Water Supplies (North-West England)

– in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 23rd January 1979.

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Photo of Mr Charles Fletcher-Cooke Mr Charles Fletcher-Cooke , Darwen 12:00 am, 23rd January 1979

I beg to ask leave to move the Adjournment of the House, under Standing Order No. 9, for the purpose of discussing a specific and important matter that should have urgent consideration, namely, to call attention to the dangers and hardships caused to thousands of families in Lancashire because of the unofficial strike of 600 workers in the Ribble division of the North-West water authority. I can be brief, because the dangers and hardships of having no clean water, and the dangers of sewage, were well described last week by my hon. Friend the Member for Stretford (Mr. Churchill). I adopt my hon. Friend's argument in respect of the urgency in the case of another division, the North-West water authority.

The Pennine division settled yesterday on a general offer of 14 per cent. Almost immediately the neighbouring Ribble division, in which the bulk of my constituents live, came out on strike against 14 per cent. Therefore, besides the argument relating to hardship and misery which I advance, there is a need to inquire whether there is some kind of domino effect when each division takes up the struggle when another has settled.

In this weather it is appalling that anybody should be deprived of clean water, or indeed in some cases of water at all, and, furthermore, that people cannot get taps or pipes mended when they burst. The resulting sewage problem is a danger to public health. As it appears that further divisions are threatened because another division has settled, we should be told who, if anybody, is in control, and who is behind the matter. We need an urgent debate to enable us to find out.

Photo of Mr George Thomas Mr George Thomas , Cardiff West

The hon. and learned Member for Darwen (Mr. Fletcher-Cooke) gave me notice before 12 o'clock this morning that he would ask leave to move the Adjournment of the House for the purpose of discussing a specific and important matter that he believes should have urgent consideration, namely, to call attention to the dangers and hardships caused to thousands of families in Lancashire because of the unofficial strike of 600 workers in the Ribble division of the North-West water authority". I listened with great care to the hon. and learned Gentleman but, as he knows, it is not for me to decide whether the matter is to be debated. I merely decide whether it is to be debated tonight or tomorrow.

As the House knows, under Standing Order No. 9 I am directed to take into account the several factors set out in the order but to give no reason for my decision. I regret that I cannot rule that the hon. and learned Gentleman's submission falls within the provisions of the Standing Order, and therefore I cannot submit his application to the House.