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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 Thomas Levy Mr Thomas Levy , Elland

I am not a Socialist, because Socialism is not all common sense. This is common sense. I am suggesting it is impossible for the poorer areas to provide sufficient in rates to do the job. The other day we had the case of Anglesey, where a penny rate yields £600. Anglesey came to this House for power to have a partial water supply without drainage, and they were to borrow £500,000. Over the whole country the Government offer £7,500,000, and a similar sum for drainage. Then my right hon. and learned Friend says that grants-in-aid are to be given to approved schemes and plans that are to be created. He says he must distribute these grants equitably and must get all the plans in first, because unless he gets all the plans in how can he make an equitable distribution? Then when he gets all the plans in the mathematicians will get to work to let those concerned know how little the grant-in-aid will be. The Minister says "We shall amalgamate you all now. It is going to be the county councils which will levy these rates for these water and drainage supplies."

I told my right hon. and learned Friend when we had the last Debate that unless he brought in a national water plan with a national drainage plan I would be one of his most violent critics. I hope I shall be forgiven, but I shall always be a violent critic until I see that this country is adequately supplied with water and drainage. Every private Bill that has been introduced into this House in order to obtain some water supply has always contained a common form Clause relating to the right to prohibit water being supplied, and to make it an offence if anybody took a supply after that prohibition was once imposed, simply because it was impossible for any of these local authorities adequately to supply the whole of their area. Is anyone going to suppose that any of these local authorities or private undertakings can afford to, and will supply, what I will describe as the uneconomic areas, and if they supply such areas with water will they undertake this complementary drainage? Obviously, they will not do that and it is not common sense to think that they will. This should be done nationally. I do not see why a man, or a family, living a couple of hundred yards outside a boundary should not have any water or drainage when his neighbour a couple of hundred yards away inside the boundary has water and drainage. It is no wonder the congestion of the population is all in the urban areas, where these amenities are provided, and, that people will not go into the country.

The Minister of Health said the other day that within two years 200,000 to 300,000 houses were to be provided. What about water, what about drainage? What is the good of having a bathroom? The Government now have a prototype house that they are asking people to go to see. It contains a bath and all sorts of things. I have not seen it, so I cannot comment on it, but is it right that they should put these houses down where there is no water and drainage? Under this scheme I cannot see how you are going to do it. The Minister himself said "We cannot do anything of this while the war is on. This is a long-term policy, This will take years."

It puts one in mind of the fable, "While the grass grows the cow starves. When the grass has grown the cow is dead. "That is what this will be. It is simply a put-off. How can we avoid overlapping, a general scramble for water and endless waste, extravagance and expense? Instead of having a comprehensive plan there will be duplication of pipes and other works and a waste of large amounts of ratepayers' money, however careful the ratepayer may be. When I referred to what came out of the rates I omitted the highways, the schools and all the rest of the burdens we put upon these local authorities. The rates just cannot stand what is here proposed. Therefore, I say that the rates are quite incapable of providing the finance. When I listened to the Minister's speech I was amazed at all the overlapping the scheme entailed. I will conclude by saying, as I am entitled to say, that my right hon. and learned Friend has at least tried to tackle the water problem, whereas a number of Ministers in the past have not even endeavoured to try to tackle it. Let me give the Ministers credit for endeavouring to tackle this most difficult problem. But if they are going to tackle it, let them tackle it in a comprehensive and bold fashion. Let us have a proper national plan. It cannot come to fruition at once, but whatever is done can be done within the ambit of that plan. Then we shall have something tangible, which will satisfy this House and the country. I hope that the House will support me in my criticism, and not be satisfied with anything less than a national water supply.