I beg to move, "That the Bill be now read a Second time."
Before I enter into a description of the Bill may I say a word or two on a question which was raised with me, namely, that this is a long Bill and that we are taking it rather sooner than we should have done. As an old Parliamentarian, one of the last things that I would do would be to break any of the traditions. This Bill has been examined pretty well, although not in its Second Reading form, by the local authorities. The subject was first examined in the light of the White Paper which was published, and following on that, the local authorities were given an outline of the main provisions of the Bill, on which adequate discussions took place with them. This Bill will largely depend on the kind of job we make of it in Committee. The Committee stage of the Bill is a very important one, and, on that account, so far as the Government is concerned, and speaking also for myself, I am sure there will be no undue hurry, and that hon. Members will be given ample time to consider it, and consult with any local authorities. Having made that explanation, may I add that I am anxious that Scottish legislation should get a forefront place. I feel that this is an important Measure for Scotland. I hope that we shall approach the Committee stage with a fair and open mind on many of the points raised.
in moving the Second Reading, I would like to say that it is a rather big Bill and somewhat complex. When I entered the Scottish Office, I understood that my chief task as Under-Secretary would be almost entirely concerned with housing. Little did I think that, before long, I should be running, with the hon. Member for Hamilton (Mr. Tom Fraser), the Scottish Office as a whole. Last week, I had to cover subjects, ranging from Prestwick to Glasgow, from police to housing, and from housing to water. I have given serious thought to the proposals in this Bill and have spent a considerable amount of time on them. It is, as I say, a big Bill and the subject of water is a big subject. While it may not be a very exhilarating one, it is to us, in Scotland, very important as it deals with one of the most fundamental human needs. Many of the Clauses in the Bill are extremely technical. They have to be so if the Bill is to be of any real use to the local authorities. In this matter the technical problems that arise are dealt with in day-to-day water administration. The Bill has 88 Clauses and five Schedules. It seeks to achieve, in one Measure, three main inter-related, urgent and clear-cut purposes. In the first place, it gives effect to the proposals of the White Paper of last year on National Water Policy. Secondly, it aims at consolidating and, at the same time, modernising, virtually the whole general law of water supply in Scotland. Lastly, and very important for the practical purposes of everyday administration, it seeks to provide water supply authorities with an up-to-date code of administration.
Before dealing with the main issues under each of these three heads it may be helpful if I briefly describe the legal position as it is to-day, and the situation with which the Bill seeks to deal, and indicate, broadly, how it is arrived at in its presentform. The first scheme for the supply of water by gravitation to a Scottish community was that under an Act passed in 1621 by the Scots Parliament authorising Edinburgh corporation to bring water from Comiston springs about four miles from that city. In my researches I have also found that Gorbals had some connection with water supply. I find that the first water, when Glasgow undertook to provide it, was obtained by pumping by a private water company from the Clyde. In 1848, the Gorbals Water Company was formed to construct a main waterworks and reservoir in that part. We, to-day, are confronted with difficulties occasionally, when questions of demobilisation are atoot, with the Service Departments, and even in those days Glasgow, to establish a watersupply, had to contend with the Admiralty, which took the view that if Loch Katrine was drained too much it would, in some way, affect the Forth, and one of the bargains that Glasgow Corporation had to make was to buy off the Admiralty by purchasing a dredger at a cost of £8,000.
There is a long series of Statutes in connection with water; most of them are local Statutes but there are two main Acts, the Burgh Police (Scotland) Act, 1892, and the Public Health (Scotland) Act, 1897. In addition, provisions dealing with water supplies are found in about a dozen other general Acts, apart from a countless number of local Acts. By consolidating such provisions of the general law as are appropriate—and I will say a word about consolidation later—we hope to make it easier for all interests concerned to find their way about the law in this subject. To complete the picture, I would only add that, as the field of local authorities under general legislation or under local Acts extends, the activities of the water companies have diminished until, to-day, in Scotland, we have only two private water companies left. One is in the southern part of Scotland, and, I think, one is in the County of Fife. The one in the southern part may be said to be a public company, as well, because 80 per cent. of the capital is owned by the local authority, so that with the exception of the small company in Fife we have practically no private water companies in Scotland.
I would now say a word or two about the three main objects of the Bill. In the first place it seeks to give legislative form to the proposals of the White Paper on a National Water Policy. This White Paper was presented in April of last year by the Ministers concerned, including the then Secretary of State, Mr. Tom Johnston, and the proposals were discussed, and received the unanimous approval of the House. For example, for the first time a duty in relation to water supplies is by Clause 1 of this Bill expressly put on the Secretary of State, a duty for which he will be responsible to Parliament. Hitherto, in the matter of water, there has been no Parliamentary responsibility and there has been no duty on any Minister or officer of the Crown. It was a matter which an hon. Member might raise, in certain forms, but so far as a duty was concerned, it has never been expressed in any Statute before. For the first time, that duty is placed fairly and squarely on the Secretary of State. I am sure many hon. Members opposite, and many Members behind me, who in the old days of Parliament used to raise the question of water supply will be glad that, at last, something has been achieved in that the Secretary of State for Scotland undertakes these duties.
The present system of water supply is piecemeal, and has often suffered for want of co-ordination. The Committee on Scottish Health Services, of which the present Secretary of State was a Member, said in 1934 that the general picture was that of hundreds of separate undertakings, working independently, to serve their own areas. In general, each was the source of its own supply, without any reference to the needs of any other part of Scotland. A proper water supply administration must take into account not only local government boundaries, which are often artificial, but also the lie of the land and economic considerations; and central planning is necessary if mistakes of the past are to be avoided. Many Members may recall the grim illustrations we used to have in the past. I remember the predecessor of the hon. and gallant Member for Argyll the late Mr. Fred Macquisten, for whom I had the highest regard, and who had a much shrewder mind than many people gave him credit for, and the hon. Member for Fife; and one of the earliest speeches Tom Deakin made was on the question of water supply.
Throughout those days anarchy almost prevailed in some quarters as regards the supply of water. There were cases where different undertakings laid parallel mains which very frequently pass through districts which have no water supply. Hitherto there has been no one with any obligation to compel those undertakings to provide a supply. I am not necessarily blaming those whose water supply is involved, because I found when I went into the matter they had frequently started the undertaking to serve their own particular needs, and that a particular village through which their line now passes may not have been there at the time it was laid. I hope that in the future planning of water mains development will be taken into account.
With these considerations in mind the former Secretary of State, Mr. Tom Johnston, instituted, at the beginning of 1943, an engineering survey of Scottish water supplies. Like everyone else the Department has been short of labour, and owing to that factor the survey which was intended to be completed by now, is not yet fully completed. One of the engineers was called up to the Forces in the middle of the work, but it is now almost complete. When the result of that survey is available it will be the duty of my right hon. Friend to collect the data he gets from his professional advisers and have it transmitted to the local authorities with a view to the development of their water supply. In Clauses 14 to 16 the Bill accordingly provides improved machinery for the amalgamation of local authorities for water purposes. That follows the line of the White Paper. At the present time there are six amalgamations in existence. The Secretary of State is given power to require combination where the public interest and economy demand it. Experience has shown that it is not always possible to rely on voluntary combinations, even when the circumstances plainly indicate that voluntary combination ought to be carried out. I am sorry to say that in one or two cases such action appeared obvious and yet it was not carried out. It is for that purpose that the Secretary of State is given power to see that nothing stands in the way of the necessary combination taking place. Frequently a single authority, and sometimes an authority with little interest in the matter, can impede the voluntary combination of other bodies, and we feel that unco-operative action of that kind should not be allowed to retard development.
Obviously any Secretary of State who knows his job will not use the power of compulsion unless he is driven to it. He will use the ordinary means of coaxing to get people to see reason, and if that does not work he will use administrative means rather than use the big stick of compulsion. But I am afraid that in view of one or two of the things that have taken place in the past, any Secretary of State must retain this power in the background, to be used, if need be, in cases of dire necessity. It is in that sense that the Secretary of State would used his power, because we want flexible machinery to facilitate voluntary combination.
Another provision foreshadowed in the White Paper, which I feel will command the approval of all sections in the House, is in Clause 11, which entitles industry and agriculture, subject to certain conditions, to demand a supply of water from the local authority. When I was making my researches into this matter I was told of a famous Motion in this House long before my time, long as I have been a Member of this House Perhaps I may adapt it and say: "The demand for water has increased, is increasing and ought not to be diminished. "We feel this about water. Housing development is proceeding in Scotland, and with it many people. I am sorry to say, now have no baths in their houses. If they are to be supplied with these essential requirements of modern society it means an added demand for water. If Scotland is to develop industrially, it means increased supplies of water. If Scottish agriculture is to take its proper place, water must play an important part. The old-time farm such as existed when I went on my first holiday to Bonar Bridge must go. Modern hygiene and modern development will insist on it. All these things means that the demand for water must grow, and consequently, with that in mind, we must face the relentless fact that modern agricultural methods and modern industry call for substantially increased supplies of water. I do not put the private consumer in any way behind those two needs.
There are four further points I wish to mention on this group of the Bill's provisions. Clause 2 provides for the systematic collection, under the guidance of the Secretary of State, of information about resources and needs. Part IV deals in some detail with the risks of misuse, waste and pollution, and provides local authorities with full power in that regard. Clause 19 supplements the existing power of one authority to give to another, or similarly, to take from another, a supply of water in bulk, by means of power vested in the Secretary of State to require, when necessary, a supply of water to be given and taken. Finally, Clause 17 empowers the Secretary of State, on the application of a local authority, to vary their limits of supply, thus clearing up what at present is the very tangled branch of the law.
The second main purpose of the Bill is to consolidate the general supply of water. As I have already indicated, provisions which have spread throughout 14 existing Acts are here brought into one document. That is important. I remember that in connection with a subject which I was alleged to know something about—unemployment insurance—Sir John Simon entering the House and saying how many Statutes there were dealing with that matter. I remember the case he made out for some kind of consolidation. When there are 14 Acts relating to the subject under discussion—and we are now developing the law—it is not a bad thing that the Acts should be grouped together, and the position clarified. One effect of this consolidation is to provide one body of rules, one set of powers and duties for burghs and counties alike, instead of codes varying in certain particulars for no very scientific reason. For example, in Clause 9, as regards the supply of water for domestic purposes, the two types of authority are to be put on the same footing as regards the areas which they may supply. From their nature the private Acts covering 63 authorities cannot very well be consolidated, but the public Acts are being consolidated, and it is hoped that with this new Measurethe private Acts dealing with the local authorities will in the main be supplanted. One effect of this Bill is to give authorities appreciably wider powers under general legislation. There is therefore reason to hope that the need to resort in future to local Acts will be diminished.
It would be for the convenience of hon. Members if I said a word or two as to the basis on which the powers and duties of public authorities concerned with the supply of water are consolidated. Here may I say frankly a word or two without arousing any ill will against my-self or the right hon. and learned Member with whom they are concerned. I remember an hon. Gentleman opposite once praising me, and I was regarded with some ill will by my friends. I said afterwards that I would get the hon. Member to tell a number of lies about me the next time he was speaking and then, may be, people would believe them, if they could not believe the other. In this matter of law consolidation the right hon. and learned Member for Hillhead (Mr. J. S. C. Reid) was the colleague of Mr. Tom Johnston at the Scottish Office when much of this work was done, and to him was largely due the main credit for the bringing together of these enactments and their consolidation. I have been through every paper and seen his initials and those of Mr. Johnston on them. The position as it was would have been described in Gorbals—in what I hope is not an offensive phrase—as "A dog's breakfast."In that respect the right hon. and learned Gentleman is to be given credit for grappling with the law and making its consolidation a reasonable and presentable document. That does not mean that he and I agree on everything in this Bill, as the Committee stage will show, but I think I ought to take this opportunity to say what I have just said.
Broadly the functions will be under two heads: in Part II the duties of the local authorities as such to secure that a supply of water is provided in their districts, either by themselves or by another local water authority; in Part III the powers of local water authorities—a term that includes combinations of authorities—to govern and facilitate their operations in making that provision. There is one particular feature of the consolidation and amendment proposed by the Bill to which I should like to call attention. The existing general law deals mainly with the provision of water by local authorities, but also, and this was necessary if the local authorities' efforts were not to be frustrated, with its introduction into houses. We do not seek in this Bill to interfere with the present position so far as houses that are now built are concerned. We do not attempt to deal with that, but since 1919 the law has required water to be introduced into a house where "reasonably practicable. "In Clause 54 that test still remains in relation to existing houses. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State is not satisfied that in all parts of the country all that is reasonably practicable has yet been done. We do not take the view that in many cases the test "reasonably practicable" is being fulfilled in its full implication, and my right hon. Friend thinks it will be his duty, by administrative means, to give much more effect to the phrase "reasonably practicable" than has hitherto been done. While we are not in any way altering the law we hope, by administrative means, to put pressure on recalcitrant persons to see that even in existing houses a water supply is installed wherever it is at all practicable.
It may interest the House to know that the other day I came across a man who had a first-class electricity supply—he had every gadget, and his wife had an electric iron—and yet had no water supply. In another county not far away a man had a first-class water supply and no electrical supply, but paraffin lamps. I submit that the position—a first-class electricity supply without a water supply—is one which a Secretary of State, if he has any administrative powers, ought not to tolerate longer than he can help. We propose to leave the law as it is, but to take every step by administration. I would, however, add that if hon. Members look at Clause 53 they will find that a new departure is made by stipulating that in future every new house erected must have a water supply with it, and that in future no house may be erected unless a water supply is part and parcel of it. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State is very much alive to that, and we are fortified by a Report made last year by the Scottish Housing Advisory Committee, which said:
We assume that every new house built in Scotland alter the war, wherever erected, will be provided with an internal water supply and with proper sanitary and drainage facilities.
They went on to say:
The provision of these services 'where reasonably practicable'in existing houses is already a statutory requirement but in practice the inadequacy and deficiency of these services, in rural areas particularly, is deplorable.
In view of that, we have provided that there shall be no new house without a water supply, and in old houses every administrative step possible will be taken to see that water is supplied. We think that we will not need very much administration in this matter once this Bill is thoroughly in working order. We think that, with the powers we have and with county authorities at work in this matter, a water supply will be made readily available to most people.
I ought to mention that in Subsection (3) of Clause 28 there is an im- portant alteration in responsibility with regard to communication pipes. At present the responsibility for what we call a communication pipe rests entirely on the owner of the house. In this connection we propose to alter the law. By tradition there has always been a service pipe but this service pipe is regarded as consisting of two parts—a communication pipe normally extending from the main up to the boundary of the feu, and a supply pipe from that point to the building. The supply pipe is laid and maintained by the owner and, broadly speaking, no change is made in that respect. In the nature of things, the communication pipe is normally underneath the foot pavement, and obviously it would be wrong to allow every owner of property to dig up the pavement if he thought there was something wrong with the pipe.
What we propose is that the first installation of the pipe shall be done at the owner's expense—that is the law now—but thereafter, once it has been done and put in, the expense should fall on the local authority. That, we feel, is proper, because many of the pipes are destroyed, not because of the act of the owner of a property, but because of the heavy traffic. There was a time when the heaviest vehicle which would pass over it would be a farmer's cart, but today heavy motor-cars pass over and may destroy it. From my experience gained when I was on a local authority, I submit that the breaking of streets ought to be a matter for the local authority—in this connection I understand that Glasgow has done it already—and we think it will be an improvement. The Bill makes the local authority responsible for the laying of communication pipes at the cost of the owner but, by vesting the communication pipe when laid in the water authority, makes them responsible for its upkeep. A like transfer was made in the English Bill last year, and the Dundee water authority has done this for the past 10 years.
One power of water authorities is left almost untouched by the present Bill. They have power to rate for water supplies. The reason for this is that in July, 1944, the Secretary of State appointed a Committee of which Sir Robert Bryce Walker is the chairman, to investigate and report on the whole question of rating so far as affects water supplies. That Com- mittee, I understand, has met regularly and frequently. This is not an easy subject on which to come to findings, in view of differences between a small authority and a county, and frequently differences between one authority and another, but I understand that the Committee's labours are nearing an end and that a report might reasonably be expected to come into the hands of the Secretary of State at a comparatively early date. For that reason we have not touched the question of rating.
I do not think it could. I have had one experience of printing, and I know it is not easy to have a report printed and out in the time. We are making one alteration, in Clause 48 of the Bill. At the present time a county council which finds it necessary to impose a water rate and a drainage rate which together exceed 3s. in the £, must come to the Secretary of State for approval. There is a similar limitation in the case of burghs; their limitation is 4s. Why the amounts in the counties and burghs should be different, I never could understand, but the law makes this so. We propose that in future it shall not be necessary for the local authority to come to the Secretary of State. The local authority has power in connection with public health, public assistance and a whole range of matters, and I feel that if local government is to playits part in the government of Scotland it can surely be entrusted with rating for water. Therefore, we propose to allow them freedom in that connection. In any case, the figures now have little or no relation to present day values. We now need to coin another figure, and we take the view that local authorities might well be entrusted with that.
The third main object of the Bill is to provide water authorities with an up-to-date operational and administrative code in lieu of the present statutory provisionswhich appear in the Waterworks Clauses Acts and which were decided in the middle of the last century. This the present Measure does, and. I will not weary the House with the details which are much more appropriate for a later stage in the legislative process. I would men- tion that in the body of the Bill itself, and applying to all local authorities from the moment the Bill becomes law, Clauses 32 to 38 contain provisions dealing with charging for water by meter. Provisions dealing with communicationpipes are covered in Clause 28; for the sake of clarity, they are dealt with in full in one of the Schedules. We took the view that instead of explaining every detail in the Bill it would be much better to put it in a Schedule, covering all the points, and this we have done. The same applies to conditions with regard to agreements in connection with compensation water. They are dealt with generally in Clause 21 and in full in Part III of the Fourth Schedule. As regards the balance of the third and fourth Schedules, the position very broadly is that on the one hand many of the detailed provisions therein are, by Clauses in the Bill, made available to all water authorities operating under this Act, while on the other hand machinery is provided whereby local water authorities operating under a local Act may also get the benefit of these provisions. The House would not wish me to say much more on this very important Bill. It is a Bill which, after the very high standard of oratory which we have heard previously, does not make for great oratory or great perorations. [Interruption.] I thought I might say that without offence.
That is so. But this is a Measure of considerable importance to Scotland. It is a Measure which, while it may be formidable to look at, makes the law simple and understood easily. In view of the fact that it makes the law clearly and simply understood, makes new codes and makes possible administration by local authorities in playing their full part in the supply of water, I commend this Bill. The Bill is a homely Bill rather than one of an exciting character. It is a comprehensive and useful Bill. Since I have entered the Scottish Office, owing to the unfortunate illness of the Secretary of State—and I am sure all Scottish Members wish him an early recovery—I have had to handle the subject of water and I have found that far from anybody wanting to keep this Bill back, almost all the pressure which has been put upon me has been to induce me to pass it as early as possible. I have been surprised at the amount of interest shown in this Measure in some of the "hole-and-corner" parts of Scotland. I, personally, am not annoyed that the first thing I should do, in moving a Scottish Bill in the House, should be on behalf of the rural areas. I am not of the rural parts—I am from a great city with its teeming millions—but, like many people in a city, I have rural connections, my folk having come from the Highlands. I commend this Bill. On the whole, it makes for simple and easy administration in Scotland. I trust that when we come to the Committee stage, both the Government and those opposed to the Government will approach this Bill with a view to making it, if possible, an even better Bill for the sake of the country to which we owe so much.
I am certain that we shall all join with the Joint Under-Secretary of State in deploring the reasons which have prevented the Secretary of State from being here in person to-day. At the same time, we welcomed, as we always do, a speech from the hon. Gentleman. When I obtained my copy of the Bill, the first thing that struck me, as a result of a very quick glance at the Explanatory and Financial Memorandum, was that the duty had been placed upon the Secretary of State to conserve the water resources of our country, and I wondered whether it was possible that the advent of this new Socialist Government could really have altered the weather conditions of Scotland to such an extent that conservation of our water resources had become an immediate and imperative necessity.
From my own observation I could not see that any such change had occurred. The lochs, rivers and burns seemed to contain a very plentiful supply of water, while the weather conditions, as I found them, did not seem to indicate that there was any possibility whatever that the sources of water might run dry. Then I recollected that, during his period of office as Secretary of State, Mr. Thomas Johnston created a monster which, according to reports coming to hand, is rapidly developing an insatiable thirst for water. I wondered whether the Minister might have heard of some of the proposals of the Hydro-Electric Board, particularly their constructoinal scheme Number 2, and whether he had then considered that it would be prudent to arm himself and his successors with some further means of controlling this monster of his own creation. From further perusal of the Bill I found that that was not possible. I would like to say in passing that I hope that the Secretary of State is certain that he has sufficient power to curb any undue extravagance of the Hydro-Electric Board.
The Bill, as the Joint Under-Secretary has ably and fully explained, is in essence a consolidating Measure. It consolidates the general law of war supply in Scotland, and as such it must be most welcome to all those who are intimately concerned. Also, as he said, it gives legislative form to the proposals contained in the White Paper "A National Water Policy," issued some eighteen months ago by the Coalition Government. This is, in fact, a Coalition Government Bill, and, as such, it deals with practical matters which benefit the whole population of Scotland. Here I would like to assure the hon. Gentlemen opposite that whenever the Government produce a Measure of this character, which confers a practical benefit on our people, which is businesslike and which tends to increase efficiency and reduce waste, then he can rely on the whole-hearted support of Members who sit on the benches behind me. This is a Measure of that kind; accordingly those who sit on this side of the House support it in principle, and will strive when the Committee stage is reached, to improve and strengthen it, so that it may finally emerge as an even better Measure than it is at present.
In that connection I would refer to a matter which has been touched upon by the hon. Gentleman. The Bill is highly technical in character and it concerns to a great extent the local authorities, who are the real experts, in our country at least, on all matters concerning water. As the hon. Gentleman observed, there are only two private water companies in Scotland and they are of very minor importance. The hon. Gentleman has explained to us his position in the matter, but I feel that it was perhaps a pity that we should be having the Debate so soon after the presentation of the Bill and before there has been sufficient time for the Bill to be fully considered by the local authorities. I realise with the hon. Gentleman that the more appropriate time to consider the matter, even by the local authorities, will be on the Committee stage.
We might have waited another week. I would have striven for that, but even waiting a week would have mattered little or nothing, with the municipal elections taking place. In the middle of the elections we could hardly have consulted any of the local authorities.
I accept what the hon. Gentleman says and I agree with it to a certain extent. He has already given an assurance, but I would like to make certain that the Committee stage will be arranged for such a date as will enable the local authorities to place their views fully before us.
I will tell hon. Members what I propose to do. I will consult with the hon. and gallant Gentleman about it, and see whether we can find some mutually convenient date. I cannot do anything fairer than that.
Have not the local authorities Parliamentary Bill Committees which can consider thisBill? If they do not make representations, is there any reason why we should go out of our way to seek them?
I think it is a benefit to us that we should have their views on the matter, particularly on the Committee stage.
In general, I welcome the provisions of Part II of the Bill, particularly those relating to the combination of authorities. Here I see that the Bill is most discreet, for in the first place it allows such combinations to take place voluntarily. Only when voluntary measures have failed does the Secretary of State take power himself to introduce combinations by compulsion. I believe that the House will agree with the Under-Secretary that occasions may arise when such compulsion may be necessary and that the powers given to the Secretary of State in the Bill are in no way exceptional. I would refer to certain Clauses on which we ask for reconsideration before the Committee stage and for some explanation from the Minister who will reply to the Debate. Clause 18 seems a little too confined. The House will remember that the Clause deals with the supply of water by an authority outside its own limits of supply to consumers who are residing within the limits of supply of another authority. It calls for the consent of the latter authority. The Under-Secretary might perhaps have another look at that Clause, and particularly at Subsection (2), which might be the cause of considerable unnecessary, and possibly unjustifiable expense.
Clause 20 contains a strange provision. As I read it, a local water authority has the power to acquire land by agreement and on such land it may erect cottages for the use of its own employees, but when the land is acquired under compulsory powers in the terms of Sub-section (4), the right to erect houses is seemingly excluded. I should like, if possible, to have a further explanation of that point. I would also ask the Joint Under-Secretary whether there is any real value in the provisions of Sub-section (8) where the National Trust of Scotland is concerned and particularly where land has been handed to that Trust for preservation for the benefit of the whole nation. Other small points arise from Sub-sections of the Clause, but they can be dealt with in Committee.
I pass to Clause 35. Here I would ask for further consideration before the Committee stage. The Clause deals with the supply of water for domestic purposes and lays down certain circumstances in which the authority may require water to be taken by meter. Included in those circumstances is the supply of water for a water-cooled refrigerating apparatus. I feel that the time should have come, and I hope it will shortly arrive, when every house in our country will have a refrigerator.
I hope that is the case. I raise it because other domestic apparatus is specifically excluded from the meter charge and I think that refrigerators ought to be excluded as well. No doubt we shall have an explanation of this matter later on.
I would refer now to Clauses 42 and 44 in which the Secretary of State is given power to amend and repeal by Order, as he sees fit, any Local Enactments. It seems to me that a principle is involved. If such Enactments were passed by this House I do not consider it is desirable that they should be amended or annulled except with the authority of this House. I believe we should be extremely careful in parting with such authority and that the Secretary of State should at least be required to lay such Orders on the Table of this House. Reference was made by the Under-Secretary to Clause 48, which abolishes the limit on the total amount of the special water assessment which is in force under existing legislation. In these days of rising rates and of ever-increasing burdens placed upon the ratepayers, I feel it would be wise to ascertain exactly what is involved in this change. We should make make sure that local water authorities are not going to spend without limit.
There is just one other matter to which I wish to refer. It is in connection with Clauses 54, 55 and 56. Clause 55, as the Under-Secretary told us, restates that the duty is on the owners of houses to provide a sufficient supply of water within those houses, and to put up a sink with suitable drainage. I feel sure every hon. Member will agree with me that such provisions are essential to health and decency, but whether that burdenshould fall or the owners of existing houses, particularly in rural areas, is open to question. So far as I can gather from the Clauses to which I have referred, there is no means by which the owner can recoup himself in respect of expenditure incurred, which may, in these days, be very considerable indeed, other than by raising the charge against the property, and this, as I understand it, would operate in much the same way as the raising of a bond. The creation of such a charge is apparently no relief whatever to the owner unless he happens to dispose of the property.
Under the existing burdens of taxation there may possibly be many cases where owners will be unable to shoulder that burden. The Joint Under-Secretary, in winding up the recent Debate on housing on behalf of the Government, used words in connection with the cessation of the Housing (Rural Workers) Act which seemed to show—and I say this with all deference—that he was not fully aware of the financial realities of the positionof owners of rural property. My recollection is that he said that such owners could well have afforded to keep their houses abreast of modern standards without Government assistance.
That may have been true in days long past. It is certainly not true to-day. My experience is that there are very few owners of rural property to-day who, out of the income from that property, can maintain it as it ought to be maintained. Taxation alone calls for 60 per cent. or even more of the annual income. Buildings have to be maintained and roads, ditches, drains and fences kept in good order. Hedges have to be cut and woods thinned and otherwise cared for. When these essentials have been met the owner is, in many cases, out of pocket. I know that the hon. Gentleman is one of the most fair-minded men in the House, and I ask him, therefore, if he will be good enough to inform himself on these matters, because I am certain he has no desire to create any false impression. When he has had that opportunity, I would ask him seriously to consider how owners are to meet the burden which Clause 54 places on their shoulders. I said in my opening remarks that we on these benches accept this Bill in principle. We believe that the people of Scotland will derive benefit from it. We find that it lays down a reasonable business-like procedure which will improve the efficiency and economy of the supply of water for domestic and other uses, and that accordingly it should be given a Second Reading.
The hon. and gallant Member who has just spoken rather gloated over the fact that this was a Coalition and "Caretaker" Bill, and I thought he distributed the bouquets and bricks somewhat unfairly. In relating it to the possible extravagance of the Hydro-Electric Board in carrying out the duties under their Act, he referred to this "monster"that Tom Johnston had created. I would re- mind the hon. and gallant Member that Tom Johnston was Secretaryof State in the Coalition Government and that the hon. and gallant Member did not oppose the Bill as far as we know. Therefore, the Coalition Government must take its responsibility for anything that happens under the Board's activities. On the other hand, when it came to the Bill now under discussion, the hon. and gallant Gentleman took full credit for the Coalition Government and his hon. Friends for what he thought was a relatively good Bill. I do not think it works out quite as simply as that.
I can remember the years before the "Caretaker" Government and the Coalition Government, when many of us on this side were pressing for water supplies for the areas still unserved, and when we were resisted by the very people who are to-day the leading Members of the Opposition and were in the main the Conservative Members of the Coalition and "Caretaker" Governments. I think that we have a right to remind them of the wasted years which the Tory locusts have drunk. We support this Bill generally, so far as it goes, because we would find it difficult, almost unjustifiable, to oppose anything which went in any way towards the main aim of providing pure and adequate piped water supplies. The Under-Secretary of State showed very little paternal enthusiasm for the Bill. He has inherited it as a sort of foundling from the "Caretaker" Government, with a slight resemblance to Tom Johnston in the later years of his semi-retirement. I hope that he will take the opportunity of making certain Amendments and improvements in the Committee stage. It would be preferable if he initiated them himself because that would avoid putting us in the difficulty of having to hold up the Bill while attempting to improve it.
For ten years we almost wasted our time on this side of the House—I know I have often done so to a large extent—trying to get some concessions towards the provision of pure and adequate water supplies for my people in the Islands. It is our priority No. 1. Electricity, electric lighting and other things in the domestic sense can wait a little, but water must be first priority for health, housing and comfort in the domestic sphere. Hon. Members have no idea what a misery it is in these rural places to be without water. We have heard any amount of high senti- ments from the Secretaries of State as they passed before us here in that proud but futile procession over the last 10 years. They have talked high sentiment but, unfortunately, they have backed it with low finance so far as water is concerned. In the Islands and the Highlands generally the sum total of their alleged efforts for water supplies has been nil. For this the Department of Agriculture must be held also to be largely responsible. Water is essential to dairy fanning and agriculture generally, and to all new industries water is a first requirement. We shall not tempt new industries into the North, especially in places so elegantly described by the Under-Secretary as "hole-and-corner places," which he hoped would "muck in" with the cities and presumably Gorbols in providing a really adequate and up-to-date water supply, unless we have waiting for them the essentials of cheap electricity, good transport and good water supplies. Derating alone will not do it, even if it takes the form it took in the Hydro-Electric Rating Act.
The Department of Agriculture has a special responsibility in the Islands and Highlands more than anywhere else. Wherever they have set up agricultural settlements or have built houses with loans and grants, there has always been something missing. Either there is no road, or no electricity, or they leave them unfenced or without drainage; but always, also, there is the lack of water. What does that mean to the people? When we see it from day to day in the villages in the Islands and the Highlands, we see what a drudgery it is, a drudgery which falls mainly on the women-folk. They have to do the hauling and the mucking about with pails and the rest of it. They have to undergo all the drudgery and slavery we associate with ancient and evil times. For 20,000 years there has been no progress in the Islands and Highlands in the method of carrying water in most of the villages. The people are still humiliated compared with their fellow citizens elsewhere in the country, by having to be drawers of water, which was the mark of the oppressed alien people under ancient Egypt. Along with their many other household duties, they have to plod to places a quarter or half a mile, and sometimes more, from their homes, through muck and mire, to bring home probably contaminated water for the food and use of their children and husbands and themselves.
Along with water supply goes just as important a matter, and that is the disposal of sewage, and problems associated with it. These are things which it isnot pleasant to talk about in the House of Commons or anywhere, but it is time the Department got down to thinking of them in terms of the intolerable inconvenience and discomfort, and the danger to the health of the people. Does my hon. Friend imagine for a minute, in connection with our post-war resettlement schemes, that young girls coming back from the Services, where in the humblest hostels of the South and mainland they have had water supplies and electricity, are going to settle down on crofts with the ill-housed cows and a few hens, and mucking about along muddy tracks with pails of water in the winter time? They will not do it. We are facing one of the most important aspects of the problem of depopulation in the need for making homes more comfortable, easier to clean, and more up to date. I would not blame one of these girls if she refused to settle down in these conditions, and to bring up children in the miserable conditions in which women in the past have had to do it, and are still doing it.
Responsibility and compulsion is to be placed on local authorities, and it is high time that it was placed on them in many cases. I am not going to make any apology for the members of reactionary local authorities in the North; but the responsibility also rests on the Secretary of State and this House to face the final and vital question of finance. I recognise that under the recent legislation on water we have got away from the 11/80th principle. We shall have to relate our finances to the needs of the emergency of the problem, and not to this miserable and antiquated formula which has nothing whatever on merit to do with the questions we are facing here. On the question of needs and urgency, I feel that I am not being selfish or pressing too strongly the claims of the Islands and the Highlands. They have had to make beyond all measure and out of all proportion their contribution in this war, as in the last, and as in all wars. Then we expect the Highland Division, whom we have praised in this House to-day, tocome back, covered with glory and medals, to homes where their wives have to go out with buckets to the wells and trudge about in the misery and mud of winter. If these men rebel against it and decide to go to New Zealand and Canada, to enrich those lands with the finest manhood of this land, we cannot blame them; but we can blame this House, the Treasury, the Under-Secretaries and the Secretary of State who have these urgent responsibilities laid upon them. Let us get this Bill through as quickly as we can, but not at the expense of sacrificing all the improvements we can get to it in Committee. Let us bring at last a little comfort and convenience, even through this partial Measure of machinery legislation, into the lives of people who, up till now, have been more than sadly neglected, to the shame of the country and of this House.
I also am a Member representing one of the not so aptly-described "hole-and-corner"parts of Scotland and I, following the example of my hon. Friend the Member for the Western Isles (Mr. M. MacMillan), would like to say a word or two as to this Bill and its effect on the rural areas of Scotland. We naturally welcome this Bill, and I think that every hon. Member hopes to see it passed in due course, but the hon. Gentleman the Joint Under-Secretary said—I think I am quoting correctly—that the local authorities have had ample opportunities of studying this Bill.
We never do. We could not possibly go into every county and every little burgh, and consult each individual authority. What we do is to con- suit the representative of the general body. To consult each individual body would take so long that we could never pass a Bill.
Might I suggest to my hon. Friend that while, for Scotland in general, it may be necessary to consult the Association of County Councils, after all, my hon. Friend who has just spoken and I, and other hon. Members, represent very special areas in Scotland whose point of view is never, or very seldom, put over in the Association of County Councils. I would suggest that it might be a good thing if the Scottish Office could consult a deputation representing the local authorities of the Highlands and Islands only.
Then at least one Highlander has been heard. There is no doubt, whatever hon. Members may say, that the water situation is far worse in the Islands and Highlands of Scotland than in any other part, far worse than in any of the burghs or cities. I was somewhat astonished to hear my hon. Friend the Member for the Western Isles say that it is worse in our rural areas than in England. I am told that it is worse in England than it is there, and if so it must be pretty bad. If my hon. Friend or his right hon. Friend the Secretary of State could give us a little longer, so that the county councils may consider this Bill and put forward any Amendments they may think necessary, it would be appreciated. Borough elections are now going on, and county council elections will be going on in December, and therefore they have not time at present—they do not even know who will be the members of their water committees—to consider it now. I hope it will be delayed until after the New Year to enable us to get the views of the new county councils and local authorities.
I could not agree to delaying it until after the New Year. I would be prepared to be reasonable and delay, say, for a fortnight, but please do not ask me put it off until after the New Year, and then have it passed in a scramble. I said I would consult my hon. hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Pollok (Commander Galbraith), but do not let the hon. and gallant Member for Argyll (Major McCallum) mistake decency for softness.
I really must take exception to what my hon. Friend said. This question of water supplies is not a question of a week's or a month's arrangement. It is a question of years, decades and generations. Therefore, in order to get our water supplies on something like a reasonable basis, we feel that a little more thought and care might be given to it, and the views of the local authorities themselves considered by the Government. I do want to put forward a plea for time to consider and consult. It is all very well for the hon. Gentleman and representatives of the Scottish Office to put forward these views and say that they are going to go forward now and give us all this assistance. I remember in my election campaign, throughout my part of the country one of my biggest obstacles was this very question of water supplies. In a certain burgh in my constituency, these water supply difficulties have been going on for months and months, and in spite of pleas from the local authorities and from myself we got no assistance from the Scottish Office in our efforts to give that particular burgh a reasonable water supply.
No, it was not 1940, but 1944–45, under both or rather all three Governments. I am not trying to blame any Government at all. The Bill is to be hurried through, but when it comes to putting forward an important scheme for consideration by the Scottish Office, they cannothelp.
Now I come to the schemes with which this Bill will deal. In Argyllshire a scheme had been put forward for the burgh of Oban and another for the district of Connel. Both these were put forward some time before the war but on no occasion did we get any assistance of any sort. We were told it was not possible, it was too expensive, and the like, but what has happened during the war? These schemes were carried out because the war emergency made them necessary. This could not be said before, but now the emergency is over we are able to say it. Owing to the large number of convoys and naval craft lying off Oban, the drain on the Oban Burgh water supply was tremendous, and in 1941 it just went dry. It was so dry that we could drive the fire-engine over the bottom of the loch on firm ground. Warnings had to be flashed on cinema screens urging civilians to boil any water there might be left in their taps. Before the war nothing could be done to assist them to get an auxiliary supply, but when the war situation arose something had to be done. Military aid had to be called in, and in some 10 or 20 days the pioneers and sappers were on the job, and Loch Nell was used as an additional water supply. These things can be done when the war emergency exists, and I only hope that under this Bill, with the powers granted to local authorities, both Government and local authorities will see to it that many other schemes which are still waiting and have been waiting for years will be undertaken. The lack of a reasonable water supply does seem incredible, in view of the rainfall we have in the Western Highlands. The lack of water supplies throughout the countryside is really appalling.
I would like to mention one point on the Bill itself. In the short time available, I have been able to see my local authority about the Bill and I find they are in great perplexity as to whether there should be any sequel to it. My hon. Friend has stated that this Bill is to consolidate all previous Measures and that the schemes that are to be undertaken will cost a great deal of money. A rate of 3s. will not nearly cover the schemes to be carried out in Argyllshire, for instance. Is any other Bill coming forward to give increased assistance to local authorities for remote and wide areas to help them in developing their schemes?
That is not a water issue alone. It applies to education and other things, and I cannot be expected to answer it in connection with a Water Boll. It has general applications.
I am not asking the hon. Member to say anything about its general applications, but simply whether any further assistance is to be given to the water authorities subsequent to the Bill. The Bill describes the districts, and under it the local authority district, as far as counties are concerned, will be the county. In Argyllshire we have something like 20 or 30 special water districts. Under this Bill they are to be amalgamated into one. Is the cost of operating that county water supply authority to be laid wholly on the rates? If that is so, I can assure my hon. Friend that our local authority will be extremely hard put to it to carry out the instructions it will probably receive from the Scottish Office. I hope that when we come to the Committee stage my hon. Friend will be able to give us some assurance that local authorities like that in Argyllshire, or other Highland local authorities, wall be given some further form of assistance.
I want to make a few remarks on the question of water development in Scotland and particularly in the Highlands. I have been doing so for many years and hitherto I have never made a great deal of progress. I am very much in favour of consultation of the various water boards wherever it is possible, and I think that the suggestion that has been made in regard to the Highlands and Islands is a very good one. The representatives of the authorities concerned in those particular areas should be brought together, but for what purpose? I would not only bring them together, but I would bring the representatives of the authorities in various other areas together. The Department itself should have an over-all plan for the Highlands and the Islands. It should then invite the representatives of the local authorities to work out their own plans to fit in with the overall plan that is desired in order to conserve and develop the water supply in the Highlands. Like many other hon. Members, I have on many occasions spent holidays in the Highlands. I have been in places where there was no adequate supply of water and where, the last thing every night, I had to go quite a long distance to get a couple of buckets of water so that we would be ready to start off with breakfast in the morning. That sort of thing is very common throughout the Highlands. In some areas, as a consequence of that situation, there is a waste of valuable water without proper amenities being afforded to the people in the area. The importance of this Bill is in the fact that it will provide an opportunity for the Department to take a big view of the question of conserving our water supply and at the same time ensuring that the people get all desirable amenities.
I am not concerned only about the Highlands and Islands; I am also concerned about Fife. I want the Department to assist Fife and other counties in working out plans for the supply of water. A few nights ago I was in the village of Auchtertool. The lamps of the village were lit up, but they were paraffin lamps, as there is no gas or electricity in the village; but worse than that is that the people there have to go to a well at the roadside to fetch buckets of water for their homes. Anybody who has any understanding of the toil and strain of the life of the housewife will know how much heavier her burden is bound to be when every bucket of water, whether for bathing, drinking or cooking, has to be carried from a well somewhere down the road. That is the position in a county which is very progressive. There is no question about the fact that the Fife County Council is a very progressive one. Yet there is the difficulty of providing a water supply in such a village as I have mentioned. The village is beautifully situated and would be a very desirable village if it had the amenities of water, gas and electricity.
Then, on the road to Dunfermline, one of Scotland's important centres, a few minutes from Dunfermline there is a village bordering each side of the road. In that village, Cairney hill, there are no sewers. It is almost unbelievable that in a modern community there should be such a village without sewerage of any kind. Hon. Members who sat in the previous Parliament will recollect that I had to raise here on one occasion the case of Lassodie, which had to be given up as a village because of the difficulty of supplying it with water and providing sewerage. One of my constituents there tells me that since my last visit things have gone from bad to worse. [Interruption.] It seems I must have been responsible for a general collapse in the village. Similar conditions apply in all parts of the country. These deficiencies can be remedied by the proper conservation and the effective, supply of water.
So far as this Bill makes an advance in that direction we should give it a real welcome, but on the Committee stage we should have sufficient time, however anxious we are to get the Bill through, to get suggestions from the Highlands and Islands, from Argyllshire, which I know so well, from the Fife County Council and from other counties and burghs in order to improve the Bill. That is the purpose of our being here, as Private Members, to encourage Ministers and to improve Bills in the Committee stage. I am certain that we can make some improvements in this Bill. Above all, I appeal to the Minister and the Department to take an overall view of the question area by area, not to lay down simply that this or that local authority will have to carry through schemes, but to get an over-all view of particular areas. I am not prepared to say how the areas should be apportioned, but taking the Highlands and Islands as one area, there should be a scheme for the area, and the various local authorities throughout the Highlands and Islands should be invited to make their proposals in line with this over-all scheme. If we get that big broad view covering every area of Scotland, we shall be able to conserve the water of Scotland and utilise it in such a way as will give the greatest advantages to the people in every part of the country.
As the representative of a rural constituency, I welcome this Bill. I believe it will bring an amenity and a service to the rural population in Scotland which might well have been obtained at an earlier date were it not for the fact that the rural population in Scotland, as well as in England, seemed always to return to the central Government, as well as to the local authorities, people who were not very much concerned about the amenities of the rural population as far as water and other things are concerned. The Act of last year provided a much greater financial contribution than had ever been given before. One hon. Member indicated that the origins of this Bill could be traced to the Coalition Government, but I would re mind the House that the Bill, although it was introduced by a Coalition Government—
While the Bill was introduced by the Coalition Government, I claim that it is because we had a Socialist Secretary of State for Scotland that it got as far as it did. I want to make a comparison between the Act of last year and an Act which was passed by the National Government in 1934. In the 1934 Act the finanial provision amounted to no more than £137,500, as against the present Measure, which it is proposed will provide for over £6,000,000 for Scotland. There was a National Government on both occasions, but in regard to the 1934 Act, there was not a Socialist Secretary of State for Scotland when it was passed. Some of us, however, are a little concerned even at the provision which has been made, so great has been the neglect of water supplies in the rural areas of Scotland. The constituency which I represent is one of the largest rural areas in Scotland. In the Berwick area particularly there are vast areas which have no water supply whatsoever. The hon. and gallant Member for Argyll (Major McCallum) said that the black spot in regard to water supplies was to be found mainly in the Highlands and Islands, but if he will come with me to that lovely part of Scotland, the county of Berwickshire, he will find more water butts at the doors of the little tied cottages than even in the Highlands and the Islands. That is not because there is not a plentiful supply of water. The principal reason is that there has not been sufficient financial provision made to deal with the matter. The other reason is to be found in the unwillingness and very often reactionary nature of the local authorities that control those areas. Whatever the reason may be, I am certain that my constituents in Berwickshire, and the people in other rural areas, will greatly welcome this Bill, which I hope will bring a much-needed amenity to them.
The hon. Member for the Western Isles (Mr. M. Macmillan) talked about the need of this Bill for the purpose of providing necessary amenities to the countryside to attract and keep the younger generation in the countryside. I thoroughly agree with him. If we are to have a thriving industrial and agricultural population, and a healthy population, we must bring some of the amenities of the towns to the countryside. I think it will be agreed that the best of our townspeople either have come from the countryside or have their roots in the countryside, and it would be a sad thing for this country if the countryside were allowed to become depopulated to such an extent that the great industrial centres cannot draw from that great reservoir as they have done in the past.
I think this Bill will have the general approval of Scottish Members in all parts of the House, but I must confess that I find myself in a little difficulty because I am speaking without a full knowledge of what is the reaction of the local authorities to the Bill. I assume I may be able to repair that on the Committee stage. We are very anxious to get this Bill into operation as soon as possible. I hope my hon. Friend the Joint Under-Secretary of State for Scotland will take every opportunity he can to consult with local authorities so that they may bring to bear their views on the subject.
I welcome the Clause in the Bill which indicates that the Secretary of State for Scotland will keep a watchful eye on local authorities to see that they get on with the job, because I am perfectly satisfied that, even with all the provisions contained in the Bill, there are certain authorities who will not act as quickly as this House or the populations in their areas would wish. I am glad that the Clause gives the hon. Gentleman power to take action where necessary. I suggest that he should keep a very vigilant eye on some of the local authorities in Scotland, who have defaulted very seriously in the past, in making provision for an adequate water supply. Speaking for my own constituency, this is a Measure which will bring a greater degree of comfort to the rural population, particularly the agricultural workers, than, probably, anything else that has taken place. It will have to be followed shortly by other provisions dealing with the supply of electricity, transport, and so on, but it is one of the most important at this present stage.
I join with other hon. Members in congratulating the Joint Under-Secretary of State upon introducing his first Bill. I am sorry he is not present—he is probably having a cup of tea, or water. It is his good fortune, as well as ours, that this Bill deals with rural problems, and water problems at that, and I think that if the hon. Gentleman holds fast to the new association that has been formed, and sticks firmly to water, he will not go far wrong in his Ministerial career. However, the Joint Under-Secretary has not quite appreciated the importance of time-table in relation to this problem. I had not intended to intervene to-night because I have already occupied a good deal of the time of the House to-day, and it was intended that my hon. Friend the Member for Dumfries (Major N. Macpherson)should speak for our party. The reason why he did not speak was because he did not get from his county council the information he wanted. Fortunately, the Fife county council supplied me with some facts this morning, and I criticise the Government, not somuch for bringing in this Bill this week, or next, but for their delay in printing and publishing it. The Joint Under-Secretary himself said that the Bill was the result of the White Paper issued a long time ago. I really cannot understand why it has taken so long for the Bill to be presented. The Joint Under-Secretary has made a fair offer about the Committee stage, and I hope he will consult with others because we are all of us very much interested.
The general purpose of the Bill is very interesting, but the hon. Gentleman does not need me to tell him that the test of the success of his administration is not skill in consolidating the law, but skill in producing water in those areas of Scotland where water does not now exist. I would warn him that if, in a year's time, there is not water in a great many Scottish villages, and particularly in Eastern Scotland, we shall be on to him with all the force we can summon. I will not develop, here and now, the great importance of this matter, but agriculture, livestock, milk and horticulture are all handicapped in Scotland at present through lack of water supplies. Housing in Scotland, particularly in places like Fife, becomes utterly impossible without an adequate water supply.
The hon. and gallant Member for Argyll (Major McCallum) spoke of his election experiences. I had similar experiences. I never went to a rural village in Fife without hearing of the appalling conditions—of which I already knew—of old houses, not old enough to be uninhabitable, but without any water at all, with a well 100 or 200 yards' away, and sometimes much farther, from the house. It is impossible for ploughmen's wives to go on living under conditions such as those. I recog- nise that local authorities must take their share of the responsibility in this matter. There are some progressive authorities in Scotland, and there are some very conservative, backward authorities. I blame those who might have advanced, but have declined to do so. I am talking now of conditions which have existed over a long period of years. But, as the hon. and gallant Member for Argyll said, there are some authorities to whom the rating problem presents an insuperable difficulty. It is quite impossible for Argyllshire and Inverness-shire to advance, as many would desire, unless they get some substantial assistance from the authorities. This matter of relief of rates is quite pertinent to this problem, and is of the highest importance to Scotland.
I must confess that I was disappointed that the Joint Under-Secretary did not reply to my hon. and gallant Friend when he asked whether in future the Government's programme will include some measure of assistance for local authorities to make this, and other social measures, worth while. It is an utter wasteof time, and a hoax on the country, for the hon. Gentleman and his friends to talk about great housing plans unless they insist upon these authorities being assisted to bear the burden. While the local authorities have been responsible on this particularquestion of water supplies, I believe that the major responsibility lies with the hon. gentleman himself. I will explain why. The Fife county council, which, as my neighbour the hon. Member for West Fife (Mr. Gallacher) described, is a progressive body, carried through this House, before the war, an Order which gives the county council full power to introduce a great water scheme. All the plans are laid, the sketches, the designs, are all ready. There is only one thing holding up that great scheme. It is that the hon. Gentleman and his Government cannot yet give either the labour or the material. That is the test. The hon. Gentleman cannot run away from that, because he is responsible for housing and for health, and if Fife county council, by next year, has not started this scheme, the responsibility will rest on that Front Bench. Unless labour and material priorities are provided the scheme cannot go on, and thousands of my constituents will remain in appalling conditions. I do not think these things can be done at once, but I beg the hon. Gentleman, most sincerely to speak in very plain language to his colleagues at the Ministries of Labour and Supply, and other Departments, to ensure that the necessary priorities are forthcoming.
Another responsibility that the hon. Gentleman must shoulder refers to the administration of this business. The White Paper shows us that of the 210 public water undertakings in Scotland, 32 are county councils and 170 are town councils. There is no doubt that the small burghs, as we call them, have played a great part in the supplying of water. I represent an area which has more small burghs than any other district in Scotland, and, therefore, I know something of their achievements.
Very creditable indeed. On the other hand, this great Fife county council-scheme will be valueless, unless we can bring the burghs into a harmonious scheme of co-operation. That is not easy, as the hon. Gentleman will discover the more he enters into the rural sphere. The small burghs are very proud of their past. They are a little suspicious of the county council, and, on the other hand, the county council is inclined, I sometimes think, to look a little askance at the burghs, and to fail properly to appreciate their problems. I try, as is my duty, to bring the two together, and I would ask the hon. Gentleman to insist on that admirable arrangement.
I cannot give the Fife county council all the guarantees they want, but a guarantee I will give is that, in this matter of the water scheme, so urgently required for Scotland and its inhabitants, it shall be decently treated. Before we can really get on, we must get this problem of the relationship of the county and local authorities settled. It is no good embarking on the scheme without that. If we could get that settled, I would sympathetically consider the need of labour in Scotland.
I am very grateful to the hon. Gentleman for that statement. We must secure that happy relationship between the two, and the fact that the Joint Under-Secretary has indicated that he shares that view, will help us along. May I gave one example of the need for co-operation in Fife, and I take Fife as being progressive? There are in one district no fewer than three water authorities running their pipes alongside each other. That is ridiculous and proves the necessity for a wider system of administration and closer co-operation. In the Committee stage a good many Amendments will be put down, but I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for the opportunity he has promised us then. In the meantime, one welcomes this Bill with open arms and hopes it may go through quickly, and that the hon. Gentleman may, through his active administration, win for himself and for Scotland the tribute of success.
After hearing previous speakers, and the hon. Gentleman the Joint Under-Secretary introducing the Bill, I am afraid I cannot welcome it with the same enthusiasm as others. The reason is that I think it is a tragedy that this House, which is confronted with the greatest problems the world has ever known, should have to deal with a Measure of this character. There are 640 Members of this House, and how many of them are here now? Why are they not here? Is it not because this Measure is a local Measure and ought not to be dealt with here at all? Is it not obvious to all Scottish Members that, if matters of this kind had been dealt with in an entirely different fashion, the Scottish people would not have had the problems facing them that now face them? To have one end of this island administered by an office, by a single person vested with powers to carry out the provisions in this Bill, is legislation run mad. The county councils and the people of Scotland themselves should have had these problems handed to them. They should have legislation to enable them to do this kind of work, and then we would not have had the miserable recitals we have heard from the hon. Member for East Fife (Mr. Stewart), the hon. Member for West Fife (Mr. Gallacher) and the hon. Member for the Western Isles (Mr. M. MacMillan).
Here, while this matter is being dealt with, 600 Members are outside the House because it is a local affair. Almost every time the Leader of the House comes here, someone opposite wants to know at what time the Government are going to deal with important matters. Members in the past have largely failed—I am sorry to say this—to draw the attention of all Members from all parts of the country, to the fact that this Chamber has far more important things to do than pass pettifogging little Bills of a local character. The time has come when Scottish Members of this House, irrespective of party, have to get down to the question whether they are content to have the affairs of Scotland administered by an office. The affairs of India are administered by the India Office, and is anybody going to say that the Indian people are satisfied with that arrangement? So why to goodness should the Scottish people be satisfied with the present position?
One could go on welcoming the Clauses of this Bill and saying that the Bill is a wonderful improvement upon anything in the past, but what is the improvement we propose to make? No part of this Island is as rich in water as the Highlands of Scotland. There is more beautiful, clear sparkling water there than there is in any other part of this Island or in many parts of the Continent of Europe; yet we have this miserable recital of the conditions of the Scottish people in the Highlands and Islands. I remember going to Fife many years ago to speak in a village there. I asked for a glass of water. I was astonished. I said they must have turned the beer tap on, as the water was the colour of beer. I was blandlytold that it was pumped out of an old pit, and that if I had gone downstairs and asked for some water it would have been supplied from a spring well, the water of which was used for the purposes of drinking. The other water was only used for washing purposes. Could not the Scottish people, looking after their own affairs in a Chamber of their own, have improved on that? People on this side of the Border pay tribute to the wonderful contribution that Scotsmen have made in building the Empire and in contributing to art, culture, literature and so on, and yet in spite of that we are tacked on like the tail of a dog and can be swished in any way that the dog pleases.
Is not the hon. Member rather guilty of an exaggeration in suggesting that it is only when Scottish affairs are being discussed in this House that we get a thin Chamber? I can remember several Bills in the past when there have been fewer hon. Members in this Chamber than there are to-night, and perhaps when the hon. Member has been in this Chamber a little longer he will be less dogmatic in his assertions.
I did not do anything of the kind. I suggested that when the hon. Member has been here a little longer and seen more of the ways of the House, he will be, I will not say "less dogmatic," but less emphatic.
So far, I have not been wrong. On this particular question, I repeat that there is no place on this island where there is such a plentiful supply of good water as in Scotland. The people who have had control of the Highlands of Scotland for over 100 years have not, at any time, had the vision to think of water supply until recently. It is true that Mr. Tom Johnston was largely responsible for bringing out the new Hydro-Electricity Scheme—and all honour to him—but I am receiving all kinds of literature to the effect that the scenic beauty of the Highlands is going to be spoiled. The people who are creating the noise about the scenic beauty being spoiled are, largely, the people whose ancestors never raised their voices when the Highlands were depopulated by force.
It is all very well to say that it is too late now or to say, "You must not bring forward that kind of thing now, it is not decent."In that way you always keep the skeleton in the cupboard. Is it not the fact that this Parliament sent two cruisers to round up the people of the Highlands and the Islands and take them and dump them in the prairies of Canada where there was not a single house or anything else? This may be very amusing to some hon. Members but I want to force home the fact that we are now dealing with the provisions of a Bill that the Scottish people themselves could have improved upon years ago, while English Members should have been here dealing with other important matters. It apparently could not be conceived that the water in the Highlands could be brought to communities 100 or 150 miles away. Other people have done it, but it seems too big for us when dealing with our own affairs. On anything which has to do with matters outside this island we are big-minded people, but on anything to do with this island we are as narrow-minded as a hen is between the eyes. We do not seem to have any vision with regard to these matters in our own island. Ihope that the Joint Under-Secretary who has brought forward this very belated Bill—that is the best I can say for it—will, when we get into Committee, be able to tell us how much money will be provided. Will it be enough to ensure that the communities of the Highlands and the Islands get a proper water supply and proper drainage? What are they to be charged for it? Is it all to be free of interest? Are they to pay 2 per cent., 3 per cent, or 5 per cent.? These are the questions to which the House should address itself, since it has devolved upon us to do the job. It is with a feeling of disgust that we are dealing here with a matter like this instead of leaving it to the people of Scotland that I conclude my remarks on the Bill.
I feel strongly tempted to cross swords with the hon. Member for West Renfrew (Mr. Scollan) on the issue of Scottish Nationalism and also of hydro-electricity, but I am reminded that we are discussing the Water (Scotland) Bill and it would be better to keep strictly within the limits of discussion. I would like to add a word of welcome to the Bill. I took an interest in the White Paper when it was debated in this House, and I feel that this Bill is a step forward. It holds out some hope that a determined effort is being made to provide what is an elementary service in our civilisation to-day, and that is, a decent supply of water, particularly for the rural areas.
I would like to take up a point made by an hon. Friend behind on the question of local authorities and to say that I think that the Joint Under-Secretary would concede that, although I began the agitation on the question that we had not had time to look into the Bill, all that was in my mind was that, when a Bill of this importance was presented to us, hon. Members should be given time to consult with local authorities and get to know what those authorities thought about it. The Bill is much too complicated for me and I very much doubt whether the hon. Gentleman opposite was able to understand all its Clauses. The Joint Under-Secretary has met us tonight in a very reasonable way, and if there is some delay between now and the Committee stage so that we may consult our local authorities with regard to Amendments, we shall be satisfied. It is too late to ask the Scottish Office to postpone the Bill beyond the New Year. We might lose the Bill by then and I do not want that to happen and I appreciate what the hon. Gentleman has said on that point.
I wish to emphasise that our Scottish water problem is really the problem of supplies to rural areas. We have more water in Scotland than we require and the great problem is to supply that water where it is wanted. The burghs and the industrial districts of Scotland are already very well supplied. It is the rural areas which do not get the adequate water supplies enjoyed by the towns. Thinking this out in an amateur sort of way, I would say we want three things in particular; first, larger reservoirs, secondly, trunk mainsfor rural areas; and, last of all, a combination of local authorities so as to eliminate county boundaries. The last point is a very important one. The hon. Member for the Western Isles (Mr. MacMillan) lives in my constituency, and if he were here he would agree that it is absurd that a little area like Newthorp should go dry in summer, when Crieff has an abundant supply. This is a case where local authorities might combine. I could give many examples in my constituency.
I wondered, when reading through the Bill, whether we had not too many water authorities. An hon. Member talked about a water undertaking in Fife. I would not wish to see the small burgh disappear as an authority. The small burgh does a very good job, but I think that the day of the private undertaking has passed. It has served its day and generation, and it is time now that it came under the local authority or county council. It appears that the private water undertakings are to continue. There may be very few of them, for all I know. I think there are only two, but they still seem to exist and continue to function, and I submit for the consideration of the Lord Advocate that the time has come when private water undertakings should be absorbed into the larger county council or borough undertakings.
Another point is in connection with supply to rural areas. To-day, we know, from the last Bill which we had in this House, which was a very good Bill indeed, that we are to have water mains going to all the hamlets, schools, and places where there are cottages in rural areas, but it seems to me that we are inclined to forget that all these villages and hamlets depend upon an industry—agriculture—that is the worst served of all. I have worked in it all my life and I know a little about it. When we are looking to the future, to our post-war policy, the development of ley farming, increasing the turnover, improving the efficiency of milk production, the washing of utensils and so on, the criticisms we farmers get is that we are not efficient enough. How can we be efficient in milk production, without a clean water supply?
Most of our farms are off the beaten track. They cannot benefit under this scheme because the trunk main water supply is only to be taken to a point where it is reasonable and practical to put in a supply for farm buildings. Under another Act, the Agriculture (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act, provision is made for assistance to be given, for connecting up with the mains to farm buildings, to the extent of a 50 per cent.grant. I put a point to the hon. Gentleman which will perhaps sound a strange one coming from me. The agricultural worker gets assistance under that Act of a 50 per cent. grant, but, if the man who wants the water happens to be a blacksmith, there is no assistance for him at all, and that seems to me to be wrong. If one is to get assistance, I think the other should get it, too.
I would not like to say that I would apply it to everybody, but if the agricultural worker is to be given a 50 per cent. grant, if he lives off the beaten track, and most of them do, then I do not see why the blacksmith or some other worker, should not have the same assistance.
I went into this matter, because I knew it was going to be raised. I am told that the agricultural worker, in many cases, is not like the blacksmith, who usually lives in the community which he serves. Often an agricultural worker like a stockman has to live a good distance away and is in a totally different position from that of the blacksmith. That is what I was told, and I think it is a perfectly reasonable explanation.
I will not enlarge on the point, but I hope the hon. Gentleman will give more study to it, for reasons which I do not want to go into now. There is one more point. Under the existing law, assistance is given to put water into agricultural holdings, but it is only given where it can be connected up to a main to the farm building, and, if you wish to put water into cottages, the pipe must come from the existing supply. One can well imagine what might happen if the farm building was a mile away from the main supply. The agricultural cottage might be quite close, but there would be no assistance in putting water into the cottage, because it must come from the farm buildings.
I have only one other point to make and that is in connection with the acquisition of land. I would like to tell the Under-Secretary how glad I am, in regard to the acquisition of land, to see that there is protection for common ground or open spaces. I understand that there is adequate protection in that respect. I conclude with a welcome to this Bill. I think it is a co-ordinating Measure where, previously, no co-ordinationexisted, and I hope we may now get on with this business of serving our countryside better than we have done in the past. The hon. Member for East Fife (Mr. Stewart), I think, hit the nail on the head when he said that the key to the matter is labour andmaterials, and, when we are considering the domestic demand for water in the new housing schemes, do not let us forget the rural areas which are still waiting for water and which are so dependent upon an adequate supply of labour and materials.
I, like nearly all my fellow-countrymen, welcome this Bill. I listened very carefully to the speech of the hon. and gallant Member for Argyll (Major McCallum) to see if he would mention the type of landlord who rules and holds sway in Argyll and who is chiefly responsible for part of Argyll being depleted of workers. I refer to the Duke of Argyll, who, at the moment, is holding up the water supply of Campbeltown, which has been a great town during the war, not only for the benefit of the British Navy, but also for the Royal Air Force. Campbeltown requires extra water, but the Duke of Argyll wants a fancy price for a small reservoir over which he holds control. It is a sad story, as was pointed out by a Scottish hon. Memberon this side of the House, that a Bill like this has to come before the British House of Commons, when the subject could be dealt with much better and cheaper in Edinburgh. We have stated that for a quarter of a century on the Floor of this House of Commons, but Parliament will not listen.
The reason I mention the matter of the Duke of Argyll is because, when the Joint Under-Secretary was introducing the Bill, he told us of some of the difficulties which we, in Glasgow, had to overcome in order to get our water supply from Loch Katrine. It was not the Navy then; it was the landlords. Hon. Members will see that they are still here to-day, although there are a few of them away at the moment. Those were the individuals who held up our forefathers when they were providing the grand water supply that we now have in Glasgow. They said we were going to drain Loch Katrine; they also brought an English professor before the Royal Commission to try to prove that, if we put water into our tenement system in Glasgow with lead pipes, there would be trouble with lead poisoning.
They tried everything, and they are trying to do it to-day. I have given the instance of the Duke of Argyll. I made my maiden speech in the town council of Glasgow about the father of the present Duke of Montrose. We wanted to take Loch Katrine water to two different districts outside the boundary of our city, namely Baillieston and Cambuslang. At that time the water rate in Glasgow was 5d. in the £, and because of this project we were going to charge 10d. in the £. The father of the present Duke of Montrose demanded that the Glasgow town council should pay him £50,000, which the citizens of Glasgow rightly refused to do. This is what that dirty Scotsman, the Duke of Montrose did—and it shows the type of landlords' we have had in Scotland. Hon. Members will find all I am telling them in "The History of our Noble Families" written by the late Secretary of State for Scotland, Mr. Thomas Johnston.
It was not going to cost the father of the present Duke of Mont rose anything, for the water comes rushing down the hillside, "glancing in the sunbeam, bounding in the valley." The then Duke of Montrose said, "If you do not agree tomy terms, I will build villas round Loch Katrine"—round the "Silver Strand" as it was called by Sir Walter Scott—"and run the sewage into the Loch. "I said, when I made my maiden speech, that one law of international warfare was that an enemy shall not poison another enemy's water but the Duke of Montrose was prepared to poison the children of Glasgow in order that—
With all respect, Mr. Speaker, I qualified that statement by saying it was a quotationfrom a Member of this House who is recognised as one of the greatest living authorities on his subject in Great Britain, France or Ireland in his time, Mr. Thomas Johnston. Why should we require to come here under these circumstances? The reason I am making these statements is to draw the attention of the Joint Under-Secretary of State to the matter because his is a fresh mind on this business. We see all the boys on the other side camouflaging themselves with the idea that they are looking after the interests of the people through the local authorities; what they are looking after is the landlord, because reservoirs are to be put down and that means the land will have to be bought and the Government will have to stand by the local authorities. The landlord class in Scotland will exploit that idea unless the Joint Under-Secretary of State for Scotland sees to it that they do not.
It is perfectly true what the hon. Member for West Renfrew (Mr. Scollan) said that their ancestors cleared the Islands and Highlands of Scotland and seized on every opportunity to obstruct the development that we in our day and generation desire to see take place in our native land because we have a love of our native land and because it is our native land. The blood of our clansmen has bedewed the heather in defence of their native land, so we are not going, to stand by idly in this day and generation and see our folk established in a single apartment with no amenities whatever. That day has gone. The people in Scotland demand a higher standard of life than ever they have had before. I can explain a good deal of the discontent that is abroad because we Socialists have been systematically making our folk as discontented as possible. That is my mission in life—to make my class as discontented as I possibly can with the hellish conditions under which they have been forced to live.
Here is an opportunity to make amends for the conditions. Why should we have to come here and appeal for something that is there, free as the air? There are thousands of decent folk in Scotland who have not got a decent supply of water. These are the people whose sons have died on every battlefield in this great war. We are prepared to give them medals and make fine speeches about them and tell them how wonderful they have been right from the days of Waterloo, yet here we have to come to this House of Commons, down to London, in order to get water for our folk in our own country, when we have the finest water supply in the world.
It is the height of ridiculous nonsense that we should need to come to London for this Bill. We are monopolising the House of Commons when we require all the time it is possible to get for Measures other than Bills which are to affect only a single part of the British Isles, such as this Bill. I want to tell the Minister that here is an opportunity to demonstrate that his outlook of life is entirely antagonistic to those who have gone before him. I know he is imbued with the idea that he should look after the interests of the working folk in Scotland That is important to us of the Scottish race, a race which is as important as any in the world. Having said that, I hope this Bill will go through as fast as possible, although I know it has been, said that local authorities have not had time to get acquainted with it. We must watch the local authorities. I know some which are reactionary, and I hope the Secretary of State will use his power to see that such local authorities cease to be reactionary. I, for one, am doing all I can to see that reactionary local authorities are removed.
I have heard previous speakers with great interest, and I find myself in little agreement with the compliments which have been offered to the Under-Secretary of State for what is, in my view, an inadequate and untimely Bill, inadequate because I expected something much better to come out of the White Paper. When it comes to nationalisation of the Bank of England, which has been established on free enterprise for a generation or more, it is a simple matter for the Government, but when it comes to this kind of business it is evidently quite beyond their capacity, if we are to judge from the document which they have placed before us to-day. Scotland has only two assets left of any account—water and wind, not wind in the sense that I am offering the latter commodity to this Chamber, but wind in the sense that it may one day be used for the purposes of generating power to an extent which has hitherto not been done even in Holland or the United States.
The hon. Member for Dumbarton Burghs (Mr. Kirkwood) referred to a book written by a former Secretary of State and which I can tell the House, as a bookseller, in case Members want to buy it, has been out of print for a long time and, I believe, will not be reprinted, so that it is, therefore, of exceptional value. That Secretary of State was interested in this question of power and went so far as to harness the winds of Scotland in order to supply electricity to his own house. As I say, we have these two assets, water and wind, but it seems to me that we have not surveyed the possibilities of water in Scotland. This Bill does not seek to do so, I know, but have we related hydro-electricity development schemes to water plans? Have we considered the possibility of using water for the purpose of generating hydro-electricity and, ultimately, for the purpose of industrial or domestic consumption? Has any attempt been made to use this great natural asset of ours in an adequate and coherent fashion? I see nothing of it in this Bill. This is a Measure of shreds and patches, bits and pieces, brought together by a previous Government, and which a reluctant Under-Secretary offers as his first token to the Scottish public.
I am disappointed in this Bill, because it does not deal with anything like the great problem with which Scotland is faced. We want a national water board if we want a national board of any kind, a board to control all the water resources of the country. Into that scheme we should fit the plans of the local authorities. Such a scheme would have been accepted from the opposite side of the House, but they have come here instead with a pettifogging Measure which would have disgraced any Conservative Administration. Where are the large planning schemes which were promised? Where is the refreshing fruit? This is a hotchpotch which has been presented to us as a serious Measure. I have said that it is inadequate and untimely, and it is untimely in the obvious sense, because local authorities require to be consulted. How can they be consulted? Members opposite ought to know that elections take place at the end of this present month, and that they take place on a wider franchise than ever before in the historyof Scotland. Further, a larger number of men and women will offer themselves for election than ever before, because co-opted members are standing down. Local authorities have never been weaker than they are to-day, because no elections have been held during the war. It is to these local authorities that this problem of water supplies is to be offered. These authorities will get into power in November and arrange their committees in December, and will not be able to look at legislation of this intimate character before January at the earliest. Whom does the Secretary of State consult? The Cities and Counties Association, the Convention of Royal Burghs, and the Counties' Association. The two first-named meet only twice a year, and the last-named meets four times a year. They cannot discuss a matter of this kind in such an inadequate time. This Measure is unworthy of the Undersecretary. What we want is a better and more far-reaching scheme for Scotland for water, and time to consider how that far-reaching scheme can adequately fit itself into our national needs.
No new Member, knowing the history of these islands, may rise to address this House for the first time without a feeling of becoming humility. Since coming here I have listened with the closest attention to many sparkling contribution from both sides, many of them edifying and palatable, but some not so satisfying. I have heard, for instance, a Member on the other side of the House discover that we were abolishing the Scottish Rural Housing Act. We should have appreciated the discovery of the need for rural housing 20 years ago, but it is true to say that we used that Act in Scotland. One of our counties tackled 527 houses and spent £58,000in the process. It was a pitiable thing, but it was all that this House gave us. I have an assurance from the Secretary of State for Scotland that he will put something better in its place. I have heard the hon. Member for South Edinburgh (Sir W. Darling)telling us that this Bill is not adequate. I heard him, one night recently, telling us that he was once a member of the I.L.P. I often wondered what caused the decline of the I.L.P. which was once the spear-point of the working-class movement in this country. I, for one, will welcome the day when the I.L.P. leave the tents of Ishmael, which they occupy to-day, and once more join Israel, so that together we may fight the battle of the international working-class.
I heard the Lord Privy Seal pass the joke of being generous to Scotland, and although I differed from him then, I pardoned him when he gave us that brilliant speech on industrial history. He mentioned Keir Hardie, the man who blazed the trail for us in Scotland, and told me that it was a hard and stony way to Westminster. He mentioned Bob Smillie, of the mines, a giant among the pygmies in Lanark, and I think he might have also added the name of one other, who graced this House for 25 years, and who held the Hamilton Division of Lanark against Communist and capitalist for a quarter of a century: I refer to the late Mr. Duncan MacGregor Graham, a symbolic name for Scotland—as implacable as his own Scottish hills and incorruptible. May his bones rest easy in Bent churchyard. Lucky is the Hamilton Division of Lanark to have a Fraser in his place.
I heard an hon. Member opposite, one evening last week, charge the followers of the Government with taciturnity. I wish to correct that impression. We of the Scottish contingent will not deny that taciturnity is a national trait, engendered through years of ceaseless, soul-breaking struggle, in our endeavour to wrest a livelihood from a sterile land. But although we may be taciturn, we are not an unsociable people. On the other hand, we do not believe in bobbing up and down, taking up valuable Parliamentary time, when the less said the more will be done. Remember that the people of our country are not expecting that of us; they are expecting us to do things. The hon. Member for South Edinburgh has told us that this Bill is inadequate. I suggest to him that it will at least give us the water to mix the mortar to build the temple of the new Jerusalem. Those who have gone before us have laid the foundation for the temple of the new Jerusalem, and it is our job to build it; and this Bill will give us the water to do it. I know perfectly well it is not adequate for Scotland; but when did Scotland ever get adequate treatment from Westminster? I know perfectly well that we can utilise far more money than is placed at our disposal, but this will guarantee to our-people a supply of pure water; and not only in the Highlands and Islands, but in the Lowlands of Scotland there is a dearth of pure water supplies.
It is no use hon. Members trying to tell me that they have not had ample time to discuss this Bill. As senior bailie and convenor of water and town planning of Bonnyrigg and Lasswade, I have discussed this Bill with my Class, and we have had the plans before us of the Midlothian County Council, our major planning authority, who have shown us what they intend to do under the Bill. Let me say, in passing, that they can quite easily use £6,000,000, all that the Secretary of State is going to give us in Scotland. It is no use people saying that they have had no time. If they had been taking an interest in their work—and the Midlothian County Council has never been noted for being an advanced local authority—they would have been in a position to instruct their representatives how to vote, when the major local authorities met.
I, for one, welcome this Bill, and I hope and trust that when it does become law, hon. Members opposite will assist us in seeing to it that we have a water supply such as Glasgow has, and such as Edinburgh has had for many years; because much as we may begrudge Edinburgh its position, we must pay deference to the foresight and thought and planning ability of the men who were the city fathers of Edinburgh in years gone by. They outlined the watershed from Edinburgh right toTweedsmuir, and it will only be a case of clothing that skeleton. We in South Eastern Scotland have an easy problem; only the money is lacking.
It is a pleasure and I count it an honourto be able to congratulate the hon. Member for Midlothian and Peebles, Southern (Mr. Pryde) upon what I believe the House will recognise to be a remarkable maiden speech. This Parliament is becoming used to maiden speeches; they are almost a daily occurrence, but it is seldom the House is treated to a maiden speech delivered without notes, with a wealth of poetic allusion, enriched with quotations and a quiet persuasiveness which will ensure that when the hon. Member desires to make further incursions into our Debated his contribution will be anxiously awaited and eagerly listened to.
My hon. Friend the Member for South Edinburgh (Sir "W. Darling) has spoken about some of Scotland's assets. I should say that Scotland has at least two liquid assets—and the other one is water. I believe that the whole House will agree upon the importance of conserving our national water supply. The House was reminded in the speech made by the Joint Under-Secretary of State, the hon. Member for Gorbals (Mr. Buchanan), that the former Secretary of State for Scotland, Mr. Tom Johnston, had ordered a survey of the water needs and resources throughout Scotland. What I think the House was surprised to learn—for my part I was horrified to learn it—was that that useful work was held up because the engineer who was in charge of the work, as I understood the Under-Secretary to say, was called up to the Forces. That seems to me to indicate a strange lack of proportion, or a failure to comprehend the importance of this national survey of Scotland's needs and resources. It seems to me of vital importance that we should co-ordinate the full utilisation of Scotland's water resources for domestic use and for the provision of electricity, a point which was touched upon by my hon. Friend the hon. Member for South Edinburgh.
This Bill imposes heavy obligations upon the water authorities. They may be very heavy obligations indeed in certain cases. In the case of one county council not far from the constituency which I have the honour to represent in Parliament, I have heard that the cost of the scheme they had in mind for the provision of water supply in the county, and incidentally in part of the adjoining county as well, may be well in the region of £2,000,000. That kind of sum will, I believe, be beyond the capability of the local authorities, even with the possibility of raising rates, as indeed they will have to do. If this Bill is to be properly implemented it is essential that the local authorities should be assisted by some sort of subvention from the central authority. In exactly the same way, though on a lower scale, this Bill will impose very heavy burdens upon many owners of rural property by the definite obligation which be laid upon them by Clause 54, which will enact, if it is passed in its present form, that
It shall be the duty of the owner of every house within which there is not a sufficient supply of wholesome water for domestic purposes, to provide such a supply of water in pipes within the house…
That is a very desirable thing. I do not think there is any Member in any part of the House who would not say that every house in Scotland ought to have a piped water supply within the building itself, but if is when one comes to the practical problem of how this provision is to be made at the present time that one comes up against the fact that owners of rural properties have in the past, do at the present time, and will in the future, require assistance for improving rural dwellings in this way.
It was exactly this kind of contingency that was met by the Housing (Rural Workers) Acts, which were allowed to expire on 30th September last, without provision being made for their replacement by another Measure which would enable the owners of rural properties to improve their properties by bringing in a piped water supply. Government spokesmen have indicated, in speeches which have been made on other occasions, that grants will not be made to private individuals. If that is to be the case, how does the Lord Advocate think that a private owner will be able to afford, out of the income from the land, which is the essential point, the cost of this necessary work which will be laid upon them by Clause 54 of this Bill?
I have been disappointed at the very small references in this Bill to water for agricultural purposes. The main reference is in Clause 11. There a local authority is required or is allowed, the words are "shall give," a supply of water
…on reasonable terms and conditions for purposes other than domestic purposes…Provided that…
and then follow all sorts of provisions including that they shall not be required to give a supply of that kind if their ability to meet existing obligations of water supply for any purposes or for probable future requirements for domestic purposes would be jeopardised, or would cost so much that it would be unreasonable. That really makes Clause 11 of little value, and if it is compared with the firm obligation imposed upon local authorities under Clause 8, which imposes upon them as a duty the obligation to provide a supply of wholesome water for domestic purposes, it will be seen how unlikely it is that the agricultural industry, the greatest of our Scottish industries, is to be largely helped by this Measure.
Let it not be thought that I do not welcome this Bill. I do welcome it. I want to see provision made, and I dare say some of us will direct our attention to these points when we come to the Committee stage, for assistance towards the cost whichwill have to be borne by local authorities. I want to see greater assistance made available for owners of rural properties, to enable them to carry out the provisions of this Bill. I want to see greater weight given to the claims of the agricultural industry. And I want to be assured, as other of my hon. Friends have wanted to be assured, that there will be time for us to consult the county councils who are so greatly interested in the provisions of this Bill.
In attempting to make a maiden speech on a Measure such as this, one probably has opportunities which are denied to other hon. Members. I feel that what has happened in this Debate is that we Scottish Members have had an opportunity to consider quite a number of matters connected with Scotland. I understand the tradition of a maiden speech whereby one should not be controversial, but I feel it is rather a disadvantage after hearing the speech made by the hon. Member for South Edinburgh (Sir W. Darling). Hon. Membersopposite have discussed in this Debate, as they have in many other Debates, the question of the Rural Housing Act, 1925, and they have expressed their views about this particular Act being allowed to lapse. So far as housing is concerned, ho question of finance arises. It is not money that is necessary to build agricultural houses. The two things which appear to me to be necessary are materials and labour and, irrespective of any financial provisions, those two things have first of all to be found before houses can be built for agricultural workers. Another point which was made in connection with giving the small town and country joiner a job was that he could be used in repairing houses, but these men already have sufficient work to do at the present time in carrying out the necessary repairs.
I believe all hon. Members feel happy about this Bill and welcome it with the reservation, of course, that in Committee something might be done. So far as the water supplies in Scotland and elsewhere are concerned, they have been gradually built up as necessity demanded. It was never a question of any local authority trying to visualise what exactly was essential, but, rather, they met requirements as those requirements came about. I believe that among hon. Members opposite there has been a feeling that in welcoming this Bill they have shown some concern and anxiety in bringing a supply of water into the homes of the people of Scotland. The hon. Member for East Fife (Mr. Henderson Stewart), in making his contribution, referred to the fact that the hon. and gallant Member for Dumfries (Major Macpherson) had intended to take part in this Debate, but that unfortunately he had neither sufficient time nor the information from his county council to enable him to do so. I wondered if the information that would have come from that county council was to the effect that in the 1929 Labour minority Government the then Secretary of State for Scotland offered that particular county council three-quarters of the cost of a water scheme. That water scheme was turned down, for whatever reasons hon. Members may wish to suppose, but it was probably because it was a Labour Government. I know that Dumfriesshire in particular is very badly off for housing—more so than in any other county in Scotland—but the urgent need at that time was the supply of water. The time came when something had to be done. A water scheme was then brought forward for the county of Dumfries, but unfortunately it was not the Labour minority Government but the so-called National Government—a National Government, of course, composed mostly of Conservatives. They were not so generous, and the subsidy they gave to the local authority was such that the local rates went up far more than they would have done under Tom Johnston's scheme.
In connection with the supply of water, the supply of electricity has been mentioned. I regret the county council of Dumfriesshire have not approached the question of the supply of water in the same spirit as they have the supply of electricity. The county council of Dumfriesshire accepted the obligation under the statutory powers to distribute electricity, with the result that they distributed electricity very well to the rural areas. I know very small villages in Dumfriesshire where one can go into a house and find the lady of the house has an electric cooker, an electric iron, a wireless set, even a boiler for boiling the clothes, and all the modern conveniences so far as electricity is concerned, but so far as the watersupply is concerned, she has to go to the village pump. Of course, one has to go and fetch the water in which to boil the clothes. That happens in many other places as well. I lived in Dumfriesshire, and I have had the advantage of electricity. I was thenoffered a new position in Lanarkshire, and my wife said to me, "We have had all the advantages of electricity in this rural place. Is there electricity in this new home to which you are taking me?" I said, "Oh, yes, we must have electricity there because the new home to which I am taking you is two miles from the centre of supply"—the Clyde Valley power supply. I have been told later that if you are ever going to be a wise politician you should never make promises which you are not sure you can fulfil. When I arrived at this particular place I discovered that we had no electricity. We are still burning paraffin lamps, near the centre of the electricity supply. The reason is that the Lanarkshire county council, unfortunately, did not take the necessary statutory powers but handed over the task to private enterprise, and they were not concerned about distributing electricity to rural areas but simply with the profits which could be made.
When you bring water into the countryside you must also bring in drainage, and in my experience drainage increases the rates far more than does the water supply. I say this deliberately, because I know of one particular individual who was a so-called Progressive, but was a member of the Conservative Party. He was standing for a local county council, and in his election address he said that he was prepared to bring a drainage scheme to this particular area. After he had taken the trouble to investigate the cost and the local people had discovered that the rates would go up they said they would have nothing to do with it. His election address had already gone out, but he went round to every voter in his little constituency and said that he would withdraw the statement. So well did he stand by his principles of progress that he was prepared to carry out that job.
Another thing is that, after coming to this House, I feel that Scots people have a certain amount of tenacity. One has often heard that very little time was devoted to Scottish affairs, but, having heard the discussion this afternoon and having heard Scottish Members in action, I feel that they get quite a good bit across in the time allotted. From the administrative point of view the Bill would have been better debated in Scotland. We look forward to that time. I see an hon. Member shaking his head. If I have not made my meaning clear let me explain that local authorities and Parliament are now controlling and legislating for many different things, and legislation is always entering into the lives of the people from every angle. Some way of bringing Parliament, one does not want to say up to date, but to give more time to the vital issues is important.
We must give the English people a Parliament for themselves as well as asking that we should have a Parliament for Scotland and that there should be a Parliament for Wales. I feel that we ought to do something of that nature. I do not know what time I have taken but I was well advised in my early training as a public speaker that the three golden rules were to stand up, speak up, and to shut up. I finish on that note, and I hope that any contribution I have made will assist the Under-Secretary of State in his deliberations between now and the carrying of the Motion for the Second Reading.
I consider myself fortunate in having caught your eye, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, and having been given this opportunity of making my first contribution to the discussions in this House upon such an important matter for Scotland. I support the Bill. Whilst not altogether satisfied with it, I cannot help feeling that it will confer enormous benefits upon many of the people who are at present without an adequate water supply in Scotland, the very people who would probably benefit if we could organise our economic life in Scotland to provide light industries and a more profitable and healthy system of agriculture. I feel rather alarmed at finding myself, by way of a change, in agreement with the hon. Member for South Edinburgh (Sir W. Darling) Having been in disagreement with him since I first opposed him when he entered political life, I wondered whether I was altogether on safe ground and I was rather cautious.
I cannot help feeling that this question of the water of Scotland and the abundance of water with which Scotland is blessed should have been dealt with in a much better and more comprehensive manner. There is a considerable amount to be said for combination and for a unified consideration of the hydro-electrical development and the water supply of Scotland. Nevertheless, I feel that the Bill does go some considerable distance in helping us towards a system that we have spent about 100 years trying to evolve, a system which will give the ordinary man and woman an adequate and pure supply of water. It is of interest to recall that century of experience. It probably gives the clue to why the hon. Member for South Edinburgh should suddenly become such a keen supporter of national planning as distinct from individual enterprise, because the historyof water enterprises is characterised by some very shameless episodes. I believe that the hon. Member will know the history of the Edinburgh Water Company and the efforts made by the company to exploit the people of Edinburgh. The women had to sit awake all night in the top flats of their tenements in order to get sufficient water to be able to wash the week's clothing. When the matter was inquired into, it was found that the company had conveniently inserted into the pipes large discs with small holes in the centre about the size of a matchstick. That was not a very good recommendation for private enterprise. Private enterprise has not been able to meet the needs of the people for a pure and adequate water supply, because there is not sufficient profit in it.
The development of Scotland cannot be carried out without an adequate supply of water for agricultural, industrial and domestic purposes. It is as essential as is a cheap and efficient transport system, which Scotland has not got. It is as essential as a cheap and efficient power system. Scotland is amazingly wealthy in water, and yet we find that one-third of the rural population of Scotland has no supply of domestic water. In that small country the endeavour to meet the needs of the people had grown in a piecemeal fashion. We find that there are some 400 water supply systems with 210 different. authorities or undertakers, and that they manage some 700 undertakings in supplying a population of 5,000,000 people. That is, one undertaking to 7,000 people.
The position is hopelessly inefficient. I believe that the Bill will place in the hands of the Secretary of State power to create in Scotland a more comprehensive system, to rationalise that system and to cut out the waste. Hon. Members have complained about the lack of co-operation in the past, but local authorities have had the power to co-operate. It is unfortunate for the people that it has not always been the welfare of the people that has inspired those who have dominated the local authorities, and the people have suf- fered from a tendency to discourage a healthy economic and social life in this country. We have suffered from that until to-day it has become one of the largest depressed areas in the British Isles, and possibly one of the largest in a much greater area. This Bill makes it possible for some of these undertakings to be combined and to eliminate the small inefficient supplies. It makes it possible to procure a cleaner supply of water. Many of the present supplies are open to pollution. With the financial provisions of the Bill the Secretary of State gets a sum of money from the Treasury considerably larger than that formerly given for this purpose, and this will make it possible to tackle the problem on a large scale. Large-scale undertakings are undoubtedly more efficient.
I have my doubts about the Bill, for I wonder whether the powers contained in it are sufficient or whether the Secretary of State will use them to bring about a national development of the water supply in Scotland. It is suggested in the White Paper that there should be in Scotland a Central Advisory Committee to deal with the supply of water. I think that that recommendation is necessary, and I would like to see such a body set up to consider the needs of Scotland. I do not see how the needs of many small districts are to be met and guaranteed unless some form of national or regional system is adopted. We have suffered in the past, and still suffer, from the greed of the landlords, and I would like to see powers given to acquire land at reasonable rates of compensation. I do not know how we stand in this matter, but the powers given to the Secretary of State for obtaining land for the purpose of building an adequate water supply should be equivalent to those given to acquire land for housing purposes. If it is necessary to have healthy housing conditions—as it is—it is equally necessary to have a healthy water supply, and the needs of the community should be placed before the greed of any individual. I hope that we shall go on with this Bill rapidly. As one hon. Member remarked, the test of this Bill is not in the fact that it consolidates existing legislation, nor in the fact that it gives us an up-to-date code of administration; it is in the degree to which it meets the needs of the people of Scotland for water. The Bill falls or stands on that, and I hope that we shall give it the fullest consideration and try to make it better and, if necessary, give even greater powers to the Secretary of State to bring about this very desirable development in Scotland as speedily as possible.
It falls to me to congratulate the hon. Member for Lanark (Mr. Steele) and the hon. Member for North Edinburgh (Mr. Willis) who have addressed the House for the first time. I can say with sincerity and with no mere formality that I hope that on some occasions when the theme is somewhat wider, though still of interest to Scotland, we shall be privileged to hear them again. Having said that, I regret that I cannot share the optimism of most hon. Members on what this Bill will do. I have heard hundreds of millions banging about to-night, but we must look at the Financial Memorandum to see how many millions we shall get in consequence of this Bill. It would be out of Order to discuss the Financial Memorandum at this juncture. On a previous occasion, on, I think, the Town and Country Planning Bill, I raised an objection, and I am raising it again now. I observe that the Secretary of State appears in almost every paragraph in the Bill. Having looked at the powers taken by him to direct every other body, I want to know if he is paying any admission money to get in at the gate. I have discovered that there is no money in this Bill for a water undertaking at all. In consequence the Bill is so half hearted—
My hon. Friend ought to be fair, because he was in the last Parliament when we granted £6,000,000 for this purpose. It is not fair, therefore, to say there was nothing.
I am discussing what is in this Bill. The whole secret of the failure to secure adequate water supplies throughout rural Scotland has been finance. The hon. Member for South Edinburgh (Sir W. Darling) would go back to Methuselah and permit anybody to empty their own ash cans, and he suggests that because the collectively-owned water undertakings are so efficient everybody is diving to their rescue. Many of the things in this Bill are applied in the larger undertakings at the moment, such as charging 10s. a year for a garden hose; and they are being made uniform throughout the country. The Bill says that after it comes into operation no house will be permitted to be built unless there is an adequate water supply laid on. That is all to the good. Why does the Bill boggle about applying compulsory measures to existing dwellings which have no water supply?
I hope that the Under-Secretary will make note of the fact that the Department of Agriculture in Scotland is as big a sinner as any owner of rural property. On a small holding in my constituency a supply pipe is taken from a three-inch pipe three-quarters of a mile away from the nearest holding. It is a three-quarter inch pipe, paid for by the holders themselves. When the holder nearest the supply is drawing water, the other holders have to wait until he has finished. For almost 20 years they have appealed to the Department to do something about it. There is corrosion in the pipes and the water is iron red when it arrives at its destination. The Glasgow water department will not do anything and says it is not their job. The Department of Agriculture says it is the responsibility of the smallholders. The smallholder says, "I am living from one year's end to the next on the verge of bankruptcy." As a consequence, nothing has been done. If you take the village of Milton, lying on the main arterial road between Edinburgh and Glasgow, for 16 years they have been trying to get a water supply into existing houses—both as a domestic supply and for the abolition of the dry closet. It cannot be done, they are told. Why? Because the owner of the property says he cannot afford to do it and does not intend to do it, because in any case the property is not worth putting a water supply in. No powers are taken under this Bill to compel him, and in any case one might ask why the owner of the property should be compelled to lay on the water supply. Water is not a commodity sold like gas or electricity. Electricity supplies can be distributed and sold at a cost which over a number of years will cover the capital cost of the undertaking. But water is an absolute essential, and in every rural part of the country, as well as in some portions not far removed from the large industrial areas, you find that simply because it was a duty imposed on someone who could not afford it, people are denied a supply of water. My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Pollok (Commander Galbraith) said that this is a Conservative Measure. I do not want to take away any credit from the Coalition Government for the production of the main features of this Bill, but if this is a good Conservative Measure, the trouble with it is that there have been too many influences watching it while it was hatching. I am sorry for the Under-Secretary, he has arrived when the chicken was in the basket, having had nothing whatever to do with putting the egg there. We hope to be able to improve the Bill in Committee, but it is a faint hope. I am surprised that none of the rural Members have made any reference to an Act of Parliament which might have solved a very considerable part of their difficulty in connection with rural workers' houses. An Act was placed on the Statute Book in 1930–31 in which the Government of the day, in a great burst of generosity and on account of the low rateable value in rural areas, made financial provision for building rural workers'cottages. I would like to recall it to the memory of the Under-Secretary. If it was necessary for the Labour Government in 1929, with the assistance of the late Sir Tudor Walters and the Liberal Members, to face up to the low rateable value in those areas and make extraordinary provision for it, I am satisfied that if they do not make the same provision for an adequate water supply the remote parts of the country will not get it.
But no hon. Member on the other side ever mentions that rural workers' Act. Instead, they continue to praise to high heaven the rural workers' Act which put paint and putty on old houses and converted stabling into dwelling houses. They never mentioned the Act under which it is possible for the local authority to get a subsidy equal to £34 per annum per house with the rent fixed at 3s. per week. That was an Act of Parliament passed by the 1929 Labour Administration. One of the first acts of our hon. Friends on the opposite side, when they came into power in 1931, was to scrap it, and I have never heard anybody in this House mention it during the last 14½ years. If the Government and the Treasury will not recognise that the rateable value over large portions of the country is such that it is a sheer financial impossibility for local authorities, no matter how they may be grouped, to cope adequately with this position, and if they are not prepared to come forward with adequate financial assistance, my submission is that the Bill will fail.
I think the Under-Secretary can congratulate himself that this Bill has received a very favourable reception, indeed, so much so, that for the last four hours we have heard hardly anything about it. A number of hon. Members opposite never like making speeches without being able to attack something, but it is most noticeable that those who have that desire have avoided attacking this Bill and have attacked all kinds of other things, mostly about 200 years old, which have nothing whatever to do with this Bill. Accordingly, I think we may say that the hon. Gentleman has been very well advised to let his first excursion into legislation take the form of a Measure drafted by the Coalition Government. It is a very good augury for the future of Scottish legislation. As he well knows, for a considerable number of years past there has been a growing tendency for Scottish Members to co-operate on practical measures for the benefit of Scotland, no doubt with occasional outbursts, but broadly speaking if we have practical measures to deal with we can co-operate. It is only when we come to measures which raise ideological and political differences that we get at loggerheads. I hope that this means that the hon. Gentleman and his right hon. Friend the Secretary of State will carry on the policy of producing measures based on practical considerations and calculated to bring direct benefits to the Scottish people. I can promise him that so long as that policy is continued he will find, from this side of the House, constructive criticism with no attempt to delay or damage his Bills.
With regard to delay, I would suggest this to the hon. Gentleman. I understand that there are difficulties in the first year of a Parliament, but on one or two occasions a Bill has been published at the end of one Parliamentary Session for re-introduction in an improved form at the beginning of the next Session. If that is not done, either the Bill must wait until there has been adequate consultation, in which case it comes late in the Parliamentary Session and there is difficulty in get- ting it through, or it has to be put through without due consultation of all the interests concerned. I think the method of issuing two editions of the Bill might well be tried as a way out of the difficulty.
I think not. There is anotherthing to be said about this Bill. Those of us who have had anything to do with Scottish affairs have sometimes been accused of following on the tail of England, so that whatever England does Scotland has forced upon it. I am sure the Lord Advocate will agree with me that there is absolutely no ground for any such criticism of this Bill. The White Paper on national water policy very properly contained a separate section dealing with Scotland, and drew attention to the essential differences between the two countries which I need not go into now. Those differences have been carried into the English Water Act of this year and this Bill. Broadly speaking, the differences arise in this way. Water is a scarcer commodity in many parts of England than it is in Scotland, and the White Paper adopted the view, which apparently the Government have accepted, that the degree of control to be exercised in regard to any commodity depends upon the degree of scarcity. In England water is a very scarce commodity in some places, so that there has had to be in the English Act a very considerable degree of control. Very wisely, water not being a scarce commodity in most districts of Scotland, the Government have relaxed the amount of control very considerably in this Bill, and it may very well be that when we come to the Committee stage that control can be relaxed still further without disadvantage to anyone.
I am very much afraid, however, that the Debate to-day may have raised false hopes in some quarters, and I think it might be useful if the Lord Advocate in his reply were to say something about this matter. Obviously, there are at the moment two restricting factors, one of which we hope will be temporary, but the other of which is not. The first is the scarcity of labour and materials. It would be of interest if the Lord Advocate would tell something about the priorities as between the works necessary to carry out this Bill and the housing programme. The more labour and materials we expend on the housing programme, the less we shall have to spare for broadening the distribution of water in rural areas. It would be of great assistance if the Lord Advocate could indicate, particularly in regard to rural areas, whether the water will have to wait for the housing, or whether the housing will have to wait for the development of the water system. The two cannot very well go on at full speed together. The second factor is one which is always with use; it is the difficulty of finance. I hope the Lord Advocate will tell us something about that. I quite realise that the survey carried out during the war may not have been very exhaustive, and it may have been difficult, therefore, to reach any definite figures, but I should think that the hon. Gentleman's advisers must by this time have got some estimate in their minds of the amount of money that will be necessary to carry out this Bill in all the rural areas of Scotland.
Will the right hon. Gentleman allow me to answer now the point he raised about labour? There are various claims for labour and materials in Scotland, most of them cognate to one another, such as hospitals, schools, housing and the building of new factories. Our view is that as labour becomes available we ought not to make it the monopoly of one of these sections, but to apportion it as fairly as we can and distribute it according to the needs.
I understand that possibly the hon. Gentleman cannot be more specific at the moment and that we shall have to learn as we go along, but the more we develop the policy of this Bill, the slower will go the housing programme. On the financial question, I hope the Lord Advocate will give us some information about the amount of money which the carrying out of the policy of the Bill in the rural areas will cost. It will cost a very great deal of money. I understand that £6,000,000 is at hand from the Exchequer, but the expense of carrying out this Bill will be vastly greater than that, and it would be very useful if we could have some information on the matter.If I am right in thinking that £6,000,000 will not nearly meet the total cost, then we ought to have some indication of what will be the effect on local rates of carrying out this policy. This is not the time to go into questions of rating, butwe have to be careful about this, and I think we may find that unless we are rather foresighted in this matter, the policy will be held up because it will suddenly be realised that the effect on the rates will be such that the policy just cannot be carried out. I will not develop this now, but I am coming more and more to the conclusion that unless we have a careful and exhaustive inquiry into the whole question of local finance, we shall find that we shall be blocked before we have got very far along the road of domestic reform. Therefore, I hope the Lord Advocate will be able to tell us something to show that the question of finance and its repercussions on Scottish rates has been considered in connection with the execution of the policy of this Bill.
I see that the hon. Member for Lanark (Mr. Steele), who made a maiden speech to-night, is not now in his place, but I would like to say that he speaks with special authority on Dumfries, which I represent, and thathe is much respected there. I very much appreciate the great tribute that he paid to the organisation of electricity in Dumfries, which, as is generally known, is a model county, not only for Scotland but for the whole of the United Kingdom, in that respect. As far as water is concerned, the hon. Member was not quite so complimentary. Plans for water supplies were made in 1929, but the scheme was turned down. Suffice it to say that very few members of the county council who were then in office are now left. A plan was prepared some time ago for the extension of water supplies, which already cover some 315 square miles in Dumfriesshire. The new plan is to cover a further 250 square miles, and is to bring a piped water supply to 90 per cent. of the total population. During the war that plan was blocked, but it has been submitted under the Rural Water Supplies and Sewerage Act, and we now await the result. As has been said, it all depends now on what the allotments are to be. This has a direct reference to housing, because housing has been held up by the lack of certainty as to how much the allotments are to be under the Rural Water Supplies and Sewerage Act. I agree with the right hon. and learned Member for Hillhead (Mr. J. S. Reid) that housing and watersupplies are very closely bound up together. As the Under-Secretary of State said, it is a question of allotting the labour as it is required. I hope he will allot a substantial amount to Dumfriesshire which is certainly far behind in housing and water supplies.
One is in the East and one is in the West, so perhaps it will be possible to find labour for both. I make that point most emphatically, that it all depends on the allotment of labour and material. I think it was the hon. Gentleman the Member for Southern Peebles (Mr. Pryde), in a most excellent maiden speech, who rather tendedto diminish the value of the great advance that has been made by Scotland. As in many other ways, Scotland leads in water supplies. It has far better water supplies than there are South of the Border, and I feel that what the White Paper says should be emphasised: first, that 90 per cent. of the population of Scotland is supplied with piped water, and, secondly, where it lays stress on the almost complete immunity from water-borne diseases. The object of the Bill is more to co-ordinate supplies with a view to economies to the ratepayers than development, although development is necessary and will be done, I hope, at the very earliest possible moment.
There has been a general support, in principle, for this Bill, a support which, in a way, I find rather embarrassing, because it is difficult to wind-up a Debate if there has been no opposition at all. The speeches which have been made have all been of a helpful character and indicative of the sort of points which are likely to arise on the Committee stage. Although, as the Joint Under-Secretary said, when moving the Second Reading, this is not an exhilarating subject, nevertheless, it has elicited three very admirable maiden speeches. One point which most people have stressed is the question of time being made available for further considera- tion. May I say that there has already been a certain opportunity for consideration because, as early as February of this year, an outline was sent to the three local authority associations. Those associations expressed their general agreement. They made certain criticisms in detail, and a good number of those criticisms were actually incorporated into the draft Bill. I need hardly say that we will pay every regard to any representations made on behalf of the local authorities. As the Joint Under-Secretary of State said, he proposes to consult with hon. Members with regard to getting as much time as possible in order that matters may be thoroughly considered in Committee.
There is no doubt that this is a very complicated Bill. It raises a number of diverse problems, and problems which undoubtedly need consideration. Therefore, it seems to me, it is in the interest of everybody that they should get that consideration. But while it is undoubtedly a complicated Bill so far as its details are concerned, its main purposes are simple enough. Perhaps, in answering some of the points raised, I might explain in a word or two what those main purposes are. There are three purposes really. First, there is consolidation. The idea is to bring into one enactment all the general law governing water supply. At present, that is scattered about in something like 14 different Acts of Parliament. At the same time, we are taking the opportunity of bringing this general law up to date. The second main purpose is to give statutory effect to the principles of the White Paper for a National Water Policy. The third main purpose is to give the water authorities an up-to-date administrative code, and this has been done by incorporating throughout the Bill a modernised version of the Waterworks Clauses Acts.
So far as consolidation is concerned, an important effect is to provide one body of rules, one set of powers and duties, instead of the two old separate codes which were based on somewhat haphazard principles. The powers and duties of water authorities are dealt with under two main heads, and they comprise Parts II and III of the Bill. Part II lays down the duties of local authorities in order to securethat a supply of water is provided in their districts. Part III lays down the powers of the local water authorities to govern their own administration with a view to the adequate provision of a supply of water.
In the consolidating Clauses, there are one or two new features, but the only one which has really been referred to by any hon. Member is Clause 53 of the Bill. There seems to be some slight doubt about this matter. Since 1919 the law has required water to be introduced into houses where it is reasonably practicable. Under Clause 54 of this Bill that obligation remains, and the test remains the same so far as existing houses are concerned. Therefore, the suggestion made by some hon. Members that this is too heavy an obligation, really means that they are wanting to take a retrograde step, because this is something which has been law since 1919. The new feature is to be found in Clause 53 of the Bill which says that it is the duty of the owner, of everyone who builds a new building after this Bill comes into operation, to make adequate provision for the supply of water for domestic purposes. So far as giving effect to this second main purpose, to the principle of the White Paper, is concerned, broadly speaking, the Secretary of State is given the statutory duty of promoting adequate water supplies and of conserving water resources generally.
That is the new element in the Bill. It puts this obligation on to the Secretary of State who, of course, is responsible to Parliament for the exercise of it. The object of that is to provide a planned water economy on a national basis. That is what we aim at. It will take time to work it out, but that is the objective. In order to further that objective, there are a number of other matters which I will just mention. The Bill makes provision for securing information regarding water resources and needs in order that the Secretary of State may be fully apprised of the necessities of the situation. Amalgamation and co-operation of undertakers are to be encouraged and, if necessary are to be enforced entirely with a view to securing efficiency and economy. It is right to say that, if an amalgamation is opposed, it cannot be brought into force without the statutory authority of Parliament under the new procedure which is in the course of being worked out. Scottish Members know that the new procedure follows the main lines of our own private legislation procedure. Special steps are to be taken to protect water resources against misuse and pollution and, further, industry and agriculture are to have the right in certain circumstances to be supplied with water on reasonable terms and conditions. There are certain safeguards which are laid down in the Bill in order to protect the ordinary domestic water supply. The hon. and gallant Member for West Kincardine (Colonel Thornton-Kemsley) thought there were so many safeguards that this particular Clause was robbed of some of its value, but I do not think that that is so. It seems to me that with proper co-operation from the local authorities this ought to make a great step forward in supplying water for both industry and agriculture.
The hon. Member for North Edinburgh (Mr. Willis) raised the question of a central advisory committee. That is the thing they have in England, and in England they have also regional committees; the central committee and regional committees are already a feature in England. It would probably be desirable to have something in the nature of a central committee in Scotland although there is hardly room in Scotland for regional committees. It is thought that it is better not to make it statutory but to leave it to the future to see what kind of committee would be most useful. The hon. and gallant Member for Pollok (Commander Galbraith), in replying to the Joint Under-Secretary of State, brought to my attention a number of Clauses in the Bill. I can assure him that I have these Clauses in view; and in particular with regard to what he had to say on Clauses 42 and 44 about orders made by the Secretary of State, I think I can assure him that these orders, generally speaking, particularly orders under Clauses 44 and 87, will fall under the new procedure and there will accordingly be every safeguard under that procedure.
The hon. and gallant Member for Argyll (Major McCallum) and the hon. Member for East Fife (Mr. Stewart) raised the question of what support the local authorities are likely to obtain from the financial point of view, and that matter was also referred to by the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Billhead (Mr. Reid). As far as that matter is concerned, we are rather at an experimental stage. The Act of Parliament that was passed last year made £6,000,000 available from the Exchequer for water and sewage schemes in rural Scotland. Whether that is enough remains to be seen, but it will be open to the Secretary of State, in virtue of the general powers conferred upon him, to keep a firm look out on the whole situation. The general duly of conserving the water supplies and of providing water is put upon him. If he finds that there are financial difficulties, I have no doubt that he will not hesitate to come forward in order to find the necessary finance. But we have that as a starting point. Experience will show how much more we shall require to have, and it must be remembered that the planning policy which we are inaugurating ought to produce economies of a remarkable character.
I want to say a word about the final main purpose of this Bill. It is rather a complicated part of the Bill, and I am not going into it in detail; I refer to the incorporation of the Waterworks Clauses. The object of this particular part of the Bill is to give the water authorities an up-to-date administrative code. That has been done by incorporating throughout the Bill a modern version of the Waterworks Clauses Acts. This code deals with the day to day operations of water undertakings and the relations of water undertakers with consumers and other interested parties. The thing about these Waterworks ClausesActs is that they have no independent existence of their own. They come to life only when they are incorporated in another Statute. The scheme of incorporation that has been followed in this Bill is that the modern bits are inserted partly in the Bill itself and partly in the Third and Fourth Schedules, and in that way these Waterworks Clauses are worked into the Bill and made available for a number of purposes.
This is a very necessary and a very useful Bill. There is no objection in principle to the ideas of consolidating our general law or modernising our general law, and there can be no objection to rationalising the administrative code and bringing it up to date. There is every necessity in Scotland to-day for a planned water economy and the object of the Bill is to provide for that. It helps to eliminate waste and it makes for simplicity and co-operation. Water authorities themselves will find it extremely helpful, and certainly, from the point of view of Scotland as a whole, it will assist materially in the programme of reconstruction.