We have heard an interesting speech from my hon. Friend the Member for Morecambe and Lonsdale (Mr. de Ferranti), whose views on this subject, I need hardly say, are not identical with mine. Why should they be?
My hon. Friend made a number of very valid points, but I think that he overlooked—or perhaps it would be fairer to say he did not give sufficient weight and sufficient emphasis to—a number of other points. I should like to take the opportunity of underlining that. The Act of 1945, which is the origin of this whole matter, places emphasis first and foremost on efficiency. We find that same theme of efficiency echoed in the Minister's circulars. The object is to produce more efficient water undertakings.
I ask the House to consider for a moment what this Bill does, first as to efficiency. The Lancaster water undertaking has supplied the needs of the district, including Morecambe, for more than 100 years and, I submit, it has done so with the greatest efficiency. That, I think, has never been challenged or disputed by anyone. Proposals are contained in the Bill to maintain that efficiency in future. That efficiency has never been challenged, either before the Select Committee in another place or in any petition in this House. A point which has not been sufficiently emphasised is that, at present, it supplies 98 per cent, practically 100 per cent., of the water involved.
Another interesting proof of the efficiency with which the Lancaster undertaking operates is contained in the attitude of another local authority in my constituency, the Carnforth Urban District Council, which, it will be seen, is among the promoters of the Bill. The interesting thing is that this is an instance of an undertaking taken over by Lancaster at the request of the Minister. Since 1953, it has had experience of being taken over and of how Lancaster treats a smaller undertaking which it takes over. It has shown satisfaction of the treatment received by helping to promote this Bill. I do not think that we could have clearer proof of the efficiency of Lancaster's water undertaking than that.
An integral part of efficiency nowadays must surely be cheapness, the amount of money involved. Here I join issue with my hon. Friend. I do not think that it can be seriously disputed in the light of the evidence heard by the Select Committee that the proposals contained in the Bill will provide water at an appreciably lower cost than would be possible under a joint board.