Before the debate begins, I should like to make a brief personal statement. At the outset of this debate, I wish to express my regret to the hon. Member for Rutland and Stamford (Mr. Kenneth Lewis) and to the hon. Member for Crosby (Mr. Graham Page) for some of my Rulings during the recent debate on the consideration of the Bill on 19th June. Those Rulings were far too restrictive.
At consideration stage of a Private Bill which has been amended in Committee, Amendments may be tabled but rarely are put down. The absence of Amendments for consideration does not, however, mean that there cannot be a substantial debate at consideration stage. Such a debate, like that on Third Reading, is limited to what is in the Bill, and the hon. Member for Rutland and Stamford was trying to debate just that. I hope that he will accept my sincere regrets for confining his remarks far too tightly. In this respect, Private Bill procedure differs from that on Public Bills, as the hon. Member has been rightly advised.
The Bill which we are discussing tonight is substantially the same Bill to which we gave a Second Reading on 2nd April. I certainly do not propose this evening to reiterate the detailed presentation of the case for the Bill which I made on that occasion. There were, naturally, rival and varying views expressed on Second Reading, but during the debate quite a number of hon. Members, on both sides of the argument, agreed that the Floor of the Chamber was not a suitable place to argue the merits and the demerits of this type of Bill. Indeed, some hon. Members supported Second Reading because they considered that the Bill should be subjected to meticulous and searching scrutiny by the Private Bill Committee, where learned counsel could be let loose on it. That has now taken place, and after nine days of evidence the Bill has been passed virtually unscathed with only minor amendments.
On today's Order Paper, only one hon. Member is objecting to the Third Reading tonight—naturally enough, the hon. Member for Stamford and Rutland (Mr. Kenneth Lewis). One cannot help admiring the persistence of the hon. Member but his customary enthusiasm in resisting any matter involving the County of Rutland has once again run away with his judgment.
I must remind the hon. Member and the House that the reservoir which we are discussing this evening will not destroy Rutland. Rutland will need this water every bit as much as do the parts of Northamptonshire, Leicestershire and South Lincolnshire which are encompassed within the area of supply. In any event, I do not know how much longer we shall be talking about Rutland, or, for that matter, any other local government area, because we are now talking of these matters in the wake of the Redcliffe-Maud Report. At the time the reservoir is functioning, it may well be that it will be sited in unitary area No. 31 of the East Midlands province. In that context, the reservoir sounds positively attractive from any point of view!
I think that the hon. Member for Rutland and Stamford has overstated his opposition to the Bill. Throughout the entire Private Bill Committee proceedings, the whole approach of the petitioners against the Bill was in marked contrast to the tone of its opponents in this House on Second Reading. The petitioners conceded the case for a reservoir at Empingham. In the words of their learned counsel,
we regard Empingham as a deplorable and regrettable necessity.
The House will recollect, however, that on Second Reading the hon. Member for Rutland and Stamford said that there was no case whatever for a reservoir at Empingham. One of his reasons for that assertion was that the promoters of the Bill had exaggerated their population forecast.
Again, the petitioners' counsel said, on the question of population,
happily, there is now no difference between us … and Peterborough has been the subject of an agreed reduction",
due to the delay in implementing the city's development plan.
The hon. Member for Rutland and Stamford also alleged on Second Reading that 40 farmers would be displaced by the reservoir. The Committee proceed- ings elicited the fact that 23 residences are affected by the Bill, seven farms and 16 cottages, four of which are vacant and derelict.
The hon. Member's criticism of per capita consumption and his advocacy of water from the Lincolnshire limestone were also rebutted in Committee. One by one the allegations went. Indeed, it is difficult to know where to stop in drawing attention to the discrepancies between the hon. Member's speech and the case made by the petitioners in Committee. The only major point which the petitioners pressed was that the reservoir at Empingham should be reduced in size by truncating the shallower upstream arms of the basin by means of two subsidiary stop dams to prevent flooding.
The effect of those two stop dams would be to reduce the acreage of land taken by 1,100 acres in respect of the southern arm and by 1,500 acres by truncating both arms. If that were done, however, the capital cost of the reservoir as outlined in the Bill—£16¾ million—would increase by such truncation by £1·2 million and £2·2 million, respectively. In other words, the additional capital cost per acre of land saved is £1,020 or £1,260 for a daily yield of 38½, million gallons or 34½ million gallons, however the truncation may be affected, as against the 50 million gallons a day which we are seeking by the Bill.
If the full Empingham reservoir, without truncation of any kind, as sought in the Bill is disallowed, the sensible alternative would not be a curtailed Empingham, but a reservoir at Manton. The House will recall that Manton was the second site recommended for investigation by the Water Resources Board in its study of water supplies in South-East England in 1956.
I realise that that still keeps the hon. Member for Rutland and Stamford in trouble, because Manton also happens to be in his constituency. It would be much more sensible, however, if the Bill were disallowed, to go to Manton rather than play about with truncating the reservoir at Empingham. Manton would flood only 1,470 acres and it would yield 40 million gallons a day at a cost of £18½ million. Therefore, on every test—yield, costs and saving of acres—Manton is much to be preferred to a truncated Empingham.
But, of course, neither alternative is good enough in terms of quantity and time scale with which the Bill deals. The reservoir which it proposes will yield 50 million gallons a day and that quantity will be needed in full by 1991. Of that quantity, the South Lincolnshire Water Authority will require 14 million gallons a day, primarily to meet the expansion of Peterborough, and the Mid-Northamptonshire Water Board will require the remaining 36 million gallons a day, 4 million of which it has agreed should be sold to the Leicester Water Corporation, which anticipates that amount of short-fall in supply in relation to the growing demand in its area by the end of this century.
The Mid-Northamptonshire Water Board's existing sources will last only until 1975–76. Indeed, they may not last even that long. I understand that the daily consumption yesterday reached a new high of 21¾ million gallons. Last year's average was 18 million gallons, which itself had trebled in the 20 years since 1949. Therefore, it is doubtful if existing sources will last as long as the mid-1970's at this rate of growth. Thereafter, of course, the growth of population planned for the Board's area, together with the increased consumption of water per head and the needs of new industries, make it essential to provide a new source of supply.
I know of no other water board in the South-East which has four new or expanded towns in its area. We should remember that Peterborough City, which must be supplied, is also just outside the area. The four towns—Northampton, Corby, Wellingborough and Daventry—had a total population of 218,000 in 1967. By 1981, that will be 427,000 and, by 2001, it will be 560,000. On the 1981 figure, therefore, the population of these four towns alone will have doubled within six years of the intended completion of this reservoir.
These were the compelling facts which led the Water Resources Board to recommend in 1966 that a reservoir should be constructed at either Empingham or Manton. As I have said, on grounds of yield, cost and engineering, Empingham is to be preferred to Manton. If Parliament does not pass the Bill, the plans to expand these towns, to develop new industries and to introduce overspill from Birmingham and London will grind to a halt. We shall be putting back the clock.
The hon. Member is taking, as he is entitled to do, future projections of population as the foundation of his case. He may know that the birth-rate, however, has already begun to fall since those projections were made. Would he agree that if it falls considerably his projections are completely invalid?
I cannot accept that. The birth-rate may be falling in the constituency of the right hon. and learned Gentleman, but I can assure him it is going up in mine. Anyway, the case for the Bill rests on increased population as a result of overspill from London, Birmingham and elsewhere, and the undoubted fact that the consumption per head of any population is increasing over any given number of years. In 1949, when the Mid-Northamptonshire Water Board was set up, the consumption per head was 23 gallons a day. Today it is 51, expected to rise to 77 by 1981 and to 94 by the end of the century. This is a natural increase per head, which, in addition to the increased number of heads, is the basis for the estimate which I have given. I would also remind the right hon. and learned Gentleman that the petitioners against the Bill agreed to the promoters' figures about population estimates. There is no longer any dispute on this issue.
The Private Bill Committee, in passing this Bill, added an unusual and interesting rider, that, in its view,
.there is an urgent necessity to study the alternative supplies of water. They therefore strongly recommend that a feasibility study of the Wash Barrage be undertaken immediately.
At present, a desk study is in progress, the results of which we shall have at the end of the year. It must be completed before any feasibility study is undertaken. The desk study may come down for a feasibility study, but it may not. We do not know. We shall have to await the results of the desk study.
What I want to make clear is that the promoters do not oppose the so-called Wash Barrage scheme. They would welcome such an enterprise. But if one accepts, as one must, that such a concept cannot possibly, if all else is favourable, yield any Wash water before 1990, that is obviously outside the time-scale required by the Bill. As I said, the extra water will be urgently needed by the mid1970's—if not before, on the basis of yesterday's figure which I gave.
Since my hon. Friend says that the Wash Barrage could not be considered pending the result of the feasibility study, is he right in assuming a time scale which could only be justified by such a study?
If we look at the time taken by the Morecambe Bay Study, we can assume that at least a year or so will be taken, and then there are the actual works on the site. If we are thinking of an embankment from Hunstanton to Skegness, which I am now told is an out-of-date concept in terms of the Wash Barrage, serious engineering problems, let alone the navigational problems regarding the four rivers which flow into the Wash, are involved. If, on the other hand, a series of lakes or lagoons are to be created around the periphery, certain rather different problems may also arise. What I am certain of—if this helps my hon. Friend—is that, even if the Wash Barrage feasibility study got off the ground on 1st January next year, we could not get any water from it by 1975, when it is needed under the terms of the Bill.
The promoters also regret very much that this proposal involves taking over 3,000 acres of agricultural land. It is a regrettable necessity. No one, however, gets any pleasure from this. It is one of the melancholy consequences of the relentless demands of the urban dwellers, with their factories, garbage grinders, washing machines, car cleaning plants and hot water systems. The competing claims of the countryside are, of course, powerful, but we must balance one set of needs against another.
I know that financial compensation cannot adequately compensate anyone for the loss of his habits or livelihood, but the promoters, while they recognise that they cannot break the law, are willing to bend it as far as possible in being generous with financial compensation to the few farmers and others displaced by the reservoir. I profoundly hope that this is the last time that any water authority will have to ask Parliament to sanction the inundation of agricultural land to provide future communities with adequate water. [Interruption.] I do not know what that collective interruption was about. If hon. Members will read the study made in 1966 by the Water Resources Board they will see that the Board pinned great hopes on the exploitation of ground water in the Ouse Basin, the Wash Barrage, by desalination and by other means in the longer-term.
The collective comment of hon. Members arose simply because the hon. Gentleman had several times quoted from the Committee's proceedings. It was made clear in evidence to the Committee that another eight reservoirs were anticipated, expected and likely to be provided in due course.
They were instanced, but the Board was at pains to point out the imperative need to get a move on with one of them, and that was related only to the one with which we are dealing. The others did not carry the same degree of urgency as the Empingham Reservoir, and their future may depend on the successful exploitation of ground water in the Ouse Basin.
I will not give way. I promised to be briefer than I was on Second Reading. I have already spoken for longer than I had intended. I hope that my hon. Friend will catch Mr. Speaker's eye and make his own contribution.
I repeat that it is the sincere hope that this is the last time that any water authority will have to ask Parliament to sanction the inundation of agricultural land to provide future communities with adequate water. It depends entirely on the rate of progress that is made in researching and studying the long-term alternative prospects of obtaining more water. It also depends on the degree of encouragement that the Government give to the Water Resources Board in its efforts.
If the controversy surrounding the Bill and the recommendation of the Private Bill Committee have impressed the urgency of the matter on the Government, further good will come of the Measure. In the meantime, I ask the House to give the Bill a Third Reading to ensure that the pressing needs of this unique area are met in good time.
I suppose that any date could have been chosen for this Third Reading debate. The Government obviously want this stage of the Bill to be taken as quickly as possible. It is no pleasure for me, today being my birthday, to be discussing water when I should be taking my wife out for a drink. However, as Parliamentary business has meant my being here, it may be as well for me to make certain comments.
Rutland County Council, the farmers of the county and the local population have put up stout opposition to the Bill. I have done my best to carry their flag in the House of Commons. It would be wrong for me to do otherwise now, when we last debated this subject, at the consideration stage of the Bill, I made some remarks rather hurriedly, and I wish to clarify them.
I said that Rutland County Council was likely to withdraw from fighting the Bill. I meant to indicate that it was almost bound to withdraw because of the considerable costs that would be involved in fighting the Bill through all its stages, including through the House of Lords and in Committee. I would not cavil at the county council thinking twice before entering into increased costs, £12,000 already having been spent. This has not been £12,000 entirely of the ratepayers' money, although the ratepayers will have to contribute to it considerably. The local farmers have also contributed to this sum, which has been collected to pay for all the legal expenses involved in an exercise of this kind.
One cannot now go to the farmers who have also given and who are threatened with losing all, and ask them for more money. Others in the county have contributed to an appeal fund. The cost of all this is considerable, particularly to a small county. Nobody can convince me that had it been Yorkshire, Lancashire or one of the larger counties, the Measure would not have been fought right the way through, including in Committee and through the House of Lords. That was the point I was seeking to make when we last debated the matter.
If the Government, who are behind the Water Resources Board—perforce they must be—want the case against the Bill to be fully made out, and if they want the Measure to go through with the case having been fully adduced—by which I mean at all stages of the Bill, including its passage through the House of Lords—they should help the county council to meet the cost. This, I believe, the Minister of Housing and Local Government is able to do.
Whether or not the Government are prepared to do this, they should help the county council to meet the costs that have already been incurred. No Minister who believes that Parliamentary debate matters even in relation to the Private Bill procedure should wish difficulties to stand in the way of a small authority fighting a very large authority, such as the Water Resources Board, when faced with a massive undertaking of this kind.
When the Bill was in Committee I spent some time listening to the proceedings. I pay tribute to my colleagues who took part in that stage of the Bill. They were in purdah for that time and I did not attempt to disturb them. However, as I listened to the discussion during those nine days I realised the hard work that was involved for them; the grind, the concentration and the almost impossible issue on which they had to adjudicate.
They did something unique in that they provided a special report for the House. This report suggested that, reluctantly, they had agreed to this reservoir but that they hoped that it would be the last. The hon. Member for Leicester, North-East (Mr. Bradley) expressed the same hope, although it did not come out in the evidence to the Board. It was at the Committee stage that the hope was expressed that the Government would produce a Wash Barrage, desalination plant or some other method which would make it unnecessary in future to dig large holes in the ground.
The Committee was also helpful to Rutland County Council and the other councils in the area by making it clear to the promoters of the Bill that many of the costs which might fall on a small local authority should be borne by the river authority and those who are to run this reservoir. It remains to be seen whether this recommendation is implemented. There is every indication that it will be, and, if it is, the Chairman of the Committee, the hon. Member for Stalybridge and Hyde (Mr. Blackburn) and the members of the Committee will have proved extremely helpful in this matter. The Committee also sent letters to the Prime Minister and the Minister responsible expressing the hope that the Government would explore alternative methods of obtaining water.
This is all fine as far as it goes, but we are now faced with the Third Reading of the Bill and with a proposed reservoir which will cost us nearly 4,000 acres of land. The Government are behind the Bill. The payroll vote, the Government, voted heavily in favour of the Measure on Second Reading, and the same thing may occur tonight.
It is right and proper that the agricultural community should ask any Government how far they should be allowed to go in providing for urban populations to the disadvantage of the countryside. No gigantic lake of this kind, no loss of this amount of land, no farming takeover of this order, no expenditure or turmoil that will take place in the next year or two in this area should be allowed by the House of Commons without considerably probing the position. As I said to the hon. Member for Leicester, North-East, this is one of eight reservoirs. It could mean another 20,000 to 30,000 acres in total. If we are to let acres go in this way there will soon be no more agricultural land.
Something like 15 per cent. of land in the country has been urbanised. We are getting towards 20 per cent. Much of the countryside is not good agricultural land, and it is very easy to say that the percentage in relation to the whole for urban development is not very high if we take into account all the things we require. We need land for roads, airfields, new towns and so on, but the advance across the best acres of the countryside is quite frightening. If it goes on we shall be left with less valuable land, with only woodland and mountain and have to export our population to keep those who are left on the reduced amount of output of food we need. Simply to pass a Bill of this kind without considering these very important matters would be very wrong indeed.
The cost of this reservoir will be £20 million or £30 million. I guess that in a year or two the cost will escalate considerably. If we accept that there are to be six or eight others the total cost will be something about £150 million to £175 million. That is getting towards the cost of a Wash Barrage. It is certainly getting towards the kind of cost involved in a project for desalination. The proposals in this Bill are Victorian. They are not in keeping with the white heat of the technological revolution, which I think the Prime Minister said would be the basis of activity of this Government. This is the kind of thing that our forefathers were doing. We should have a new system and new methods of getting water supply. If we flood acres in order to flush lavatories we are not very much up to day. The world is waiting for a development which will give it more water supply. We are not the only country which is short of water or the means of preserving it.
This island is surrounded by water. Nye Bevan once said that it is surrounded by fish and covered with coal but short of both. If we could harness this water, although it would be expensive at the beginning, it could be the biggest advance since the discovery of oil.
I accept that, Mr. Speaker, and I anticipated that there might be a remonstrance about my going outside the terms of the Bill. The Bill is a pointer to what we need. If we could pioneer such a method in our country we could go far to solving many problems not only here but in many countries. We did that with nuclear power and electricity supply; why not do it with water? We shall never do it with Bills of this kind, just as we shall not get progress in industry without innovating and inventing. We need to leap into the ideas of the future instead of resting on the ideas of the past.
The Preamble to the Bill says:
whereas the demand for, water within the area of the River Authority has increased, is increasing and will shortly be beyond the capacity of the existing sources of supply …
and goes on to say why this Bill is necessary. The hon. Member for Leicester, North-East challenged some figures which I gave. He quoted from the Committee stage of the Bill and said that there were only seven farms and eleven cottages involved. In fact Mr. J. G. Eve said that there are 58 holdings, of which some are cottages. I do not know whether my figures are correct or the figures quoted by the hon. Member or those given by Mr. Eve, but I assure the hon. Member that the number of farms and cottages involved is greater than the number he mentioned and nearer to the number which I quoted on Second Reading. I checked on that number. Although it is true not all of them would be drowned, many would be affected and some of these people would have to move because of works surrounding the reservoir. It is not a question of how many farmers are affected but of how much land is involved.
One farmer can farm 500 acres while another farms 1,000 acres. We are debating this matter on the basis of loss of productive land. That is the answer to the comments the hon. Member made about my figures. I dispute some of these figures. Having read in the Preamble that the case is on the basis of increased demand, what did we find in Committee? On Second Reading I challenged figures which I said were exaggerated. I challenged the city of Leicester figures and the new town figures. The city of Leicester had an expert before the Committee. He admitted that the figures given by the city before the Bill went into Committee were exaggerated and said that the amount of water required, 4,000 million gallons, would not be required until the end of the century. Before the Bill went into Committee the city had said that that amount would be required in the early 1970s.
So the city of Leicester does not require this water until the end of the century. I contend that the new town figures are also exaggerated. I can only say that they are. I cannot prove that they are, because the new town is not yet built. I tried to prove it on Second Reading on the basis that the only new town we had was the new town of Corby and I tried to prove that the figures for the new town of Corby were exaggerated.
Before this Committee it was proved that the figures for the city of Leicester were exaggerated. if the other figures are exaggerated, the whole case for the Bill is exaggerated. I do not see why Rutland would put up with a reservoir because the efforts of the hon. Member for Leicester, North-East are apparently so prodigious that there is a population increase in his constituency. I hope that that figure is equally as exaggerated as are the figures for the demand of water. I rest my case still on exaggeration. I accept, however, that the Bill has been through its Committee stage.
As the hon. Gentleman has obviously not finished his series of exaggerations, will he inform the House how the area is to get its water by 1975, bearing in mind that the petitioners against the Bill—his constituents—agreed that the promoters' estimates of population were correct.
The opponents of the Bill—the representatives of my constituents—did two things. First, they discovered that the figure for Leicester was wrong. Secondly, they accepted the guesswork of the promoters. It is purely guesswork. On Second Reading I tried to prove that there could be a bridging situation between now and the 1970s. I concede that, if there is not the Wash Barrage or some breakthrough on desalination by the 1980s or 1990s, we shall be in trouble. I assume that there will be a development of the Wash Barrage, or something else.
By the 1980s. Then the bridging situation which I put forward on Second Reading comes into play. I do not think that that bridging situation would have been denied if it had been put to the Committee.
Page 3 of the Bill sets out the cost. I have said that it is likely to escalate. It is for this reason that I think we should have had a truncated scheme. It may be said that the cost difference would not be all that great. Nevertheless, the, difference is there and we would have saved 1,500 acres of good land. This is where I can help the lion. Gentleman: we could have got the water for a bridging situation between now and the late 1970s and early 1980s from a truncated Empingham. I still believe that that would have been a reasonable compromise. The reason that it was not proposed by the Committee was partly technical, because the Committee had to look at the Bill as it stood. It could not look at a Bill which did not have within it the alternative of a truncated Empingham.
As my hon. Friend is now advocating a truncated scheme, does he challenge the figures which I have given, that the Empingham Reservoir as proposed in the Bill would cost £336,000 per yield of one million gallons per day, whereas a truncated scheme would cost £468,000?
I should have thought that those figures made my case, because the difference is small enough to justify the saving of land. This was not an issue before the Committee, although it was put to the Committee. I think that the Committee might well have decided to suggest that the promoters brought forward another Bill. If the House refuses to give the Bill a Third Reading, we can look at a truncated Empingham.
The Bill is a massive document. It contains proposals which provide for the greatest construction scheme relating to water that there has been for many decades—new roads, old roads re-routed, new bridges, electricity pylons to be changed, rivers to be diverted, the removal of woods, the digging of tunnels, the erecting of buildings of one sort and another. It is a mammoth construction.
To go from the fantastic to the sublime, the Bill contains one item which must be unique in a water Bill. There is mention of a bishop. Clause 22 says:
'the bishop' means the bishop of the diocese of Peterborough".
It is not that the bishop is to be drowned, but that the parish church of St. Matthew, which stands in the middle of a field in my constituency, is to be submerged. It looks as if the Church has done about as good a deal with the promoters as anybody. The promoters have apparently agreed to remove the church. It is a very beautiful church in a very pastoral setting. The promoters are to remove the church with
the remains of all deceased persons interred therein",
including the remains of the ancestors of a predecessor of mine in this place, the Earl of Ancaster. The promoters are to build the church higher up. I am more concerned with the living, than with the dead.
It is all very well for the House to discuss a Bill whose implementation will cost £30 million and to say, "The farmers will be looked after. They will be compensated. They will be all right. We can afford to lose a little land". Some of us think that this is very serious. Others may not think so.
All of us would hope that those who are to lose their livelihoods will at least be looked after. Those owning the farms in which they live will get market value plus disturbance. Nobody has indicated what disturbance will be. I hope that it will be generous. I think that the tenant farmer comes off very badly, because he is to get four years rent, with an option of two years rent which the promoters assure me that they will provide. There is some doubt about this, because in Committee Mr. Eve said—page 20, Evidence, Sixth Day—that he thought that it would be possible for a tenant to claim up to two years' profits as well as two years' rent.
I do not know whether it is two years' profit or two years' rent. All I know, representing an agricultural constituency, if that it is based on last year's profits and this year's profits, tenant farmers will not get much, because they have had two thundering ba
Not only should the promoters be generous on this basis, but in view of the cost of the undertaking, the Government should consider being even more generous than is laid down in dealing with tenant farmers in particular. The cost of the project is in direct contrast to the compensation they will receive.
The Bill deals with a method of pre- serving water that is out-dated. It is proposed on problematical data. It is terrifyingly big, and it does not even say that it will provide us with cheaper water. There is a Clause allowing the water undertakings taking water from the river board to increase their charges for water, so we are not even to have the advantage of cheaper water by having the reservoir.
When history comes to be written it will be said, if we pass the Bill, that we clung to the old-fashioned methods at increased cost rather than going forward with more modern, innovative methods that come to us through our modern technology, and which in the early stages might be expensive but in the long run would provide us with cheaper water, just as we now have cheaper oil and gas.
I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Leicester, North-East (Mr. Bradley) on the excellent manner in which he presented his case. All hon. Members, whatever their views on the issue, will wish to join me in those congratulations, because it is obvious that he has given a great deal of thought and care to the preparation and presentation of the case.
But I must oppose my hon. Friend on this issue. As the House will be aware, I am the President of the National Union of Agricultural Workers, and my Oakham district committee, covering this part of Rutland, has been one of the organisations that have resisted the Bill and given support to the industry generally for the retention of the land for agricultural purposes.
I shall not make any extravagant claims; the facts speak for themselves. As the hon. Member for Rutland and Stamford (Mr. Kenneth Lewis) said, it does not matter how many homesteads may be involved; the fact is that 3,000 acres of land will go out of production for all time, lost for good—
I stand by the point I made. Over 3,000 acres of land are involved, in addition to over 55,000 acres of land that go out of cultivation every year. We can ill afford to loose our heritage in this way. If we pass the Bill we are doing something that will remove an area for ever.
With the increasing millions of population, and the necessity to take more land in the future for homes, roads, schools and so on, if there is any alternative to the use of land for this purpose the House and the country should give it first priority. My members feel that there is an alternative—the Wash Barrage. I accept that it is only at desk study level. Assuming that the desk study report is favourable, there must then be a feasibility study, and I accept that this process will be very long. But I am also aware that corporations and vast undertakings tend to exaggerate their demands in an endeavour to make their claim with the utmost conviction. I wonder whether a delay of a year or two in ascertaining whether or not it is shown that it is feasible for a barrage to be built will damage the cause of the people in the area that the reservoir will serve.
The Oakham district committee of my union is concerned, and has participated in opposition to the Bill, for the following reasons. About 20 farm workers will have their livelihood affected by the scheme. That may not be many, but they are 20 people, and they have a right to be considered. It is their livelihood, their occupation, that is concerned. Most of them have lived in the area all their lives, and it is not easy to be uprooted and told to seek fresh employment elsewhere, make new acquaintances, find new schools for the children and so on. If there is a queue for farms, as the hon. Gentleman declared, obtaining homes for farm workers will be no easy matter. Every local authority that I know has a pretty long waiting list of urgent claims which, in the view of the people on those lists, need prior consideration.
The hon. Gentleman suggested that owners of land will be fairly generously treated, though one is a little doubtful how much compensation tenant farmers might secure. But my experience of farm workers is that when they are displaced they receive no compensation, and my organisation feels very strongly about this. If my hon. Friend can indicate that displaced farm workers will be adequately compensated, my members will be much happier, though this will not remove the main objection to the scheme.
Other hon. Members wish to take part in the debate, so I shall be brief. I conclude on this note. I have an awful fear—and I am sure that I am not alone in this—that if the House approves the Bill the full feasibility study of the Wash Barrage is likely to be pigeon-holed for many a long year. All who have interested themselves in the Wash Barrage scheme have come to the conclusion that if such a barrage is possible it will meet our long-term problem, not just for the area with which we are now concerned but for a much wider area, and increase the land available subsequently. So we do not want to see the feasibility study shelved.
Therefore, in order that the feasibility study might be embarked upon and not pigeon-holed, I hope that the House will reject the Bill. I believe that it is good for this country in the long term and I hope that the House will also recognise this point.
On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. In the unusual circumstances of a special report having been made to this House, which it is in order for the House to consider on this occasion—that is clear from Mr. Speaker's Ruling—and bearing in mind that the report engages the responsibility of the Government and strongly recommends that a feasibility study of the Wash Barrage be undertaken immediately, would it not be conducive to the best ordering of the debate if we could hear the Government's views before proceeding further?
In all the time that I have been a Member of this House, both here and outside I have tried to avoid saying anything which was likely to exacerbate feeling between town and country. But I cannot help saying, with deep regret, that the attitude adopted by my hon. Friend the Member for Rutland and Stamford (Mr. Kenneth Lewis) will do just that if he is not careful.
No one likes to put good agricultural land under water unnecessarily, but I have recollections, as I expect have many hon. Members, of having to live on a pint and a half of water a day for all too long during World War II.
I am conscious that one of the biggest problems arising over water supply in this country today is not only that caused by the increasing size of water consumption of urban areas but by the fact that rural areas are now being provided with a piped water supply where hitherto they probably had to go off with a bucket and draw it from the nearest well. One problem which now besets the water undertakings promoting the Bill is that the daily consumption of water has been steadily rising not only because of urban demands but also because of the demands from rural areas.
I cannot understand the attitude of my hon. Friend the Member for Rutland
and Stamford tonight when I compare it with what he said on Second Reading:
We are not lacking in public conscience. There is no alternative to this reservoir. We will accept it."—[OFFICIAL, REPORT, 2nd April, 1969; Vol. 781, c. 574.]
He then went on to try to suggest that the figures and proposals put forward by the water board could prove the reservoir to be unnecessary.
If the Bill goes through all its stages in this House and another place, the County of Rutland, when it is faced with this reservoir, will co-operate. I said that, and it is true. I suppose that we could start putting tractors in the middle of the roads to prevent construction taking place and indulge in other activities like they do in other places, but we would not think of doing that. I said "if we were faced with it". That does not alter the fact that we have a right to put forward our views against it in both Houses.
I do not resent my hon. Friend putting the case against the Bill if he feels obliged to do so. But on Second Reading he made clear that there was no alternative to this reservoir, although he said he would endeavour to show that it was unnecessary.
The Bill was sent to a Select Committee as an opposed Private Bill. I should like to congratulate the hon. Member for Stalybridge and Hyde (Mr. Blackburn) and his colleagues who sat on the Committee on the hard work that they put in. Having presided over a number of Committees on opposed private water Bills, I realise what this involves. The fact that the Committee sat for nine days and examined every challenge to the Bill made by my hon. Friend the Member for Rutland and Stamford, at the end of the exercise coming out in favour of the Bill and recommending it back to the House, though making this special report about the desirability for a feasibility study of the Wash Barrage, makes my hon. Friend's arguments a great deal weaker, I suggest, than when he produced the same arguments on Second Reading.
I was a little surprised to hear my hon. Friend pleading the poverty of Rutland as a reason for not carrying opposition to the Bill through another place as well as here. If one single Member ought to take credit for Rutland being still on its own, it is my hon. Friend. But I am sure that he realises there are possibly other reasons besides the efforts which he put in at the time. This is one of the problems which all local authorities have to face. They must recognise that if they are involved in national affairs of one kind or another, be it water or anything else, there may come a time, if they are too small, when they will not be able to stand up against greater national considerations.
However, I regard the hon. Member for Rutland and Stamford as an old friend and I do not wish to say anything unnecessarily to antagonise him. But I seriously suggest that the battle that he wanted fought on Second Reading is over. That has been done before the Select Committee. But my hon. Friend ought to be taking credit for a certain amount of kudos coming out of the fact that a special report has been submitted to the House by the Select Committee urging a feasibility study of the Wash Barrage.
About 15 or 16 years ago the late Sir Murdoch Macdonald, who was recognised as being one of the greatest civil engineers that this country has had for a long time—although no doubt he would claim that for Scotland—and I went into the research department of the Library and got out all the charts and looked at the project of the Wash Barrage at that time. His calculation, even then, was that the cost of a barrage could not be much less than £200 million, because it would mean that the foundations would have to be at least 200 ft. deep below the bed of the sea if it was to stand the strain. My hon. Friend has used the cost of the exercise as a reason for not going ahead with it. That is a very dangerous argument indeed if he wants the Wash Barrage.
My hon. Friend the Member for the Isle of Ely (Sir H. Legge-Bourke) will no doubt recollect that we were both colleagues of the late Sir Murdoch Macdonald, who ceased to be a Member of this House nearly 20 years ago, and that since then there have been the most tremendous technical advances in engineering.
I accept that. I try, as I know my right hon. and learned Friend realises, to keep abreast as far as possible of the various methods of coping with water supplies, and I mentioned another possible method on Second Reading—reverse osmosis. The opinion on cost in those days was about £200 million. It may be that there could be savings. I do not know. But we are talking about enormous sums of money in thinking of barrages. If we started the Wash Barrage today—and that could not be done—we could not possibly ensure that a large number of people will not go too short of water for far too long. Nothing short of reservoirs can serve the immediate need of providing by the mid-1970s a greatly increased quantity of water. This is the only solution, and the Select Committee so decided. We are being asked by my hon. Friend the Member for Rutland and Stamford to throw overboard any usefulness of the Select Committees on opposed Private Bills. It is almost an insult to the Select Committee not to accept its recommendation. I strongly support the Bill as being the only possible solution in the time available.
It may help the House if I intervene at this stage and perhaps I can reassure the right hon and learned Member for Huntingdonshire (Sir D. Renton) that it was my intention to rise at this point, which in any case is about the normal order of batting for a Minister on a Private Bill
The Government's attitude towards the Bill is, briefly, that it should be given its Third Reading. The Select Committee spent nine days considering the Bill and at the end approved it with Amendments which did not go to the substance of the Measure. I echo what the hon. Member for the Isle of Ely (Sir H. Legge-Bourke) said about the Committee and, in particular, about its Chairman, my hon. Friend the Member for Stalybridge and Hyde (Mr. Blackburn).
In the event, the petitioners who appeared before the Committee accepted the regrettable necessity for the construction of a reservoir at Empingham, although they question the form that it should take. They suggested that it should have three dams instead of one, the extra dams serving to prevent the flooding of the shallow ends of the arms. The promoters indicated why they were opposed to this modification, and the Committee approved the reservoir provisions as originally proposed.
A great deal has been said already about the special report of the Committee. It was when it was faced with the possibility of a succession of surface reservoir schemes in the years to come that the Committee made this report to the House, giving the view that a full feasibility study of a Wash Barrage should be undertaken without further delay. It was good enough to inform my right hon. Friend of its view in advance, and he has explained to it that a decision about a feasibility study must await the outcome of a desk study already in progress.
A Wash Barrage is, in the Government's view, a most interesting idea, and if it were to prove a feasible proposition it would undoubtedly save much agricultural land from being flooded for reservoir purposes in the future But a full feasibility study is an expensive exercise in itself, and the Government feel, therefore, that we should await the results of the desk study now in progress before deciding the next step.
In any event, we need the results of the desk study before we could decide the parameters of a feasibility study. Meanwhile, a full feasibility study is in progress in Morecambe Bay, and it may well be that the results of that will throw some light on at any rate some of the extremely complicated problems of a Wash Barrage. The Wash desk study, as my hon. Friend the Member for Leicester, North-East (Mr. Bradley) said, should be completed by the end of this year, and we shall examine the results in depth alongside the other information which is coming along relevant to the wider problems of water supplies for the South-East.
Estuarial barrages are not the only nor necessarily the best or most economical means of saving land. It is one of the main attractions of taking water from underground strata that it makes virtually no demands on farmland. The absraction of underground water can be extended stage by stage as demand grows instead of having to be fully developed as a reservoir from the outset. Underground water is usually of much better quality than river water and so requires much less by way of treatment. This and the more measured development both help to save costs and make underground supplies relatively cheap. It was for these reasons that the Government decided in 1966 to give priority to a systematic study of the development of ground water in the Great Ouse and Thames basins, and that study is now in progress also.
To sum up, we want to know what scheme or schemes in the Wash, if any, are worth closer investigation and what they would be likely to cost. We want to know what other water resources are in prospect according to other current studies so as to be able to decide which investments of resources in research and development offer the best value to the nation in terms of money, water and land. I remind the House that, however fast we were to move, we simply could not produce water supplies from the Wash in time to meet the situation for which this Bill was devised.
These matters are being examined in the desk study but I have not yet seen even an interim report, and so I would not like to speculate. But we shall have the complete report before the end of the year.
Both promoters and petitioners, and, I am sure, the Committee and the House, regret the need to take out of use good agricultural land at Empingham but, in my view, the promoters have amply demonstrated that there just is no alternative if adequate supplies of water for domestic and industrial purposes are to be maintained.
If the Bill is passed and the reservoir built as proposed, the Government would hope that the flexible use of this and other sources would make it possible to meet the short-term pressing needs not only of the promoters but also of neighbouring areas. They therefore commend the Bill to the House not only on the strength of the local case which the promoters have properly made for a local Bill but also because it fits admirably into the overall strategy for meeting the water needs of the South-East.
On Second Reading I reminded the House that the Floor of the House is not the most appropriate place to consider the detailed issues involved in a Bill like this and I recommended that the House should give the Bill its Second Reading and send it to a Select Committee, where a searching and careful consideration would take place on those issues. I do not think that the House could have asked for a more thoroughgoing consideration than this Bill has had in Committee. In the event, it emerged that even the petitioners against the Bill found themselves unable to gainsay that a reservoir at Empingham is needed, and, as we know, the Committee passed the Bill. I recommend the House to give the Bill its Third Reading.
I first put on record my thanks to Mr. Speaker for his gracious Ruling on the extent of a debate on consideration of a Private Bill. This Bill has achieved some measure of fame afforded to few such Bills. This is because of the gallant, persistent and pugnacious attack upon it by my hon. Friend the Member for Rutland and Stamford (Mr. Kenneth Lewis). I rather wish that the House had been unrestrained enough earlier today to burst into "Happy birthday to you" when he revealed that today is his birthday.
At the same time, I compliment the hon. Member for Leicester, North-East (Mr. Bradley), who has contributed to bringing this Bill its fame by the rather thankless job of putting an unpopular case to the House, which he has done with great force and skill.
The Bill has undoubtedly raised national issues disproportionate to the small size of the county which my hon. Friend the Member for Rutland and Stamford represents. It has made the House think about the national epidemic of reservoir rash; about the probable increase in consumption and the disposal of water during the next decade or two; and, perhaps even more important, about the cost of that provision and disposal both nationally and locally. One finds that the cost of the provision which must be made in the next 10, 20 and 30 years is staggering.
The Bill has also made the House think about the advances of science to meet the desperate need for an increased supply of water—for example, the advances in artificial recharge of the limestone areas, in desalination research and in civil engineering—with the prospect of being able to go forward with a scheme for a Wash Barrage.
The Bill has resulted in the unusual and impressive report from the Committee. The House will not begrudge the time spent here or in Committee on the Bill when such important issues have been raised. After the Minister's speech I am not sure whether the Government have learned their lesson from this. I hope they have, but the impression I got when the Minister was speaking was that this water has run off the duck's back of the Government, and because it is a Private Bill there has not been the same feeling of responsibility for the issues raised as there would have been if it was a Government Measure.
We raised this point during Second Reading, that it was a pity that these measures are not brought forward on the basis of Orders under the Water Resources Act instead of by Private Bill, because Orders are the direct responsibility of the Government. This Bill authorises a reservoir which could be superfluous soon after it is built. If it were suddenly found that the Wash Barrage was feasible, and if the Government suddenly decided to throw all resources into it and go ahead with a scheme of that sort—
I was Chairman of the Committee and it ought to be made clear that any responsible Committee of this House would have had to do the same as we did and find that the case for the Empingham Reservoir was overwhelming. Our report was because of the future. We were told that there were another eight schemes in the pipeline. It was because of those that we put in this special report about the Wash Barrage—not as an alternative to Empingham.
I accept that, and it is what I was about to say. I was saying, in perhaps not sufficiently sarcastic tones, that this could be superfluous if it were found tomorrow that the Wash Barrage was feasible and if the Government were prepared to put all resources into it at once. That is not what the Minister has said. He has said that the desk study is proceeding on the Wash Barrage scheme and he expects the report at the end of the year. As the hon. Member for Stalybridge and Hyde (Mr. Blackburn) has said, the Committee drew attention to that in its report. All of us who have debated the Bill are convinced that we cannot do without those big schemes eventually.
We cannot go on after the eight Empinghams to have another eight and then another eight. We have to produce the big schemes at some time—the Wash, the Dee, the Solway and so on—because of the consumption increase, not only in urban areas, but in the rural areas, too. When we look at the figures, all of this is inevitable. There must be the big schemes, even if some of the figures are exaggerated as my hon. Friend the Member for Rutland and Stamford said. Looking at past increases in the use of water and at well-informed forecasts of the future, we might be forgiven for concluding that we are a nation of perpetual plug-pullers and fanatical flushers. Certainly the figures are astonishing. Empingham reservoir, and perhaps the other seven Empinghams, is an interim penalty for this permissiveness.
The House is guided by the proceedings in Committee, but it is not bound by admissions and concessions or petitions in Committee. I at once pay tribute, as others have, to the wonderful work of the Committee under the chairmanship of the hon. Member for Stalybridge and Hyde. It spent nine long days studying this in very great detail, and the House is guided by its decisions.
At the same time the House is at liberty to look at the principle afresh when the Bill comes back on Third Reading, to look at it in the light of well-informed forecasts of population, of needs, and of the science to meet those needs, to see whether at this stage the Bill should become law. We are entitled to consider the point raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Rutland and Stamford about the truncated reservoir. In this connection, because the Bill permits work to be done only as set out in Clause 5, not all those works need be done if the authority decided not to carry them out. It may be that in another place it would wish to put forward a possible alternative scheme. I do not think that we have had sufficient evidence tonight that it is feasible.
We are entitled to look at the compensation provisions in the Bill, both for the owner-occupier of land and for the tenant farmer. I join with others who say that the compensation provisions for tenant farmers are undoubtedly unfair. It would have been better perhaps had the promoters decided to amend the general law a little in this respect. I am glad that the Committee has dropped directly into the lap of the Minister, and, through him, that of the Government, the responsibility for getting on with this desk study of the Wash Barrage. As my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Huntingdonshire (Sir D. Renton) said, this is now, having regard to the Committee's
The Government have already partially accepted that responsibility by setting up a desk study, but from the way in which the Minister spoke about the Wash Barrage being a most interesting idea, I did not get the impression that it was being considered with the urgency that we would like. As my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Isle of Ely (Sir H. Legge-Bourke) said, we are talking of very large sums of money. When we talk of these great barrage schemes we are talking of the basic needs of the residential, industrial and commercial life of the country.
|Division No. 303.]||AYES||[8.30 p.m.|
|Alldritt, Walter||Harrison, Walter (Wakefield)||Orbach, Maurice|
|Armstrong, Ernest||Henig, Stanley||Oswald, Thomas|
|Bagier, Gordon A. T.||Hunter, Adam||Pentland, Norman|
|Barnett, Joel||Hynd, John||Perry, Ernest G. (Battersea, S.)|
|Beaney, Alan||Irvine, Sir Arthur (Edge Hill)||Perry, George H. (Nottingham, S.)|
|Bence, Cyril||Jay, Rt. Hn. Douglas||Quennell, Miss J. M.|
|Bishop, E. S.||Johnson, James (K'ston-on-Hull, W.)||Rankin, John|
|Blackburn, F.||Kelley, Richard||Robinson, Rt. Hn. Kenneth (St. P'c'as)|
|Bradley, Tom||Lawson, George||Rodgers, William (Stockton)|
|Buchan, Norman||Legge-Bourke, Sir Harry||Short, Rt. Hn. Edward (N'c'tle-u-Tyne)|
|Concannon, J. D.||Lewis, Ron (Carlisle)||Silverman, Julius|
|Conlan, Bernard||Lomas, Kenneth||Slater, Joseph|
|Davies, Dr. Ernest (Stretford)||Loughlin, Charles||Snow, Julian|
|Dempsey, James||Lubbock, Eric||Spriggs, Leslie|
|Dobson, Ray||McCann, John||Symonds, J. B.|
|Doig, Peter||McMillan, Tom (Glasgow, C.)||Tinn, James|
|Ellis, John||McNair-Wilson, Michael||Urwin, T. W.|
|Fernyhough, E,||Mallalieu, J.P.W.(Huddersfield, E.)||Wainwright, Edwin (Dearne Valley)|
|Ford, Ben||Mapp, Charles||Walker, Harold (Doncaster)|
|Garrett, W. E.||Marks, Kenneth||Whitlock, William|
|Gregory, Arnold||Mellish, Rt. Hn. Robert||Woodburn, Rt. Hn. A.|
|Grey, Charles (Durham)||Millan, Bruce||Wyatt, Woodrow|
|Griffiths, David (Rother Valley)||Miller, Dr. M. S.|
|Griffiths, Eddie (Brightside)||Milne, Edward (Blyth)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Hamilton, James (Bothwell)||Morris, Charles R. (Openshaw)||Mr. William Hamling and|
|Hannan, William||Neal, Harold||Mr. David Ensor.|
|Allaun, Frank (Salford, E.)||Gilmour, Sir John (Fife, E.)||Monro, Hector|
|Atkins, Ronald (Preston, N.)||Griffiths, Will (Exchange)||Morgan-Giles, Rear-Adm.|
|Baker, W. H. K. (Banff)||Grimond, Rt. Hn. J.||Newens, Stan|
|Bidwell, Sydney||Hamilton, Michael (Salisbury)||Norwood, Christopher|
|Biffen, John||Harrison, Col. Sir Harwood (Eye)||Onslow, Cranley|
|Boyle, Rt. Hn. Sir Edward||Hazell, Bert||Orme, Stanley|
|Brewis, John||Hooley, Frank||Orr-Ewing, Sir Ian|
|Campbell, Gordon (Moray & Nairn)||Houghton, Rt. Hn. Douglas||Page, Derek (King's Lynn)|
|Chataway, Christopher||Hughes, Roy (Newport)||Page, John (Harrow, W.)|
|Cooke, Robert||Hutchison, Michael Clark||Renton, Rt. Hn. Sir David|
|Cordle, John||Jackson Peter M. (High Peak)||Rodgers, Sir John (Sevenoaks)|
|Davidson, James (Aberdeenshire, W.)||Kerr Mrs Anne (R'ter & Chatham)||Roebuck, Roy|
|Deedes, Rt. Hn. W. F. (Ashford)||Steel, David (Roxburgh)|
|Errington, Sir Eric||Kimball, Marcus||Taylor, Edward M.(G'gow, Cathcart)|
|Evans, Gwynfor (C'marthen)||Lewis, Kenneth (Rutland)||Thatcher, Mrs. Margaret|
|Ewing, Mrs. Winifred||MacArthur, Ian||Turton, Rt. Hn. R. H.|
|Farr, John||Mackenzie, Alasdair (Ross & Crom'ty)||Waddington, David|
|Faulds, Andrew||Marten, Neil||Wainwright, Richard (Colne Valley)|
|Fletcher, Ted (Darlington)||Maude, Angus||Ward, Dame Irene|
|Foot, Michael (Ebbw Vale)||Mills, Peter (Torrington)||Whitelaw, Rt. Hn. William|
|Wiggin, A. W.||Wright, Esmond||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Williams, Donald (Dudley)||Wylie, N. R.||Mr. Albert Booth and Mr. Paul Hawkins.|
|Winstanley, Dr. M. P.||Younger, Hn. George|