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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 Robert Morrison Mr Robert Morrison , Tottenham North

I am willing to concede the point. My complaint is not generally against the policy of the White Paper, but against its slowness. Apart from the Bill on rural water supplies for this Session and the Water Undertakings Bill which is down for next Session, all the other things have to await the setting up of a Greater London Water Advisory Committee. That means years before anything is done. What I am pointing out is the urgency of the matter. The two points I have mentioned do not need prolonged consideration by advisory committees, especially when we are about to embark upon the replanning of a great part of London.

My final point is the need, which is not mentioned in the White Paper, for a research organisation to cover all fields of water engineering. I had the privilege a few months ago of being in Bermuda, where there is always a shortage of water and every person has to collect his own supply. They do it by collecting it from the roofs of houses and all sorts of other ways. I would like to draw attention to two things that happened out there. When the United States Army and Air Force arrived in Bermuda they found themselves faced with a tremendous shortage of water. They did not appoint an advisory committee and spend a lot of time over considering it. There was a war on and they had to get water at once. They covered a mountain with concrete and put storage tanks at the bottom, so as to secure all the water that fell on the mountain. They found they were not getting enough, so they installed two generators which turned sea-water into fresh water at the rate of 9,000 gallons a day. The way they did that in a month or two is a useful lesson to us. In this country with all its water undertakings, there is no national water research organisation. I, therefore, suggest the setting-up of such an organisation for all fields of water engineering.

I admit that the White Paper is an advance on anything we have had before, but I am very much alarmed at the slowness of the proposals set out. Surely, the time has come when we ought to have a Minister in this House to deal with water supplies as, for instance, an Under-Secretary for Water. There is enough work on water problems and their connection with agriculture, housing and other things for an additional Under-Secretary to the Ministry of Health. While I am not authorised to speak on behalf of the Metropolitan Water Board, I have no doubt that the views I have expressed would be freely endorsed, probably unanimously, by the Board. We are concerned, first, about the fact that there are 13 separate water undertakings in the London Civil Defence area; second, at the effect on underground water supplies of the increased number of wells and the fact that anybody can sink a well where they like; and, third, that there should be a national water research organisation.