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Water Supplies (Enborne Valley Scheme)

Volume 466: debated on Thursday 7 July 1949

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asked the Minister of Health what request he has now received from the Metropolitan Water Board for further authority to make borings and other investigations in connection with the Board's revised proposals for flooding the Enborne Valley; and if he has set a time limit to these investigations, having regard to the anxiety of the local people who are threatened with the loss of their homes.

None, Sir. As regards the second part of the Question, I understand that the Board expect to be in a position to announce their decision in the early autumn.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the agents of the Metropolitan Water Board are going round saying that it is now their intention to flood the Enborne Valley up to the 350 feet contour, and will he tell the Board plainly that Parliament will not agree in any circumstances to such a wasteful use of 20,000 acres of agricultural land?

I do not know whether officers of the Metropolitan Water Board have said that, but they will not be able to flood it with a quart of water until this House agrees to the scheme. I understand that the explorations which are taking place are causing anxiety to a very large number of people in the area, and I hope that this matter will come to an issue as early as possible.

is my right hon. Friend aware that this matter is still under very careful consideration, and that, but for a conflict of the expert advice which has been tendered on it, a decision might have been reached by now? Is he also aware that no officer of the Board has any authority to make such a statement as has been alleged by the hon. Member opposite?

May I ask the Minister whether it is absolutely certain that, before the scheme can be put into operation, it will have to be passed by Parliament, and that it cannot be approved under an order or under regulations?

As the House knows, I have a quasi-judicial function to perform. What is happening at the moment is that explorations are taking place in order to decide whether a reservoir is technically feasible. If it proves not to be technically feasible, obviously the whole scheme falls. If it is proved feasible on technical grounds, social considerations will have to be taken into account at the inquiry.

Would the Minister agree that the Metropolitan Water Board would have to put forward an exceptionally strong case before any scheme so ruthlessly destructive of agricultural production could be approved?