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LIVERPOOL CORPORATION BILL [Lords] (By Order)

Orders of the Day — Finance Bill – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 3rd July 1957.

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Order for Second Reading read.

Motion made, and Question proposed, That the Bill be now read a Second time.

7.1 p.m.

Photo of Mr Thomas Jones Mr Thomas Jones , Merionethshire

I beg to move, to leave out from "That" to the end of the Question, and to add instead thereof: this House declines to give a Second Reading to a Bill which proposes to uproot an entire community despite their strong and reiterated objections; takes no account of the profound and widespread opposition in Wales to its provisions; and is contrary to the public interest in that it seeks to enable a single undertaking to embark on a scheme of such magnitude before the House has had an opportunity of considering the report of the Committee set up by the Minister of Housing and Local Government and Welsh Affairs to inquire into the conservation and distribution of water resources in Wales. Many a decade has passed since a representative of Wales has had an opportunity to speak in this House on behalf not only of his own constituency, but also of the whole Principality. I hope that I shall not be deemed presumptuous when I claim to have that privilege this evening, because, as I said here recently, and as was reiterated in another place, the people of Wales have never felt so intense on any subject this century as they feel about the question which we are discussing this evening.

I am happy to think that I have the backing of the Welsh Parliamentary Party which is composed of representatives of every party in the House. Even the Chancellor of the Exchequer, who has just left the Chamber, is a member of this illustrious body.

Photo of Mr Charles Pannell Mr Charles Pannell , Leeds West

My hon. Friend should not put his money on him.

Photo of Mr Thomas Jones Mr Thomas Jones , Merionethshire

Protests against this Bill have been received from hundreds of people—

Photo of Mr Thomas Jones Mr Thomas Jones , Merionethshire

I think my hon. Friend is right—and from every organisation which one finds in Wales, including political parties and cultural and religious movements.

The other day we unfortunately lost our Archbishop. Reading an account of his death in the Liverpool Daily Post I read the following observation: He had shown interest in the 'Liverpool Corporation's reservoir plans in Wales, and in November, 1955 he wrote to the Corporation on behalf of the Bench of Bishops asking for information on the subject for the sake of the Welsh people. I ask the House to note that last phrase— …for the sake of the Welsh people. The Archbishop knew of this intense feeling which one finds in Wales concerning this Bill.

As I said, I have received hundreds of letters from religious organisations. Only yesterday I received the last one from such a body; it was from the secretary of the Congregational Union of Pembrokeshire, Carmarthenshire and Cardiganshire—in South Wales, far from Tryweryn. The letter accompanying this protest stated that at a meeting held last week representing 217 churches there were actually 250 representatives present who unanimously passed this resolution of protest.

I am sure the House will allow me to say that Wales has been very generous indeed in the provision of water for people across the border. Proof of this is the fact that local authorities outside Wales own twice as much water surface in Wales as is owned by the people in Wales.

It seems to me that before a Private Bill of this kind is accepted by the House, it should fulfil three fundamental conditions. First, there should be proof of need beyond dispute. Secondly, the powers requested should be such as to be reasonably related to meeting this need. Thirdly, it should be shown that the need could be met in no other less objectionable manner. That is to say, the rights of those in possession should be guarded to the very last.

I think the House will agree with me that in a Private Bill of this kind those three fundamental principles should be established. I put it to the House that on none of these fundamentals can the Liverpool case be sustained. Indeed, the weakness of the case must surely be brought home by the fact that the original Bill, after eighteen months of careful consideration, so it is claimed, was radically and hurriedly changed some time between the Second Reading in another place and the time for its examination. A Bill can be expected to be changed to meet the objections of the various opposing petitions, but a late and radical change in the nature of the Bill cannot but reflect on its original merit, and even now its weaknesses are glaring.

As hon. Members will be aware, the Liverpool Corporation says that it needs an extra 65 million gallons of water daily to cover the level which it says its demands will have reached in fifty years time. In order to be able to take this water from the River Dee we find that in some mysterious way the Corporation and the River Board have, since the Second Reading last February, decided that another 57 million gallons daily must run waste into the sea. In other words, the Corporation itself wants only 65 million gallons daily, but in the next breath it demands 122 million gallons daily from Wales.

Dare I suggest that this sudden zest for wasting 57 million gallons of water daily —more than the entire needs of the City of Birmingham, for instance—be related to the fact that the Corporation suddenly realised that to supply the estimated requirement of 65 million gallons daily requires a reservoir only one-third the size of the one which the Corporation proposed to establish? As a matter of fact, I would remind the House that the Merionethshire County Council was amenable to Liverpool having this smaller reservoir. They met at Chester, and the Merionethshire County Council suggested that there were other schemes which could be put into operation, but Liverpool would not have it.

Indeed, even to cover the inflated requirement of 122 million gallons daily a reservoir half the size of Tryweryn would suffice. Even to grant them 122 million gallons daily a reservoir half the size of the one proposed would be quite sufficient. Can it be that Liverpool suddenly began to see, what was clearly shown before the Select Committee, that the Tryweryn Reservoir would be yielding nearly four times the amount of water which Liverpool says it requires and that a last minute effort has to be made to make things look a little more respectable? I am convinced that that was the reason because tonight it demands from us four times the amount which it claimed was necessary.

Many an hon. Member has told me this last week that he would like to be satisfied that other sources are available for Liverpool, and it is only fair that I should consider that. I think I can soon convince the House that those sources are available, and readily available. To me the outstandingly interesting thing about the Liverpool evidence is the way in which no source except this source in Wales will suit Liverpool.

The original plan contained requests to extract water from the River Mersey and to retain compensation water from the Rivington sources. For some odd reason both those requests were withdrawn from the Bill as presented. It is not now proposed to extract water from Liverpool's own River Mersey. It is true that the retention of the Rivington water was objected to and it is very nice to see that the Corporation was amenable to objections. I should like to know why this substantial source of supply is so easily disdained. The Corporation must have Tryweryn. Why? The Mersey water is always available; it is its own, and no one can take it away from Liverpool.

Photo of Mr Thomas Price Mr Thomas Price , Westhoughton

I wish to ask my hon. Friend a question following the question he is postulating. Has he ever seen the River Mersey as it flows through Stockport and Manchester and its tributary, the Irwell? It is nothing more than an open sewer and would not be suitable for use as drinking water.

Photo of Mr Thomas Jones Mr Thomas Jones , Merionethshire

I can only ask my hon. Friend to have a look at the Thames. I can assure him that I crossed the Mersey before he was born. The River Mersey can wait the convenience of the Corporation. Just now the job is to get people from the Tryweryn Valley and there is no need to be particular about the excuses.

Let us consider another possible source. Need Cwm Tryweryn be impounded in order to supply water from the River Dee? The minimum flow of that river is laid down as 55 million gallons daily, but for most of the year its average flow is ten times that amount—500 million gallons daily. Why cannot the Corporation use that superabundance of water when it is available through most of the year and reserve its present reservoirs for the purpose of using them during dry weather? There is water in abundance there, 500 million gallons daily, which can be utilised and the water in Lake Vyrnwy in Montgomeryshire could be reserved. While the Tryweryn dam is being constructed the Corporation actually plan to purchase temporarily from other authorities the rights of water they are permitted to extract from the River Dee, but which it does not use.

Liverpool could obtain River Dee water during most of the year merely by applying for an order to do so, but, no, it must have Tryweryn. As the House knows, Liverpool also possesses a very large lake in Montgomeryshire, a very large lake indeed, known as Lake Vyrnwy. Yesterday we received a memorandum from the eminent water engineer, J. F. Pownall. I want to quote what he said concerning the use that can be made of that reservoir.