Orders of the Day — LANCASTER CORPORATION BILL [Lords] (By Order)

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 7th May 1959.

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Photo of Mr Thomas Price Mr Thomas Price , Westhoughton 12:00 am, 7th May 1959

Like the two hon. Members who have spoken, I have the honour to represent a Lancashire constituency and I do not think that I need apologise for intervening briefly in this short debate. I appreciate that the hon. Member for Morecambe and Lonsdale (Mr. de Ferranti) has a duty to perform to his constituents, and, indeed, he put forward a vigorous case on their behalf, but on looking at the matter rationally and at a distance of some miles away in Lancashire. I am bound to say that it seems to me that this boils down to a rather unusual expression of parish pump politics in which perhaps, on other occasions, some of us would not intervene.

When we look at the whole picture of Lancashire and its water supply we find that the large towns and urban centres are adequately provided with an excellent water supply, but that in many of the rural districts there is not such a happy position. In recent months I have had occasion to meet the Minister of Housing and Local Government with representatives from my part of Lancashire on this very question. Like myself, he was concerned only to see that whatever new system of water distribution is adopted in the future it is the most efficient and most economic system which can be devised, subject to proper regard being paid to the democratic principles which the hon. Member for Lancaster (Sir F. Maclean) mentioned.

For nearly 100 years the Corporation of Lancaster has been responsible for giving a water supply to some of the outside authorities which are now opposing the Bill. I think that that opposition to the Bill is quite unfounded. Surely any hon. Member who has a Parliamentary duty to discharge in coming down on one side or the other in a matter of this kind must realise that, if we have a successful, efficient going concern in the form of a corporation which is doing the job efficiently, it would be highly debatable to create a new synthetic authority which would require a new superstructure of technicians, engineers, bacteriologists and chemists, which would only add to the cost of the water and would not add a pint to the amount of water available in the consumers' taps. Therefore, I think it is quite irrational at this stage in the proceedings on the Bill, and after there has been the opportunity in another place to consider the merits of the Bill, for petitioners now to appear, having neglected the opportunity of putting forward those objections in another place, where the matter was fully deliberated upon, and to seek to prevent the Bill from receiving a Second Reading in this House and detailed consideration in Committee.

So far as I am concerned, while I fully acknowledge and appreciate the vigorous case made by the hon. Member for Morecambe and Lonsdale, which in duty bound he had to put forward, I do not think that he said anything in his speech which will convince any fair-minded Member of the House that these are sufficiently weighty reasons why the Bill should not receive a Second Reading, take its place in Committee and be dealt with in detail.

Finally, I suggest to the House that on Second Reading there is abundant evidence in the history of this water undertaking to show that the Lancaster Corporation has provided adequate, efficient and reasonably cheap supplies of water to Morecambe and these other towns. Carnforth has already agreed that Lancaster should have the Bill in any case. So far as the outlying rural districts are concerned, in this most beautiful part of Lancashire—and here let me say that many people in the south of England do not know what a beautiful county Lancashire is in some of its northern parts, and I say that as a Lancashire-born man—many of these villages do not possess an efficient water supply. I should much prefer their chances of making progress towards obtaining an efficient water supply if they were to take water from the Lancaster Corporation because of that authority's better credit in raising the capital required to make such a project feasible.

Therefore, I strongly support the Bill on Second Reading, and I hope that the objections will be overruled and that we shall allow it to go forward to the Select Committee.