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Water Supply

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons on 3rd May 1944.

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Photo of Mr Henry Willink Mr Henry Willink , Croydon North

They will certainly need additional finance. As regards the Geological Survey, that stands in relation to the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research and is independent of myself. That is one general type of information which we desire should be far more efficiently built up than is the case at present.

The second is one which I think will commend itself to all who think about these things. It is most desirable that we should have instruments in various parts of the country who will survey the needs, present and future, of regions, not only for the moment but taking the long view. Plant of the kind required is expensive, but it is most desirable that the needs of areas should be considered in that way, as a whole and with a long view. Something of that kind, of course, has been going on, but on a voluntary basis since, I think, 1924, in the shape of the Regional Advisory Committees. To these Committees we intend to give statutory powers and functions, and we intend probably to add to their number. They will survey the needs of regions, which will be decided upon not necessarily in relation to watersheds, but in relation to a common problem. The region may be an area with a large, possibly growing, aggregation of population. It may be an area like the Sherwood area, with a common geological problem. It may be an area like Sussex, with a general rural water supply problem. Cornwall may be an additional example of that kind. In all the planning which is to take the place of the limited approach to the subject which has obtained in the past—private Bill procedure and so forth —one will have a growing body of forward-looking planners, starting with the Regional Advisory Committees, and with further information coming from the Ministry of Town and Country Planning, the Ministry of Agriculture and the various people in the localities, among whom, one hopes, the county councils will play a prominent part.

In the third place it is highly to be desired that there should be a far more regular and systematic review by the inspectorate of the appropriate Departments of the standards of achievement, which are very different indeed from place to place. For all this there must be power to require statistical information from all substantial users of water, from all sinkers of wells, if we are to build up a picture which will enable sensible and speedy decisions to be given. I venture to think that this is all of the science of sound planning and that the outcome should be very different from what we see to-day.

So those are the three main sources of information, with their objectives. Then, at the centre, in England and Wales at any rate, it is felt that the Minister of Health will need the continuance of the advice which he has received during recent years from a body of the nature of the Central Advisory Water Committee, Lord Milne's Committee. That is not merely a body of water undertakers or representatives of water undertakers. Its predecessor was, but now it is representative not only of water undertakers but of local authorities, industry, landowners, agriculture, and drainage, and the Committee's three reports bear on the face of them indications of the value of the experience that has been obtained.