§ 4.20 p.m.
§ Second Reading debate resumed.
§ LORD KENNET
My Lords, if the House is ready to return to Cumberland waters—calmer, I am glad to say all sides are agreed—the noble Lord, Lord Inglewood, has referred to the views of the Bassenthwaite Society. I think many 728 noble Lords will know that their Petition against the Bill to the House of Commons was withdrawn only by accident, and it is the wish of this very small Society, which is typical of many, that this House should not pass the Bill without scrutiny. They have not asked the House to reject it or to change it but to scrutinise it.
I have, therefore, been casting around in my mind for what source of scrutiny remains to be done after the very full account given by the noble Lord, Lord Nugent of Guildford, and the noble Lord, Lord Inglewood. I have only one worry left, which is that of draw-down. I would ask the noble Lord, Lord Nugent, or possibly the noble Lord, Lord Sandford, to fill in one or two more details. If I understand it aright, the maximum draw-down will be 2 feet below the top of the weir, which is 18 inches below the normal level of the lake now, and that will happen on 120 days in the next eight years. If that were all, that would be extremely favourable as a good prospect, but this is a lake with very shallow shelving shores and a few inches of draw-down may mean a great many feet of mud exposed horizontally. Could the noble Lord give the House a figure of the number of days in the next eight years when there is going to be one foot draw-down below the top of the weir, or 18 inches, or whatever lesser figure is more convenient? The smaller draw-down will happen on more than 120 days. If it were to happen on very many more, I think it is a matter about which there might be legitimate concern. If the noble Lord is able to give some assurance about the number of days on which the draw-down of 12 inches below the top of the weir will occur in the next eight years, it would be a help.
§ 4.23 p.m.
§ LORD FERRIER
My Lords, as a nation we are profligate in the use of water, and I am one of those who long for the day when the nation's needs can be met without eroding our heritage in other respects. However, your Lordships will agree that I should not be drawn about what the noble Lord, Lord Inglewood, said about supplies of water from Scotland. One thing the noble Lord did was to suggest that this Bill might be a pattern for future Bills of 729 this nature, and, this being so, I feel justified in taking up your Lordships' time for a minute or two. Although I have only limited knowledge of the Bassenthwaite area and the beautiful country which surrounds it, I do know how dear it is to the people who live thereabouts. For these reasons I welcome the speech of my noble friend Lord Nugent of Guildford, and the obviously genuine attempts which have been and are being made by all concerned to safeguard the interests of everybody.
However, being an angler, and having recent experience of the devastating effects of engineering works in a famous river upon riparian interests and upon the efforts of fishermen and angling associations to conserve stocks of fish—I refer to the Upper Clyde—I am not happy about Clause 33(3) as it stands. In parenthesis, it is worth reminding your Lordships that, as Izaak Walton showed, angling is something more than a mere blood sport; it is a precious anodyne to countless folk; and when the fish are swept away the total cost to anglers—and in present transport conditions this includes anglers from far and wide—cannot be measured in terms of money. One devastating happening may take years to rectify in terms of stocking a river. I therefore find fault with Clause 33(3) because I think the wording is so loose that it virtually loads the dice against the fishing folk.
The clause says:The River Authority shall take all necessary steps to secure that any water discharged by them under this section shall be as free as may be reasonably practicable…My Lords, the words "as may be reasonably practicable" are so wide that I think the clause should be entirely recast. I suggest something on these lines:If it is shown that, otherwise than by act of God or for reasons beyond the River Authority's control, solid polluting offensive or injurious matter arising from their works prove injurious to fish or spawn or to spawning beds or food of fish the Authority shall be guilty of an offence.Sections 46 and 47 of the Water Act 1945 provide safeguards to the Authority—especially Section 46, though I believe that the penalties set out in Section 47 (which are in terms of pounds as of those days) are so low in the terms of the present value of money as not to be the 730 serious penalties they were when they were fixed in 1945.
There is another matter in my mind, which arises from the fact that the neighbourhood is rich in archæological remains, much of them Roman, as might be expected from somewhere behind the left flank of Hadrian's Wall. There is no law in this country making it obligatory for an undertaker to disclose that remains of archeological interest have been uncovered by his workings; and, incidentally, in this respect this country lags behind other no less civilised places. I am the first to admit that this sort of thing cuts both ways, and that delays which may arise from any cessation of operations may prove enormously expensive to operators. I therefore suggest—and I hope that something of the sort can be introduced—that if some protection is included in the Bill it should also be obligatory upon, say, the Bassenthwaite Society, or in general terms the National Trust or the like, to confer upon any discovery with the undertakers with the absolute minimum of delay.
There is only one other small matter that I wish to mention, and it arises out of a frustrating experience that I had on one Commission, which shall be nameless. I refer now to Clause 34(1)(b), which makes the Authority responsible for referring to the National Coal Board if they wish to carry out any borings. The only point I make—and, as I say, it arises out of my experience—is that borings of this nature can often be avoided altogether if the Authority goes first to the National Coal Board. Almost invariably the Board have a good knowledge, combined with knowledge of the geological survey, of what is there, without the necessity for money being expended and trouble being undertaken by boring, to ascertain the nature of the strata beneath the workings.
§ 4.30 p.m.
§ LORD BIRKETT
My Lords, I am sad to speak more sourly than those noble Lords who preceded me, but it seems to me that while this Bill may be approved it will not be welcomed, for it represents, be it ever so small, yet another erosion of the Lake District. The noble Lord, Lord Inglewood, has pointed out that there is a danger to agriculture, to farming. There is a danger that in time the landscape may be altered, may be spoiled, even in a very small manner. To 731 the many councils and societies who are dedicated to the preservation of the Lake District, including the Bassenthwaite Society, it must surely be discouraging to think that, like so many of our most closely guarded national treasures, it is most often broken into.
Nevertheless, some welcome must be given to the assurances built into the Bill and to those given us by the noble Lord, Lord Nugent of Guildford, in introducing it. I think it is particularly important that those assurances were given in your Lordships' House. The term of ten years is set upon this Bill, but we are living in an age when all estimates—and I speak quite unpolitically—are conservative estimates. We are only two months into 1971, but already the melancholy industrial news has shown us an instance of forecasts which in the past were not merely optimistic but euphoric. So it behoves us to beware, as the noble Lord, Lord Inglewood, also bade us beware. Those who are the guardians of the Lake District should now set their alarms for ten years' time, and I hope that when the bells go off they will go off in this House as well, so that we may be assured on that occasion that the promises and assurances given to-day and contained in the Bill itself have been faithfully carried out.
It would be foolish in this day and age to object to planning. Planning for the future is obviously an essential, and an absence of planning can cause greater disasters and greater despoiling than anything we have known in the past. Nevertheless, I sometimes wish that planning would get its priorities right. It seems always that the economics and the expediences of the future are worked out first; and expediency always appears to be the main issue. Indeed, the Preamble to the Bill is absolutely peppered with the word "expedient". I feel somehow that it would be nice, just for once, if the future were planned with an equal regard to things like the Lake District, things that we are supposed to hold dear and inviolate but which every day are violated. For instance, this Bill is to cater for an expansion programme not only of towns but of industry. This is not a question of bringing water to a thirsty man; this is bringing water to a place that other people may be imported, made thirsty and then satisfied.
732 That may be good economic planning, but I do not think it is fair upon the environment. There must sometime come a stop. There must come a moment when what is supposed to be inviolate is not violated, and when in fact the country says, "Even if it is economic, even if it is expedient, these things must not happen. This countryside must not be touched. Other ways must be found." Other ways may be expensive, and that will never be popular, even if the inflationary spiral should wind itself to a halt, which I doubt. But if it did an expensive programme would never be popular; yet it may have to come.
To-day is clearly not the day to man the barricades. With Cublington and Wing just ahead of us, I dare say there are better barricades going up. But I think that to-day should not pass without this question of other means being considered. I, too, am disappointed that no mention has yet been made of the results of the desalination programme. That will be expensive. But what could possibly be more expensive, and a more disastrous expense, than the erosion of our land itself—something which surely we must be entitled to regard as the only unchanging comfort in an otherwise sadly changing world.
§ LORD FERRIER
My Lords, before the noble Lord sits down, may I say that I should not like him to feel that I was not also in favour of the idea of desalination. The words I used were that I longed for the day when water could be rendered available without eroding our heritage.
§ LORD BIRKETT
My Lords, I can only say that I share the noble Lord's views absolutely and entirely, and meant no other thing in expressing my own.
§ 4.36 p.m.
§ LORD CHORLEY
My Lords, I should like to add a word or two to what has just been said, and to tell the noble Lord who has just resumed his seat how glad I was to hear his speech. As one who followed his illustrious father on that famous occasion when he successfully defended Ullswater, an even more beautiful lake, I was glad to hear the voice of his son raised in defence of Bassenthwaite, which is certainly a fine and beautiful lake. I am not going to ask your Lordships, any more than he 733 did, to divide against this measure; but I should like to echo something of his disquiet. I am sorry to see that the noble Lord, Lord Nugent of Guildford, is no longer in his place. He is really very much of a charmer, and having listened to his siren speech and heard the noble Lord, Lord Inglewood, say that he is not going to oppose the Bill, I find it difficult to take an opposition stance in this regard.
But we must remember that the noble Lord, Lord Nugent, is putting the case for the Promoters of this Bill. It may well be that if the Petitions against it had been able to go forward, some of these problems, which are very real problems, might have been pursued. The noble Lord, Lord Kennet, raised a question which ought to be properly gone into by a Select Committee. Lord Nugent said that the Petitioners were met, or words to that effect. They were not really. What met them was the fact that their bank balances would not have stood up to going on with their Petitions. The weir is certainly a small one, and the letting down of the water is not enormous, but combined together they might have a serious effect. That is the sort of question which the Select Committee, with expert evidence, could have gone into. These Petitions were not withdrawn because the Petitioners were satisfied. As I said a moment ago, it was because their bank balance would not stand up to the very heavy costs. Some of the amenity societies—and I speak as one who has held official positions in most of them—have been pretty well put out of business as a result of opposing Petitions in your Lordships' House.
There was, I remember, a letter in The Times from the chairman of the Bassenthwaite Defence Society (I am not sure whether that is exactly its name) in August of last year, in which he made it perfectly clear that the society would have liked to go on with their Petition against the Bill but they just could not afford it. That situation arises time after time. The famous instance was the one at Brighton, where a very strong case was taken to a public inquiry. The local defence society spent all their money at that inquiry; and when the matter came to your Lordships' House they just could not prosecute their case 734 before the Select Committee. I remember taking the point (and others of your Lordships supported me in this) that in such cases as those, where the national interests are so much at stake, money ought to be made available in order that the matter can be properly inquired into. Matters should not be allowed to go by default simply because the Promoters' case is put forward and nobody is financially strong enough—because amenity societies are seldom financially substantial—to prevent that case from going by default. Money should be provided in cases of this kind, when national interests of great importance and places of obvious beauty are at stake. I think that the noble Lord, Lord Molson, has a Motion down which may eventually enable us to have a proper debate on this subject. It is a very important one which ought to be cleared up.
If this Cumberland River case had gone before a Select Committee of your Lordships' House, these problems of the drawing down of the water could have been considered. The noble Lord, Lord Kennet, is quite right in pointing out that although, as the noble Lord, Lord Nugent, said, this is a large lake as lakes go in this country, it is a very shallow one, and a comparatively small drawing down of the water could make wide expanses of mud visible to the public at the very time of the year when they are, there for relaxation and to see the beauties of the countryside. Those of your Lordships who have passed by Thirlmere—which was destroyed by the Manchester Water Committee years before the defence of amenity became even regarded as a decent sort of thing to do in England—after two or three weeks of dry weather, will know what the shores of that lake look like, and that is one with comparatively steep banks compared with those of Bassenthwaite, which is a very shallow lake. These are the sort of points which ought to be gone into on the basis of competent and expert evidence given before the Select Committee. That is why the process in your Lordships' House is such a valuable one, which I hope will be maintained. I am sorry that I cannot bring enthusiasm to hear upon the acceptance of this Bill. The really important matter is that it is not to last more than ten years, and it is on that basis that I am prepared to accept it. If it did not 735 have that clause in it I would have asked your Lordships to divide against it.
§ THE PARLIAMENTARY UNDER-SECRETARY OF STATE, DEPARTMENT OF THE ENVIRONMENT (LORD SANDFORD)
My Lords, may I start by assuring my noble friend Lord Inglewood that the North of England, Cumberland and the Lake District are never out of our minds for a moment in the Department of the Environment. May I then go on to answer his two questions before turning briefly to a few more general points. He asked me about desalination in Cumberland. I think it is more appropriate to select a site for the desalination experiment in a part of the country where the desalination process, if proved, would also be likely to be used. There is little likelihood of desalination being used in the North, and particularly not in this area, purely on the grounds of cost. Perhaps I make that clear if I say that I understand that the scheme in this Bill will produce water at the cost of roughly one old penny per thousand gallons. The cost of water currently in the Ipswich area is running in the order of 30 to 40 old pennies per thousand gallons, and de-salted water is going to be of the order of something over 50 old pennies per thousand gallons. The object of the experiment, of course, is to see whether it can be quickly and easily reduced below that figure. Quite clearly, this will be a competitive and economic proposition in Ipswich before it is economic and competitive in Cumberland.
The noble Lord then asked me about water supplies from further North. I can say—and my noble friend Lord Nugent may or may not wish to say more—that the Water Resources Board looked into the possibility of supplying the needs of the North of England from Scotland, but they ruled it out on economic grounds again, and especially for Cumberland. Further South in the region there are various other options open to meet the needs of the region, and they are, I think, fully set out in the Water Resources Board's report on Water Resources in the North.
May I now turn to some broader points which I think are worth mentioning in the context of the Second Reading of this Bill, and invite your Lordships' attention 736 to the advances that have been made under our predecessors, and are still being made, in dealing with water problems since the occasion in 1967 in your Lordships' House when, in discussion of the Manchester Water Order, fears were expressed, and assurances given, about future demands for water from the Lake District National Park. As my noble friend Lord Nugent said, this is really the most sensitive area in the whole Kingdom from the point of view of reconciling the growing need for water supplies with the desire to preserve the very best of our countryside for the enjoyment of all.
We have before us to-day a Bill promoted by the Cumberland River Authority, who have the general responsibility for managing and augmenting the water resources of their area. It is supported by the Water Resources Board, a national body, who have considered it in the light of their comprehensive study of the water resources of the North. This in itself is a great improvement, I am sure your Lordships will agree, on the piecemeal promotion by individual water undertakers of Bills drawn up in isolation in response to specific demands.
It is a Bill put before your Lordships in the context of long-term plans for water resources in the whole area; and we can consider it in the knowledge that thought is also being given to the possibility of alternative sources of fresh water supply. Noble Lords will have seen that only yesterday my right honourable friend said in another place that he expects to be able to give his decision very shortly on the Water Resources Board's recommendation that an experimental desalination plant should be established at Ipswich, and a further study be undertaken of the feasibility of fresh water storage in the Wash. What is more, my right honourable friend will also be able to consider the findings of the Central Advisory Water Committee on the future organisation of responsibility for water resources and water supply against the general background of the Government's recently published proposals for the re-organisation of local government.
I would say that in the light of all this, and despite the short-term nature of this particular scheme, I doubt if there ever was a time when more was being attempted to draw up long-term, broad 737 overall plans to ensure that our water resources are properly conserved, and that the best use is made of them, and at the same time to safeguard amenity.
There is a further general point I should like to make, and perhaps in some sense it is an answer to the noble Lord, Lord Birkett. These proposals are an illustration of the fact that there is not always necessarily an irreconcilable conflict between amenity considerations and the need to use the natural resources that are often available in landscapes of great beauty. It is the firm policy of my right honourable friend to encourage the positive use, wherever possible, of lakes and reservoirs for recreational purposes combined with water supply, and to encourage the authorities to permit access to those reservoirs which need not be barred to the public; and Bassenthwaite is no exception to this.
§ LORD KENNET
My Lords, if I may intervene for a moment, embedded in that sentence was the statement that it was his right honourable friend's policy to encourage the use of lakes for water supply. Can that be what the noble Lord really meant?
§ LORD SANDFORD
My Lords, lakes and reservoirs; but I am referring particularly to reservoirs which are, at the moment, or have been in the past, barred for recreational purposes.
§ LORD KENNET
My Lords, would it be the Secretary of State's policy selectively to prefer to turn a lake into a water supply when, for instance, the alternative would be taking it out of the river?
§ LORD SANDFORD
My Lords, I have been at some pains in my last few sentences to point out that we are now building up the process—and our predecessors started the process, or carried it on—of seeing that the need to conserve water resources is considered in the broadest possible context, and this includes lakes, rivers, and reservoirs of all sorts. Anyway, thanks to these developments I hope that we can look forward more and more to cases such as this Bill where, instead of people with differing interests clashing head on in their demand for the exclusive use of water, their interests can be reconciled and they can come to share and to enjoy 738 water together. For these reasons, I commend this Bill to your Lordships.
§ 4.50 p.m.
§ LORD NUGENT OF GUILDFORD
My Lords, by leave of the House may I briefly reply to the points that were put to me? First, may I thank my noble friend Lord Inglewood for his kind remarks about the Promoters for the efforts they made to meet the points which he and others had put? May I also deal with a major point which he raised concerning the farming interests which would have benefited had it been possible, by some means, to set the scheme six inches lower, thus avoiding the raising of the permanent level of the lake? This possibility was investigated by the consultant engineers but was found to be impracticable and, indeed, objectionable on amenity grounds.
I am sure your Lordships will not wish me to go into much detail, but the real difficulty is that where the River Derwent flows out of the lower end of the lake the bed is very flat for some distance, and in order to lower the level of the lake as a whole it would have been necessary to dredge a considerable length of this river—some 600 yards of it—which would undoubtedly have made a very unsightly feature there. At the same time, it would have considerably affected the Ouse bridge just below the bottom of the lake. It was for those reasons that the engineers considered that the present solution was the best one, and that everything should be done to ameliorate the adverse effect which this might have on the farming interest.
To the noble Lord, Lord Kennet, I would say that I entirely agree with him that one of the major problems of amenity in lakes or reservoirs that are being drawn upon is the mud bank. I am sorry to say that the Promoters do not have precise figures of how many days the draw-down might be either 12 or 18 inches. The figure which I gave, of a possibility of 120 days when the draw-down might be as much as two feet—that is the maximum level at the top of the weir—is on the basis of the kind of drought which we have only two or three times in a century. So that it is pretty good odds against our not having a drought of that severity during the seven or eight years which will remain of 739 the period of operation. The probability is that we shall not see anything like that period of three months draw-down, which would of course be pretty offensive. The probability is that throughout this period the lake will be running some six or eight inches deeper than it has normally and naturally been; and that the draw-down will very rarely expose the mud banks. I have, however, asked the Promoters whether their engineers can give some more precise figures to the noble Lord in answer to his question, and if that can be done from the hydrographs they will certainly be provided.
My noble friend Lord Ferrier asked about Clause 3(3)(a) and the fishery aspect. He was doubtful whether Clause 33 was sufficiently strongly drafted. I think it is in fairly common form. One cannot be very precise in talking about the discharge of water in an area where rainfall goes to as much as 100 inches. All kinds of things happen. There are huge volumes of water coming out from the lake, and large quantities of gravel, mud, stones and all the rest come flowing down. So the clause is drafted in terms of the natural conditions which exist there.
But I can give my noble friend this assurance, that if the chairman of the River Authority, Colonel Liddel, has a fault—and I do not think he has many—it is that if ever he is criticised in the world of river authorities it is because he pays too much attention to fishing. He is, in fact, chairman of the Northern Committee of the Salmon and Trout Association, and chairman of the River Authorities Fisheries Committee. I can assure my noble friend that the fishery aspect will get his very closest attention, and that he is quite satisfied that the works contemplated here will be in no way adverse to the very important and valuable fishery interests which would be of special interest to my noble friend Lord Egremont.
With regard to the point which my noble friend Lord Ferrier raised about archæological remains, I am glad to be able to tell him that it is the common practice, if these are discovered at any time by the river authority, that they are sent to the Carlisle Museum, which is of course in the shadow of Hadrian's Wall 740 and is one of the best museums for Roman remains in the country. My noble friend raised a third point on Clause 34, and asked what consultations there had been with the National Coal Board. I am glad to be able to tell him that Clause 34 was drawn up in consultation with the National Coal Board and that they have been kept fully in the picture. Thus any information which they have has already been shared with the River Authority.
To the noble Lord, Lord Birkett, I should like to say only that I much enjoyed his speech; and it is always of special interest to hear his name in connection with the Lake District. I was much touched by his plea when he was talking about expediency always appearing to be allowed to predominate over the æsthetic. But I am sure he is aware that jobs are concerned here; and although we say that "Man does not live by bread alone", the fact is that man has to have bread to live; and jobs are bread. We have to consider the North-West in this total economic picture. But I am sure that my noble friend Lord Sandford will have listened with attention to that plea, which is uttered by more and more people in this country, and somehow the Government must try to keep the balance between those two vitally important aspects of life.
Let me assure the noble Lord, Lord Chorley, that, although I was outside the House when he spoke. I was able to hear what he was saying while I was trying to gather some information to give my reply. I thank him for his implied compliment, and I have noted his word of caution that we should not buy a pig in a poke. I realise that the Bassenthwaite Society would have liked to put in a Petition, but I think my noble friend Lord Inglewood has very effectively represented their interests, and the Promoters have catered for them so far as possible.
With regard to his wider point, as to whether money should be made available for amenity societies in these cases, which was so well ventilated by Sir John Winfrith—an old friend of mine—in The Times, that is a matter for my noble friend Lord Sandford and I do not doubt that he will be giving careful consideration to it. I very much hope that your Lordships will now be willing to give a Second Reading to this Bill.
§ LORD FERRIER
My Lords, before the noble Lord sits down, may I say that I am not altogether happy with his reply to my points on Clause 33(3) and the question of archæological remains? What provoked me to make my suggestions was the suggestion by the noble Lord, Lord Inglewood, that this might be a pattern for future occasions. I am confident that the greatest care will be taken in regard to archæological remains in this area, but there is no law about it; and if this is to be a pattern for other agreements it might well be considered. Perhaps the noble Lord and I can discuss Clause 33(3) later. I feel that it is worded the wrong way round, although it may be all right in this case, where the chairman is interested in fishing. I agree about acts of God and circumstances over which the authority have no control; and, of course, it is impossible to provide against floods and tempests. But I believe that if the undertaker damages the fishing then it should pay. I do not say that that should necessarily apply in the case of this Bill, but perhaps it should apply to future Bills covering less comprehending areas.
§ LORD NUGENT OF GUILDFORD
My Lords, I shall be very pleased to consult with my noble friend afterwards on this point.
§ On Question, Bill read 2a, and committed to the Committee on Unopposed Bills.