Williams Mr Charles Williams , Torquay

The Parliamentary Secretary has referred to the case of a borough with a village attached. I understand that money can be obtained for improvements in regard to the village but nothing for any improvements in the borough. Is that right?

Photo of Mr Geoffrey Shakespeare Mr Geoffrey Shakespeare , Norwich

That is so. It is to enable a borough or urban district to provide a supply of water to a rural locality within its area where at the present time there is a deficiency of water. The hon. Member for Horncastle (Mr. Haslam) made an interesting speech, in which he declared that an ounce of practical water supply was worth a ton of theory. With that statement I heartily agree. The hon. Member for Carmarthen (Mr. R. T. Evans) raised a question as to the rate of loans. The usual period is 30 years at a rate fixed by the Public Works Loan Commissioners. The hon. Member for Gravesend (Mr. Albery) raised the question of a means test. My right hon. Friend made it perfectly clear that the virtue of the scheme was that we could decide each case upon its merits. If we are going to lay down a hard and fast rule the whole value of the scheme will be lost. The hon. Member for Ashford (Mr. Spens) asked what would happen to a rural district which has an influx of holiday visitors. The answer is, that unless the rural district has an adequate water supply the visitors will cease to spend their holidays there. If such a district likes to take advantage of this Bill and improve its water supply, I imagine that the needs of the holiday makers will be provided for.

The hon. Member for Platting (Mr. Chorlton), speaking with considerable knowledge on this subject, explained, to my great satisfaction, that whenever he mentioned the word "grid," all that he meant was interconnection. That is all right. I am glad to have that matter cleared up. If that is all that he means, then interconnection in the case of adjoining large undertakings is often an economic means of increasing the facilities of both. That is already done; I am thinking of Liverpool and Manchester at the moment. That illustrates the possibility of interconnection. The hon. Member for Platting also said that water was the best means of improving milk. I always thought that milk was the only commodity where a water shortage was justified. The hon. and gallant Member for Maldon (Colonel Ruggles-Brise) raised the point as to emergency measures. It is not intended that any of the million pounds shall be used for emergency measures. If assistance is necessary in such cases it will be dealt with in another way, but not under this Bill.

The hon. Member for Kettering (Mr. Eastwood) complained of Press reports with regard to his borough, and assured the House that not only himself but all his friends were still having baths. I am very glad to hear that. He pointed out that, in spite of the difficulties from which Kettering was suffering, the position is not acute, and that caution is being exercised. I can supplement that information. I understand that the Kettering Borough Council have in hand two supplementary schemes for augmenting their water supply. The hon. and gallant Member for South-East Leeds (Major Milner) tried to drag slum clearance across the track. He knows perfectly well the ansiwer, because I have dealt with the matter myself. If he will read the Debate on the subject he will find the answer; in fact, he knows it. He then addressed a number of rhetorical questions to me. He misquoted my ancestor. All I can say about that is that the late Labour Government was not born to put the crisis right. The hon. Member for Elland (Mr. Levy) and several other hon. Members still seem to think that the position is alarming. The hon. Member for Elland said that there was a plight in the large centres. I must ask him not to strike this alarmist note. Nobody else except the stunt Press is doing it. He puts a lot of spirit into this water problem—so much spirit that there is a water shortage.

Let me briefly explain what I understand to be the general position. My right hon. Friend has made it perfectly plain, but perhaps I may be allowed to restate it. We have in this country a better water supply, more adequate and purer than that of any country in the world, largely because since the War we have spent on water supplies something like £60,000,000 in the last 12 years—a fact not generally known. Large undertakings, whether the undertakings of local authorities or of private companies throughout the country, have stood the strain remarkably well. I spent last night reading a report published in "Water and Water Engineering" on 20th January prepared, I understand, by Mr. Hobbs, the very able Secretary of the Institute of Water Engineers. The editor of the paper had asked water undertakers in all parts of the country to give an appreciation of the position, and if time was not pressing I would like to read one or two of those appreciations. The House, however, must take my word for it that out of the 102 which are mentioned 87 were satisfactory. By that I mean that there was no expression of anxiety even if the drought continues. Fifteen were doubtful. My right hon. Friend quoted one, the case of Bristol where there is no anxiety at the moment but there may be if the drought continues for a long time. In 87 out of the 102 the position is satisfactory. The February number of this periodical is only just out and I have not had time to read it all, but I see that at the very beginning of an article on the present position a report of Mr. Llewellyn Jones is quoted to the effect that drought or no drought, Aberystwyth is all right. There is a general introduction to the February issue saying that although the drought has continued the general position has not materially changed as compared with January.

There have been alarmist reports in the Press. I do not want to deprive any journalist of the right to make good copy, to write picturesque stuff, but there are some parts of rural England where there never has been water and never will be under this or any other Bill, where the only means of getting water is by using a tank and catching the rain water; no pipe line will ever serve these places under any known system. Some of these enterprising journalists who have gone to such places have sacrificed accuracy to picturesqueness. In every case mentioned in the Press which has come to the notice of the Ministry of Health we have at once got in touch with the local authorities. I am not going to weary the House by reading from this report which was not made for the purposes of debate, but it shows that in all about 87 cases have been mentioned of rural districts and urban districts; and we are in touch with every one. In 60 of these cases definite action has been taken to husband supplies to increase them from supplementary sources, and by other measures, and the other 27 indignantly deny the Press reports. Take the case of Glossop. The report from there says: Press report of acute shortage altogether incorrect and the attention of the Manchester papers has been drawn thereto. Ninety days' storage in hand; that is 10 days below normal. Take the case of Buxton. The Press report was 13th December of acute shortage. We wrote on the 13th December—by "we" I mean the skilled administrators of the Department. The reply on the 16th December was: Press report untrue; conditions normal. Take the Stowmarket Urban District. The reply on the 6th of January was: Press report wholly untrue. In 27 of these cases they say that the reports which have appeared in the Press of acute shortage are untrue. I do not wonder that hon. Members reading these reports get rather alarmed. I have been reading to-day that the Thames is drying up and that we are not going to have tea on the Terrace in the summer but on the mud on the bed of the Thames. I was glad to see that Sir William Prescott, the Chairman of the Metropolitan Water Board, characterised the report that London was to be rationed as "rubbish"; and the same expression can be applied to a great bulk of the reports which have appeared.

Photo of Mr James Milner Mr James Milner , Leeds South East

The hon. Gentleman has only dealt with urban areas, what about the rural areas?

Photo of Mr Geoffrey Shakespeare Mr Geoffrey Shakespeare , Norwich

The bulk of the 87 cases are rural areas.

Photo of Mr Thomas Levy Mr Thomas Levy , Elland

The hon. Member has said that in 87 out of 102 cases of large areas the conditions are satisfactory but that there are 13 or 14 per cent. of them which by his own admission are doubtful. If 13 or 14 per cent. of these large areas are in an unsatisfactory position with a proper organised water supply, what is going to be the condition in rural areas which have no organised water supply?

Photo of Mr Geoffrey Shakespeare Mr Geoffrey Shakespeare , Norwich

Every one of them is keen on dealing with its own problem, and is taking steps to augment its resources. The Ministry of Health is aware of the problems of the rural areas. We have been considering it for a long time, and it is no secret to say that this Bill has been in contemplation for a long time. It was only the absence of Parliamentary time which prevented its being introduced in the autumn. Now we are ready with our emergency powers should the position worsen, and I suppose that as we have introduced this Bill it will be like putting up an umbrella—it will rain copiously next week. The hon. and gallant Member for Pembroke wanted a survey made of the rural position to ascertain the needs. In a national survey you must survey not only the needs of the areas for 30 years ahead but the available water supplies. The whole art of water supplies is in choosing the right economic unit. It is no good going in for a grandiose survey which when you have got it will be simply academic.

Major LLOYD GEORGE:

I asked whether the sum of £1,000,000 was based on the need of rural areas. I did not ask for a national survey. I wanted to know whether the sum in the Bill was based on the need.

Photo of Mr Geoffrey Shakespeare Mr Geoffrey Shakespeare , Norwich

That was the hon. and gallant Member's second point. In the first place he suggested a survey to ascertain the need. The right hon. Gentleman opposite when Minister of Health knew that the problem was not as regards a survey of the water supplies a national problem but one of choosing the right area, and when he was pressed in 1930 by some enthusiasts to provide reservoirs on every mountain top throughout England and Wales. He said: The primary responsibility for schemes of water supply rests with the local authority concerned."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 17th July, 1930; col. 1461, Vol. 241.] Why this Motion for the rejection of the Bill? The right hon. Gentleman is tearing up everything he has said. When he was a Minister of the Crown he was for regional and local responsibility, now it is to be national responsibility. What does he mean? The hon. and gallant Member for Pembroke asked on what grounds we have based our estimate of £1,000,000. We took the best advice we could get. We believe that it will be sufficient substantially to alleviate the condition in the rural areas. I do not say that we are going to clear up every single case. Obviously the rural problem is difficult, but, as I say, we believe this will be a substantial alleviation of the present position.

May I say a few words as to what the rural problem is? Firstly, secondly and thirdly, it is a question of cost. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Wakefield started by praising the Metropolitan Water Board—quite rightly—and I thought he was going on to urge that there should be a Metropolitan Water Board in each parish. He did go as far as that, but he said he would like some sort of regional executive authority which could take surplus water, say from Sheffield and give it to rural areas. I believe that that would be far too expensive. It would not pay a rural district council whose area lay against a great main to tap that main, although it can get the water at cost price under some Statute. It might not pay a rural council whose area lay against the Vyrnwy main of Liverpool to tap the main and get the water at cost price. It is solely a question of cost, either as regards the use of existing supplies or as regards getting supplies on the spot from the surface or by the sinking of bores. That is why this £1,000,000 is going to be beneficial. That grant, and the additional charge on the consumer, on the rural district and the parish, and on the county council, will all work together for good. The right hon. Gentleman said that when his party were in office they gave grants in the rural areas. I have worked out the capital value of the grants which they gave and it amounts in three years to £5,000,000. Apparently he thinks it is all right for him to put in £5,000,000 but it is wrong when we put in £1,000,000. That is an argument which I cannot follow.

Photo of Mr Arthur Greenwood Mr Arthur Greenwood , Wakefield

Yours is just one-fifth as good as ours.

Photo of Mr Geoffrey Shakespeare Mr Geoffrey Shakespeare , Norwich

I am afraid I made a mistake in the figure; we are giving twice as much as the right hon. Gentleman gave, and moreover we can now get the contributions from the rural districts and the county councils which in those days the right hon. Gentleman could not get on the same scale. An hon. Member has asked how we can ensure the co-operation of the county councils. We have kept in close touch with them throughout, and there is a great spirit of helpfulness and accommodation in both associations. At present 50 county councils are helping rural district councils to survey their water problems, and we believe that the county councils will continue to help. They will constitute one of the five agencies for swelling the contribution. This £1,000,000 will in fact promote four or five times the amount of work in capital value, just as the grant of £500,000 did in the days which my right hon. Friend mentioned. I think I have said enough to show that this is a sensible and practical measure of help for those areas where there is a need. In many rural districts the need is not due to drought but is a chronic condition which has been aggravated by the drought. The drought has been awkward particularly in view of the misleading statements to which it has given rise. The Ministry of Health is always being attacked however, because its activities cover so many topics of controversy, and one hopes that the drought will do some good inasmuch as it will show the strength of our water supplies generally, as well as showing our weakness in the rural areas—a weakness which this Bill is designed to mitigate. In short, one can only hope that it is an ill drought which will blow nobody any water.

Photo of Captain Richard Evans Captain Richard Evans , Carmarthen

The hon. Gentleman did not answer the question which was put to him in relation to urban authorities in rural areas—not county boroughs. What will be their position under the scheme?

Photo of Mr Geoffrey Shakespeare Mr Geoffrey Shakespeare , Norwich

I have answered that question very carefully.

Photo of Captain Richard Evans Captain Richard Evans , Carmarthen

I apologise. I was not here at the time.

Photo of Mr William Spens Mr William Spens , Ashford

Will the hon. Gentleman answer one more question namely that which relates to our troubles on the seacoast.

Photo of Mr Geoffrey Shakespeare Mr Geoffrey Shakespeare , Norwich

I have dealt with that matter also.

Question put, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."

The House divided: Ayes, 188; Noes, 36.

Division No. 121.]AYES.8.43 p.m.
Acland, Rt. Hon. Sir Francis DykeEmmott, Charles E. G. C.Mason, David M. (Edinburgh, E.)
Acland-Troyte, Lieut.-ColonelErskine, Lord (Weston-super-Mare)Mason, Col. Glyn K. (Croydon, N.)
Adams, Samuel Vyvyan T. (Leeds, W.)Essenhigh, Reginald ClareMayhew, Lieut.-Colonel John
Agnew, Lieut.-Com. P. G.Evans, David Owen (Cardigan)Meller, Sir Richard James
Albery, Irving JamesFoot, Dingle (Dundee)Mills, Major J. D. (New Forest)
Anstruther-Gray, W. J.Fox, Sir GiffordMorris, John Patrick (Salford, N.)
Aske, Sir Robert WilliamGanzoni, Sir JohnMorrison, William Shephard
Atholl, Duchess ofGluckstein, Louis HalleMoss, Captain H. J.
Baldwin, Rt. Hon. StanleyGoff, Sir ParkNall, Sir Joseph
Baldwin-Webb, Colonel J.Gower, Sir RobertNation, Brigadier-General J. J. H.
Balfour, Capt. Harold (I. of Thanet)Greene, William P. C.Nicholson, Godfrey (Morpeth)
Barclay-Harvey, C. M.Gretton, Colonel Rt. Hon. JohnNunn, William
Barton, Capt. Basil KelseyGriffith, F. Kingsley (Middlesbro', W.)O'Connor, Terence James
Beit, Sir Alfred L.Grimston, R. V.Ormsby-Gore, Rt. Hon. William G. A.
Blindell, JamesGuinness, Thomas L. E. B.Palmer, Francis Noel
Borodale, ViscountGunston, Captain D. W.Pearson, William G.
Bower, Lieut.-Com. Robert TattonGuy, J. C. MorrisonPercy, Lord Eustace
Broadbent, Colonel JohnHamilton, Sir R.W. (Orkney & Z'tl'nd)Pickering, Ernest H.
Brown, Ernest (Leith)Hanbury, CecilRaikes, Henry V. A. M.
Buchan-Hepburn, P. G. T.Haslam, Henry (Horncastle)Ramsay, Capt. A. H. M. (Midlothian)
Butler, Richard AustenHeligers, Captain F. F. A.Ramsay, T. B. W. (Western Isles)
Butt, Sir AlfredHenderson, Sir Vivian L. (Chelmsford)Rankin, Robert
Campbell, Sir Edward Taswell (Brmly)Holdsworth, HerbertRea, Walter Russell
Campbell-Johnston, MalcolmHope, Capt. Hon. A. O. J. (Aston)Reid, William Allan (Derby)
Caporn, Arthur CecilHore-Belisha, LeslieRemer, John R.
Carver, Major William H.Horsbrugh, FlorenceRickards, George William
Cautley, Sir Henry S.Hunter, Dr. Joseph (Dumfries)Ropner, Colonel L.
Chamberlain, Rt. Hon. N. (Edgbaston)Hurst, Sir Gerald B.Rosbotham, Sir Thomas
Chapman, Col. R. (Houghton-le-Spring)Johnstone, Harcourt (S. Shields)Ross, Ronald D.
Chapman, Sir Samuel (Edinburgh, S.)Jones, Sir G. W. H. (Stoke New'gton)Ross Taylor, Walter (Woodbridge)
Clarry, Reginald GeorgeKerr, Hamilton W.Ruggles-Brise, Colonel E. A.
Clayton, Sir ChristopherLaw, Richard K. (Hull, S. W.)Russell, Hamer Field (Sheffield, B'tside)
Cochrane, Commander Hon. A. D.Leckie, J. A.Russell, R. J. (Eddisbury)
Colfox, Major William PhilipLeech, Dr. J. W.Rutherford, John (Edmonton)
Conant, R. J. E.Lees-Jones, JohnRutherford, Sir John Hugo (Liverp'1)
Cook, Thomas A.Levy, ThomasSamuel, Sir Arthur Michael (F'nham)
Craddock, Sir Reginald HenryLindsay, Noel KerSamuel, Samuel (W'dsworth, Putney)
Crooke, J. SmedleyLittle, Graham-, Sir ErnestSandeman, Sir A. N. Stewart
Crookshank, Capt. H. C. (Gainsb'ro)Locker-Lampson, Com. O. (H'ndsw'th)Sassoon, Rt. Hon. Sir Philip A. G. D.
Croom-Johnson, R. P.Loftus, Pierce C.Savery, Samuel Servington
Cruddas, Lieut.-Colonel BernardMacAndrew, Lieut.-Col. C. G. (Partick)Scone, Lord
Culverwell, Cyril TomMacAndrew, Capt. J. O. (Ayr)Selley, Harry R.
Denman, Hon. R. D.MacDonald, Malcolm (Bassetlaw)Shakespeare, Geoffrey H.
Despencer-Robertson, Major J. A. F.McEwen, Captain J. H. F.Shaw, Helen B. (Lanark, Bothwell)
Dickie, John P.Macquisten, Frederick AlexanderShepperson, Sir Ernest W.
Doran, EdwardMallalieu, Edward LancelotSimmonds, Oliver Edwin
Duckworth, George A. V.Mander, Geoffrey le MSinclair, Maj. Rt. Hn. Sir A. (C'thness)
Eastwood, John FrancisManningham-Buller, Lt.-Col. Sir M.Skelton, Archibald Noel
Edmondson, Major A. J.Margesson, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. D. R.Smiles, Lieut.-Col. Sir Walter D.
Elmley, ViscountMartin, Thomas B.Smith, Bracewell (Dulwich)
Smith, R. W. (Aberd'n & Kinc'dine, C.)Sugden, Sir Wilfrid HartWells, Sydney Richard
Smithers, WaldronSutcliffe, HaroldWhiteside, Borras Noel H.
Somerville, Annesley A. (Windsor)Tate, Mavis ConstanceWhyte, Jardine Bell
Somerville, D. G. (Willesden, East)Templeton, William P.Williams, Charles (Devon, Torquay)
Soper, RichardThomas, James P. L. (Hereford)Willoughby de Eresby, Lord
Sotheron-Estcourt, Captain T. EThomson, Sir Frederick CharlesWills, Wilfrid D.
Southby, Commander Archibald R. J.Thorp, Linton TheodoreWilson, Clyde T. (West Toxteth)
Spencer, Captain Richard A.Tufnell, Lieut.-Commander R. L.Withers, Sir John James
Spens, William PatrickTurton, Robert HughWorthington, Dr. John V.
Stanley, Rt. Hon. Lord (Fylde)Wallace, John (Dunfermline)Young, Rt. Hon. Sir Hilton (S'v'oaks)
Stewart, J. H. (Fife, E.)Ward. Lt.-Col. Sir A. L. (Hull)
Storey, SamuelWard, Irene Mary Bewick (Wallsend)TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—
Stourton, Hon. John J.Ward, Sarah Adelaide (Cannock)Captain Sir George Bowyer and Dr. Morris-Jones
Strauss, Edward A.Warrender, Sir Victor A. G.
NOES.
Adams, D. M. (Poplar, South)Dobbie, WilliamMcEntee, Valentine L.
Attlee, Clement RichardEdwards, CharlesMaclean, Neil (Glasgow, Govan)
Banfield, John WilliamEvans, R. T. (Carmarthen)Mainwarinq, William Henry
Batey, JosephGeorge, Major G. Lloyd (Pembroke)Maxton, James
Brown, C. W. E. (Notts., Mansfield)Greenwood, Rt. Hon. ArthurMilner, Major James
Buchanan, GeorgeGrenfell, David Rees (Glamorgan)Paling, Wilfred
Cape, ThomasGroves, Thomas E.Parkinson, John Allen
Cocks, Frederick SeymourJenkins, Sir WilliamSalter, Dr. Alfred
Cove, William G.Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly)Thorne, William James
Cripps, Sir StaffordKirkwood, DavidTinker, John Joseph
Dagger, GeorgeLawson, John James
Davies, David L. (Pontypridd)Lunn, WilliamTELLERS FOR THE NOES.—
Davies, Rhys John (Westhoughton)Macdonald, Gordon (Ince)Mr. John and Mr. D. Graham.

Question put, and agreed to.

Bill committed to a Committee of the Whole House, for Monday next.—[Sir G. Bowyer.]