Oral Answers to Questions — Water Supplies (Enborne Valley Scheme)

– in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 7th July 1949.

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Photo of Mr Anthony Hurd Mr Anthony Hurd , Newbury 12:00 am, 7th July 1949

asked the Minister of Health what request he has now received from the Metropolitan Water Board for further authority to make borings and other investigations in connection with the Board's revised proposals for flooding the Enborne Valley; and if he has set a time limit to these investigations, having regard to the anxiety of the local people who are threatened with the loss of their homes.

Photo of Mr Aneurin Bevan Mr Aneurin Bevan , Ebbw Vale

None, Sir. As regards the second part of the Question, I understand that the Board expect to be in a position to announce their decision in the early autumn.

Photo of Mr Anthony Hurd Mr Anthony Hurd , Newbury

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the agents of the Metropolitan Water Board are going round saying that it is now their intention to flood the Enborne Valley up to the 350 feet contour, and will he tell the Board plainly that Parliament will not agree in any circumstances to such a wasteful use of 20,000 acres of agricultural land?

Photo of Mr Aneurin Bevan Mr Aneurin Bevan , Ebbw Vale

I do not know whether officers of the Metropolitan Water Board have said that, but they will not be able to flood it with a quart of water until this House agrees to the scheme. I understand that the explorations which are taking place are causing anxiety to a very large number of people in the area, and I hope that this matter will come to an issue as early as possible.

Photo of Mr Henry Berry Mr Henry Berry , Woolwich West

is my right hon. Friend aware that this matter is still under very careful consideration, and that, but for a conflict of the expert advice which has been tendered on it, a decision might have been reached by now? Is he also aware that no officer of the Board has any authority to make such a statement as has been alleged by the hon. Member opposite?

Photo of Colonel Ralph Glyn Colonel Ralph Glyn , Abingdon

May I ask the Minister whether it is absolutely certain that, before the scheme can be put into operation, it will have to be passed by Parliament, and that it cannot be approved under an order or under regulations?

Photo of Mr Aneurin Bevan Mr Aneurin Bevan , Ebbw Vale

As the House knows, I have a quasi-judicial function to perform. What is happening at the moment is that explorations are taking place in order to decide whether a reservoir is technically feasible. If it proves not to be technically feasible, obviously the whole scheme falls. If it is proved feasible on technical grounds, social considerations will have to be taken into account at the inquiry.

Photo of Sir Patrick Donner Sir Patrick Donner , Basingstoke

Would the Minister agree that the Metropolitan Water Board would have to put forward an exceptionally strong case before any scheme so ruthlessly destructive of agricultural production could be approved?

Photo of Mr Aneurin Bevan Mr Aneurin Bevan , Ebbw Vale

It would be unwise to prejudge the position now.