Only a few days to go: We’re raising £25,000 to keep TheyWorkForYou running and make sure people across the UK can hold their elected representatives to account.

Donate to our crowdfunder

Water Supply

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

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Sir Joseph Lamb Sir Joseph Lamb , Stone

That is a point to be dealt with later, and I intend to deal with landlords later on. I have a great respect for the services which landowners, together with cultivators, have rendered in the past, and are rendering to-day in the provision of food. There is a great risk of disease to livestock when they are compelled to drink water which is of an unsatisfactory nature. I could give many experiences in regard to farmers and an unsatisfactory water supply. I remember a man who once set out with the object of buying a farm. The tenant was not at home when he arrived and so the man was able to look round the farm and then come back again. He found very little water on the farm, which was otherwise satisfactory. Afterwards, the tenant arrived home and told him that he had had to go four miles in order to fetch water for the household for drinking purposes. Needless to say, the man did not stay long to consider the purchase of a farm in such a condition. That is not an isolated case. There are many farms just as badly off. Only last night I read in the newspaper of a case in Suffolk where inhabitants had to walk three miles to obtain drinking water. These are not extreme statements and the position must be considered.

The question of river pollution is mentioned in the White Paper, and I hope that we are to have more drastic provisions for the protection of water supplies from unnecessary pollution by industries. It is no doubt an expense to industry to deal with effluents from various processes, but it is their duty to do so, and nobody has the right, either for the benefit of themselves or their industry, to impose upon others great disadvantages in regard to water supply just because there is no control to prevent them doing it. There is a moral obligation on them to deal with the effluents, so that they are not turned into a river to pollute it to the detriment of livestock and food production. I support what was said by the hon. Member for South Bristol (Mr. A. G. Walkden). This is a question which is very important to the agricultural worker; it is important to the employers and to employees and their families. A large saving can be effected when water is in good supply. Reference was made by the hon. Member to the fact that he developed his constitution very largely by pumping, or carrying water with a yoke. It is a matter of very great drudgery in some places where all the water has to be pumped from underground.

In order to retain labour in the country districts, it is necessary to make it as satisfied as possible. A man cannot very well be satisfied in the doing of his job if his wife is compelled to live in a country area where there are not anything like the amenities in the town only a short bus ride away. There is very great difficulty in obtaining labour in rural areas because of the conditions under which the women folk have to live. I would like to ask my right hon. and learned Friend whether it is the intention, before he introduces, legislation, to have consulta- tion with the responsible bodies in agriculture. I refer to the National Farmers' Union and the Agricultural Labourers' Union. I hope the Minister will give a definite intimation that consultation will take place between those particular bodies as representing the industry.

Reference is made in the White Paper to the Central Advisory Water Committee which, it is said, already exists. I am rather sorry the Minister reminded us that it exists, because if we are to take, as a measure of its value, the result it has achieved in rural areas, I am afraid we shall be very dissatisfied with its work in the future. I hope that our fears will not be realised and that it will concentrate very much more upon the rural areas. It is said they are to cover a wide range of representation but I am afraid it is not as wide as it should be. They are to represent the local authorities—and I say nothing about that—the water suppliers, and industry—and in industry there is great necessity for water—and then there are the landowners. Here comes in my observation on the interruption of the hon. Member. I have a great respect for landowners, but in this case they are not adequate fully to represent the interests of agriculture. I would like to see the representation of all agricultural users included. These are the people who know the necessities and the conditions, and it would be a great advantage if we could have them represented. A successful agriculture is undoubtedly a great asset to the country as a whole.

We are told we are to have new regional councils, and here again I want to know whether agriculture is to have representation through its organised representatives. The Minister is to take powers to make orders to take over undertakers, depriving them of their areas and handing them over to others or to the local authority. It is absolutely essential that there should be powers in the hands of the Minister to see that the objects and desires of the public are carried out, but I have one doubt. If these powers are made too drastic, the Minister himself may be a little too reluctant to put them into operation. Would the Minister consider whether some necessary action could be taken before the very drastic powers which it is proposed to give him are put into force, so as to obtain the desired object, without going to the extreme?