Motion made, and Question proposed,
That, for the purposes of any Act of the present Session to increase the limit on the contributions out of moneys provided by Parliament which may be made under section 1 of the Rural Water Supplies and Sewerage Act 1944, it is expedient to authorise the payment out of moneys so provided of any increase attributable to the provisions of the said Act of the present Session in the sums payable out of such moneys under the said section 1 or by way of Rate-deficiency Grant or Exchequer Equalisation Grant under the enactments relating to local government in England or Wales or in Scotland.—[Mr. MacColl.]
I am a little suspicious of the wording of the Money Resolution. During the course of the debate on Second Reading of the Bill we have referred to the question of grant for reinforcement schemes or augmentation schemes, schemes which are improving an existing water supply or linking it with some other supplies.
It was said that the Minister construes the 1944 Act as not allowing him to make grants in assistance of schemes of that sort. It seems to me that the Money Resolution makes it very difficult for us to try and amend the law in that respect. As I read the Resolution, it is to provide moneys for the provision of
any increase attributable to the provisions of the said Act".
which I read as meaning the Act which will result from the Bill before us. But that is limited to any increase in
the limit on the contributions out of moneys provided by Parliament which may be made under section 1 of the Rural Water Supplies and Sewereage Act 1944.
It seems to me that we are tied by the Money Resolution to the provisions of the 1944 Act, and it is doubtful whether any Amendment to the 1944 Act to permit the Minister to make grants in respect of improvements to existing water supplies would be within the Money Resolution. I rather hope that the Parliamentary Secretary will tell me that it is the intention of his right hon. Friend
the Minister to introduce such Amendments in order that during the Committee stage or the Report stage of the Bill we might discuss the question of grants for improvements which, I am sure, are going to be extremely important in future, more important perhaps than grants for new connections.
Although it is not for the Parliamentary Secretary to interpret or construe the wording of the Money Resolution and whether any particular Amendment would be in order, he might perhaps be prepared to give some assurance or undertaking that, if we find that the Money Resolution precludes Amendments of that sort, he will press his right hon. Friend the Minister to introduce a new Money Resolution or present an Amendment to the existing one.
At a time when the new system is being formulated in the Ministry, it is very important that there should be an opportunity to discuss in Committee or in the House the question of bringing well into the scope of grants those schemes which are going to meet the increased demand for water from those who are already receiving a supply but an inadequate supply.
For what it is worth, I think that I can say that the Money Resolution has been drawn about as widely as it could reasonably be drawn. We have not tried to cut out any embarrassing Amendments which might be moved dealing with the nature and the size of the grant. Whether it is possible completely to rewrite the 1944 Act is rather more doubtful, because the present Bill is one purely to provide more money to carry out the provisions of the 1944 Act, and therefore it is not unreasonable that the Money Resolution covers that desire. I think that the hon. Gentleman will find that his interpretation of what can be done at present under the 1944 Act is perhaps a rather narrow one and that within the limits of the 1944 Act he would have no difficulties in discussing the points that he wants to discuss.
As he rightly said, it is not for me to rule on the matter, but my guess would be that an alteration of the system laid down in the 1944 Act would probably not be within the Money Resolution, nor would it be within the terms of the Bill itself, which are clearly directed to providing more money for the purpose.