Mode of Operation

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

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Photo of Mrs Bessie Braddock Mrs Bessie Braddock , Liverpool Exchange 12:00 am, 3rd July 1957

Having listened to the whole of the debate, I think I may say that the whole House is agreed that there should be a nationally controlled water scheme as soon as possible.

In the meantime, large local authorities like Liverpool with responsibilities not only to their citizens but to very many other areas, have to deal with these matters according to their financial opportunities. Liverpool, after many years of devastating unemployment, has attracted to itself industries which have created almost full employment, and until such time as legislation preserving all the water in this country for use by all our people has been accepted in this House there must be some way of meeting the needs of large communities. When a national water scheme comes into operation the existence of water schemes financed by large municipal corporations may make its introduction much easier.

If the approval of the Bill is delayed or if the Second Reading is not agreed to, it will be at least three years before anything further can be done in this matter, but action is imperative in the interests not only of Liverpool but of many other areas. If I now refer to my brief it is because I expected that I should not have long to address this House, and I wanted to present all the salient facts.

Firstly, the need for the Bill arises not only in Liverpool but in the whole of North Merseyside, Chorley and twenty-four authorities, including some in Wales, on the line of the Rivington and Vyrnwy aqueducts. This is a regional and not a local scheme. At present, demands already exceed the yield of existing sources, and no new demand for water can be met. If the people to whom Liverpool Corporation has an obligation increase their demands and if Lancashire increases its industrial capacity and requires more water, Liverpool cannot meet the demand.

The scheme has passed through another place, and would meet the needs of everybody for at least forty years. That is an important point if we are to consider a nationalised water scheme. There will be benefits to the River Dee. The scheme, as worked out with the river board, will reduce floods in the Dee Valley and will increase the flow in times of little rainfall. It must be well known to those who have studied this matter that excellent agricultural land is sometimes completely flooded and becomes useless because there is no way of controlling the flow of the Dee waters. That agricultural land has a higher productivity than the land that will be submerged if the scheme of the Bill is accepted.

Essentially, this is a river conservancy scheme which will benefit the riparian owners and authorities both in England and Wales who are now authorised to take water from the Dee. Tryweryn reservoir will be operated under the direction of the river board, to the benefit of the river. As to the effect in the Tryweryn Valley, the scheme is designed to do as little damage as possible to homes and agriculture. The land to be flooded is not of high agricultural value.

I want to set at rest one or two anxieties which have been disturbing people about this scheme. In the first instance, Liverpool did not decide on the site for a scheme without consulting those living in the district. It picked out three important areas from where it might be possible to obtain water, the Lake District, Lancashire and more than one place in North Wales, and a personal letter was sent to every tenant in the area in which borings were to be taken.

That letter stated that Liverpool Corporation was doing some exploration with reference to water and did not want to do anything without the personal agreement of every individual in the area. A stamped addressed envelope was included with the letter. Some tenants replied and some did not. Rather than start a scheme in a place where tenants had not replied, Liverpool Corporation sent some of its staff to interview personally those who had not replied to the letter. Only in circumstances where agreement was reached that something might be looked at in the area was anything done at all.

Liverpool did not "walk in" without some sort of approach and did not do anything until it received the permission of the people in the area which was to be looked at, not only in the Tryweryn Valley but the other two places which were considered before Liverpool decided on the scheme which it thought would be the best. Then, and only then, when Liverpool had decided which in its opinion would be the most useful site—not only to itself but to those to whom it had to supply water, in addition to the use of the River Dee—was the approach made to the local authority. There was no need to approach a local authority if there was no question of doing anything in its area. After that, Merionethshire local authority was approached.

In fairness to Liverpool Corporation, I had to say that because many comments were made that it "walked into" those areas and did not consult anyone. There was nothing of the sort. Nothing was done that was not agreed to by the tenants in the area.

Some disturbance of the inhabitants is, of course, inevitable. Everyone deplores the fact that in the interests of progress sometimes some people must suffer, but that is progress. Liverpool Corporation has said that in every instance in which people will be displaced from their homes it will build new homes for them and, wherever possible, it will obtain for them —by powers it will be able to obtain— alternative agricultural land on which smallholders can continue their farming operations. I give that guarantee, which has been given by Liverpool Corporation.

We looked at many schemes, in the Lake District, Lancashire and North Wales, before this scheme was adopted. Local and other authorities were consulted, and no information was refused to them. The benefits of the scheme to the Dee and the area dependent on the corporation for water far outweighed the disturbance which will be caused to the valley. Rehousing people at a new site in the valley cannot destroy Welsh culture. Let us remember the happy atmosphere at Lake Vyrnwy and the amenities which Liverpool Corporation has given to people displaced in that area. One has only to visit the place and to talk to the people in the area to appreciate that. We would do exactly the same at Tryweryn. The Minister's report on water resources cannot affect the present urgent need for water and the fact that this is a good scheme for a wide area. The smaller reservoirs suggested by the county council are not practicable on economic grounds.

In addition, there has been some question about whether Liverpool Corporation would give a guarantee that people who require water, either for private use in houses or in industry, in the Merionethshire area would be allowed to take water from the reservoir. I want to give a very specific and detailed guarantee here and now. Because this was specific and detailed I want to read it exactly as stated by the promoters.

I admit that if the Bill goes through to Committee there are difficulties about incorporating things of this sort in it. They are difficulties of legality. In order that there may be no ambiguity about it, I will read exactly what the Liverpool Corporation says. I am a member of the Corporation and I am speaking now as a representative of the Corporation and giving a guarantee that what I am saying will be acted upon if the Bill receives a Second Reading tonight. The guarantee is: The Corporation are quite prepared when the works proposed in the Bill have been constructed to afford a metered supply in bulk from the reservoir either to local authorities or to industrial consumers or others in the Counties of Merioneth and Denbighshire provided that the local statutory undertaker in the area concerned is not in a position to supply those requirements and does not object to such supply being given and provided that the Dee and the Clwyd River Board whose control over the water in the reservoir will be paramount has no objection… Someone exclaimed "Oh". It is the river board that is the responsible authority and would have to agree— The Corporation will submit for consideration by the Committee to which the Bill may be referred provisions for insertion in the Bill to give statutory effect to this undertaking in such terms and subject to such conditions as the Committee may approve.