§ 2.36 p.m.
THE CHAIRMAN OF COMMITTEES (THE EARL OF DROGHEDA)
My Lords, I beg to move that this Bill he now read a third time.
§ Moved, That the Bill be now read 3ª.—(The Earl of Drogheda.)
§ LORD OGMORE
My Lords, before your Lordships' pleasure is ascertained on this Bill, I should like to say a few words, as it will perhaps be remembered that we had some discussion on this matter on the Second Reading. I then said that I did not consider the Select Committee procedure the proper one for an issue of this kind with its far-reaching consequences; and I still feel that to be the case. The Select Committee is excellent in its own field and is an admirable tribunal; and I say nothing at all about the noble Lords who on this occasion made up the Select Committee. But I felt on Second Reading, and I feel now, 2 that a much wider-ranging inquiry was needed to de justice to the objections to the proposed flooding of the Tryweryn Valley.
Your Lordships may remember that on Second Reading the noble Lord, Lord Saltoun, suggested that there should have been a Water Bill procedure here. I believe he was right and that the matter should have proceeded under the Water Act rather than by a Select Committee. The Minister has referred the matter to the Council of Wales, and in the Report of Government action, for the year ended June 30, 1956, the Minister said, in paragraph 203:In view of the attention focused upon Welsh water resources during the year, mainly because of the activities of Liverpool Corporation, the Minister of Housing and Local Government has asked the Council for Wales and Monmouthshire to consider:The Committee have not yet given the Minister their conclusions on that proposal, and I understand that an inquiry is being held at the moment into this subject; and no doubt in due course we shall have the results of that inquiry. I feel that Parliament is not in a position to decide on this matter until it has the 3 result of that inquiry and of the deliberations of the Committee of the Council of Wales, which can, of course, look at the proposal as a whole, can regard water resources in their national context and can have regard to supplies needed not only by Wales but by England. Then Parliament will be in a position to decide whether or not the Liverpool Corporation Bill is a proper one in the circumstances.
- (a) whether the existing statutory powers and administrative machinery are adequate to safeguard the various interests concerned, including the interests of water supply undertakings seeking future supplies of water for use inside or outside Wales and the interests of any localities and communities in Wales that might be affected by future water supply schemes;
- (b) whether there are any general considerations relating to the future use of water resources in Wales for water supply purposes to which it would be useful to draw attention at the present time."
On Second Reading, even the noble Lord, Lord Merthyr, was in favour of some kind of nationalisation of water—he did not call it nationalisation but unification; but I imagine it is the same thing. I feel that, with our dwindling water resources—of which no doubt we shall hear more tomorrow, when the Motion of the noble Earl, Lord Albemarle, is before us—it is a mistake to allow a big corporation to "barge in", as it were, on the head waters of rivers and to allocate to themselves water which may well be better applied in other areas or to other communities. For this reason, I feel that it is very regrettable that the Select Committee has approved this Bill and I shall very much regret it if your Lordships decide to give it your support.
My Lords, may I say that I do not accept the conclusions of the noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, that unification and nationalisation are necessarily the same thing?
§ THE MINISTER WITHOUT PORTFOLIO (THE EARL OF MUNSTER)
My Lords, perhaps I may be permitted at this stage to say a few words on this important Bill. I think the House generally is aware that the Bill has been given very detailed examination, for a period of nine days, by a Select Committee of this House which was presided over by the noble Marquess, Lord Reading; and after considering all the evidence put before them by both sides, the Committee have decided that the Bill should now proceed. The noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, has repeated his reasons for opposing the use of the Private Bill procedure on a subject of this nature, and he has again given the reasons which have prompted him to take this view. I myself 4 believe that this procedure is very suitable for a technical Bill of this character, for the measure can be examined by the Select Committee in every single detail—indeed, I know of no other procedure which would allow such close scrutiny.
§ LORD OGMORE
May I ask the noble Earl whether his attention has been drawn to the procedure under the Water Act, which was passed by the Labour Government?
§ THE EARL OF MUNSTER
I shall deal with that, I hope, in the course of my observations. My right honourable friend the Minister of Housing and Local Government—and it is sometimes, in fact often, forgotten that he is Minister for Welsh Affairs—has been criticised in certain places, in that it was said he gave insufficient support to the Welsh case. In the Report which my right honourable friend sent to the Select Committee, however, he made some general recommendations which, with the permission of the House, I should like to read. I read them for this reason: that they are all-important and they deal with the greater part of the points which were raised by the noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, this afternoon. My right honourable friend said in this Report:The Minister understands and sympathises with the natural desire of Welsh people to be sure that water in the Principality which may be required for Welsh needs is not diverted elsewhere. But Wales is a land of mountains and valleys with abundant rainfall. On all the information available he has no reason to suppose that the proposals now before Parliament would result in loss of water likely to be needed by Wales, or in damage to Welsh economic interests.The Committee will be aware that on 7th February. 1957 the Minister announced that a survey of Welsh water resources was to be carried out and that an Advisory Committee was to be set up on the use and conservation of water in Wales. These steps reflect the Minister's view that the water resources of Wales are not limitless; they do not however imply any immediate anxiety, and indeed it is bound to take a considerable time, certainly well over a year, before the survey can be completed. The Minister considers, on the facts available to him, that the Liverpool Corporation have an urgent need to augment their water resources, and that the use for this purpose of water draining from the Tryweryn area to the east wilt not result in the loss of water likely to be needed by Wales; but he has no doubt that the Committee will wish to sift very carefully the evidence put before them on both these points. In considering whether the proposals 5 ought to be held up until the completion of the survey of Welsh water resources initiated by the Minister, they will doubtless bear in mind the: the considered observations of the Advisory Committee on this survey would not be available in time for the Bill to be reintroduced next Session.Finally, there is the disquiet and depth of feeling amongst many Welsh people that the proposal of the Liverpool Corporation constitutes an English intrusion, which they ought to resist, upon Welsh nationhood, and cultural life and aspirations.The Minister could not advise that a proposal designed to meet the needs of a great population for water ought to be ruled out of further consideration solely on this ground But he invites the Committee to give most careful attention to these strong feelings.Those were the observations which were submitted to the Select Committee by my right honourable friend who is Minister for Welsh Affairs, and, having read them to the House, I feel sure that the House will agree at once that my right honourable friend had not overlooked the feeling in Wales. Indeed, he had especially drawn the Committee's attention to all the propositions and criticisms which had been made from the Principality.
It has also been said that the Select Committee could not give an unprejudiced finding as all the members were Englishmen.
§ LORD OGMORE
If I may say so, the noble Earl is really answering a case which I never made at all. I simply put the case to your Lordships, that I thought that while the Committee set up by the Government were considering the matter it was better to hold up the proposals. That was the only case I made. The noble Earl is going into other matters which I never raised.
§ THE EARL OF MUNSTER
I have, I think, answered the noble Lord's case about the Committee going into this question of water supply. I think it is clear that your Lordships' Select Corn-mince were well aware of the criticisms that were made about extracting water front Wales for the purposes of the Liverpool City and Corporation. I hope that I have shown that by quoting to your Lordships the observations submitted by the Minister to the Committee. 6 Now I am going on to deal with something else. I am not saying that the noble Lord made this accusation for one moment—because he did not. Nevertheless, it has been said that the Select Committee of your Lordships' House could not give an unprejudiced finding as all the members were Englishmen. I am bound to say that I hardly think it is necessary for me to rebut such allegations, for, as your Lordships know full well, the impartiality of our Select Committees is beyond all question. It is surprising that such a reflection on the integrity of one of your Lordships' Committees should have been made, and even more surprising that it should have been published in the Liverpool Daily Post, a paper of very considerable standing.
§ LORD OGMORE
My Lords, I think that this is a completely new matter. Though I have been closely associated with this issue, I have never heard any suggestion of the kind, and I have never heard any attack whatsoever on the Select Committee, or on its members, from anybody. If the noble Earl is now setting up this Aunt Sally. I think that he ought to tell us who made the Aunt Sally. I think it is an extraordinary process, to make these allegations which, so far as I am aware, have never been made by arty reputable Welsh people.
§ THE EARL OF MUNSTER
My Lords, I think that the noble Lord must have failed to have read that one issue of the Liverpool Daily Post when criticism of some length was made of the Select Committee of your Lordships' House. I can quote him the date on which this was published in the paper; indeed I will see that it is sent to him. All I ant endeavouring to do, and I think that I am well within my rights, is to maintain that the integrity of your Lordships' House is beyond all dispute, and that if a Select Committee is appointed by this House we may expect to receive from that Committee a quite impartial Report. That is all I say, but I think that it is right that I should defend the impartiality of the Select Committee. In conclusion, I would only say that, with the best will in the world, I cannot suggest to your Lordships that you should overthrow the decision which has been arrived at unanimously by the Select Committee of this House and refuse to 7 give the Bill a Third Reading. I suggest that it would be in accordance with all our procedure, except in very rare instances, that the Bill should now be read a third time.
My Lords, as I have been quoted in this debate, I should like to say that I entirely support what my noble friend Lord Munster has said.
§ On Question, Bill read 3ª, and passed, and sent to the Commons.