A little rummaging aroung the internet – and I found a record of a debate in the Houses Of Parliament regarding pollution of the Irwell.
RIVER IRWELL (POLLUTION)
HC Deb 18 April 1950 vol 474 cc91-106 91
§ Mr. Anthony Greenwood (Rossendale)
The subject to which I want to call attention tonight is the pollution of the River Irwell. Eight hundred years ago, when the hamlet of Kersal in the township of Broughton, which now forms part of the City of Salford, was handed over as a gift to the Cluniac monastary of Lenton, near Nottingham, the most important part of the gift was the fishing rights in the river Irwell. Even in the 18th century the salmon rights in the rivers of Lancashire were let every year for many hundreds of pounds. Today I am afraid that fish in most of those rivers are virtually extinct. Anybody who stands today in the City of Manchester outside the Exchange Station and looks down at the noisome black water which flows beneath him would find it difficult to believe that any fish, or any other living creature, could ever have lived in what the “Manchester Guardian” has so rightly called that “melancholy stream.”
Yet, Sir, from many points of view we should all be proud of the River Irwell. It is the hardest working river in the whole of the United Kingdom. On the 50-mile stretch of the River Irwell and its main tributary, the Roach, stand more than 100 cotton mills, in addition to a large number of other industrial undertakings—slipper factories, bleach works, coal mines, tanneries, paper mills and gas works. I think it is true to say that no other inland river has made a greater contribution to the industrial greatness of this country.
Unfortunately, however, the amenity value of the River Irwell is practically negligible, although there are parts of the Irwell Valley which from the point of view of beauty, could compare with almost anything in North Wales. But, so far as I know, the only amenity value of 92 the Irwell at present is the fact that the Agecroft Rowing Club in the City of Salford still use the Irwell for rowing and, I believe, continue to hold an annual regatta. I know of no other amenity value of this river. It is of no use to agriculture because the water is too full of impurities for livestock to benefit from it. There is no fishing in the Irwell for reasons that I shall come to in a moment. Swimming is completely out of the question, and even walking along its wooded banks is spoiled by the condition of the water. In a letter to me a constituent said: The only real pleasure that the River Irwell can give in this part of the world is the music of water running over the stones, but such is the odour at times that you cannot get near enough even to enjoy this. Hon. Members who were in the last Parliament will remember that I have had my differences with the British Field Sports Society, but I have nothing but admiration for the excellent series of reports on river pollution which have been prepared for that Society by Mr. H. D. Turing. When the first of these reports appeared, I wrote to the Society and ventured to suggest that they should make a similar survey of the Rivers Irwell and Roach. These two rivers were covered by the third report; and very sorry reading it made. There are two passages in that report which I should like to read. The first says: The banks are lined with factories, large and small, many of which take their water from the drainage of the hills forming the slopes of the river’s valley, and discharge it as a polluted effluent, either into the small feeders, or the main river itself, so it may be said that no natural water normally enters the river from its cradle in the moors to its grave in the Manchester Ship Canal. The second quotation is one which I find still more appalling than the first. It is: There are no fish in these rivers (apart from a very occasional tributary), no insects, no weeds, no life of any kind except sewage fungus, nothing but chemicals and any dirt which cannot be put to profitable use. Sewage effluents (and, being usually very good, they are the most encouraging feature of the appalling situation) are hailed with delight as being the purest water which the rivers hold. The full importance of that statement will be realised when I remind hon. Members of the frequency with which residents in Bacup, Ramsbottom, Manchester and Salford are subjected to flooding from the waters of the Irwell.
From the report of the British Field Sports Society, it emerges that there are 93 three main sources of pollution—the paper mills, the dyers and the tanneries. I appreciate that all these undertakings have been labouring under very great difficulties. For example, the paper mills, during and since the war, have had to make do with straw for pulping when they would sooner have been using esparto grass or the wood which they used to use before the war. I am afraid that there may be very little hope of reverting to the use of esparto grass and wood in any quantities during the next few months or even years. The difficulty is that straw requires a much greater degree of caustic soda for pulping purposes than either of the other raw materials. The result is that the caustic flows in great quantities into the river, causing, in Mr. Turing’s words: a gruesome-looking foam to cover the surface, killing off any life which may by chance be trying to establish itself, and stultifying the effects of attempts to purify other effluents. Perhaps I can give an example along these lines. It is, I believe, the practice of manufacturers who have works along the Irwell—if they take water direct from the river for feeding their boilers—to introduce water softeners in order to counteract the effects of the natural hardness of the water. I know of one undertaking where it is frequently unnecessary to introduce water softeners because the water is so heavily impregnated with caustic soda from paper mills nearly two miles up stream.
The dyers, too, are faced with serious problems. I think hon. Members will appreciate that if a dyer succeeds in getting a really fast dye which will not wash out of cloth, it is extremely difficult to remove it from the spent dye which goes out of the works in the form of an effluent. The consequence is that every day literally millions of gallons of grotesquely coloured fluid, often with a transparency of less than one inch, are discharged into the Irwell or its tributaries. I know of one dye works—not by any means one of the biggest—which uses 1,250,000 gallons every day, all of which is discharged into the river in the form of an effluent. The result is that at different times of the day the Irwell may be all the colours of the rainbow. On 2nd November, for example, the chairman of the general purpose committee of the Bacup Corporation, reporting to his council on what he called the “increasing pollution of the 94 river,” said that at 8 o’clock that morning the river was a vivid orange colour, with suds rising 18 inches high on the water, and that by noon it had changed to an intense black.
I do not want to give the impression that this is a new problem, or that nothing is being done about it. In fact, it is an extremely long-standing problem and, in spite of what I have said, substantial progress has been made. Even within living memory, the scum on the Irwell was so thick at times that birds could be seen walking on it. The work done since then, however, has produced some results. I should like, particularly, to pay tribute to the work of Dr. Southgate, the Director of Water Pollution Research at the Water Pollution Research Laboratories at Watford and also to the Lancashire Rivers Board, who have tackled this problem with great keenness and zeal. 1 think that the hon. Member for Bury and Radcliffe (Mr. W. Fletcher) will agree that the Lancashire Rivers Board have been doing extremely good work. I am glad to see the hon. Gentleman in his place, because I discovered the other day that it was one of his predecessors, Mr. John Kenyon, Member for Bury, who in 1899 moved the rejection of the Rivers Pollution Prevention Bill and succeeded in getting it talked out. I am hoping that the hon. Gentleman will do something tonight to make up for the error of his predecessor.
We have, in fact, in Lancashire enjoyed various powers in this matter denied to other parts of the country. The Mersey and Irwell Joint Committee Act of 1892 was in many ways a model of its kind, and that Act, together with the Lancashire County Council (Rivers Board and General Purposes) Act of 1938 gave the Lancashire Rivers Board powers not possessed in any other industrial area outside the West Riding of Yorkshire. I believe that the Board have been making as full use of those powers as is practicable under present conditions. I certainly believe that the local authorities and the industrialists in the area are unanimous in praising the Lancashire Rivers Board for the efficient and speedy way in which they have tackled their herculean task. Nor do I complain of the manufacturers in the area. I believe that the needs of the nation have made it necessary for them to do various things which it might 95 have been possible to avoid under easier circumstances. Far be it from me to propose placing upon them heavier burdens than those which they bear at present.
I am not suggesting that this is an easy problem, and I am not claiming that I have any solution for it tonight. If all the trade effluents in the area were discharged straight into the sewers, there would be precious little river left over long stretches. If, on the other hand, we adopted the “closed circuit” system, by which each undertaking purifies its own water and uses it over and over again, that would be very desirable if it could be done. Unfortunately it is impracticable in many cases, and would, I am afraid, place a heavy financial burden on industry which it would be difficult to justify in the economic circumstances of today.
Indeed, I do not believe that we can hope for any very radical measures under present conditions, but I raise the problem tonight because I want to focus attention upon it, and I hope that, as a result of this Debate, some manufacturers will be encouraged to make that little extra effort in dealing with effluent which may make all the difference between the River Irwell being a dirty river and being the disgracefully dirty river which it is at present. The advantages to the manufacturers themselves would be not inconsiderable if that could be done.
At present, we are in a period of transition. The excellent Lancashire Rivers Board are to give way shortly to a new board, the Mersey River Board, which is being set up under the River Boards Act of 1948. I want to ask the Parliamentary Secretary tonight when that Board will be set up, when it will be in operation, and what more effective contribution it will be able to make towards coping with this problem than its predecessor has made. Are we at last to have a standard of water purity laid down as suggested in the Hobday Report? I hope he will tell us whether his Ministry, in co-operation with industry and with the River Boards, has any concrete plan, practicable under present circumstances, for restoring to our rivers some of their original beauty.
I will conclude by quoting from a leading article in the “Bury Times” of a year ago: 96 It is time the public conscience was roused and a check put to the practice of turning our rivers into open sewers. It is time, too, that a more determined and scientific approach to the problem of industrial effluents was made. Dirty and filthy rivers in which all natural life has been killed should no longer be tolerated. Given the will, a much more successful effort could be made to clean our streams and rivers, and industry, the River Boards and the Government must get together to devise a plan.
§ 6.19 p.m.
§ Mr. Walter Fletcher (Bury and Radcliffe)
I think that a great public service has been done by the hon. Member for Rossendale (Mr. Anthony Greenwood) in raising this point. He has put forward the facts with fairness and accuracy, and though, in the same way as myself, he is not able to suggest an immediate practical solution, nevertheless, it is a very good thing to bring the matter forward, even if the moment is one when we have not a crowded House to listen to us.
The hon. Gentleman pointed out that I represent the constituency—although he only mentioned Bury—which has a direct interest in this matter. I would remind him that the constituency is Bury and Radcliffe, he having kindly handed over half his previous constituency which, from his point of view, I now misrepresent. I should like to add that while it is perfectly right to try to bring this matter forward with the idea that action should be taken in every possible way, we must not let ourselves slide into an attitude of wishful thinking with the idea that we can do very much to restore the Irwell and its tributaries to what they were before.
The hon. Member for Rossendale has referred in rather surprising terms to the British Field Sports Society and the benefit he received from the advice given by somebody there. But if his mind is in a state of change about blood sports he might remember that when the Irwell was a pleasant stream for fishing and boating and bathing there were also foxhounds and beagles who practised their wickedness there along its banks. Today the only real trouble the local hounds have is to learn the difference between red and green lights.
The river Irwell has been described to me as “no longer a river but a drain.”
§ Mr. Jack Jones (Rotherham)
§ Mr. Fletcher
A drain—I select my own word. With the greater care now taken by industry—and on which a very watchful eye must be kept—in an area where streams running into the Irwell cause great pollution before they come near the boroughs of Bury and Radcliffe and where single industries on streams running into the Irwell, some in the hon. Member for Rossendale’s own constituency, cause much pollution, no easy remedy exists. In an area where industry is urged to greater production and efficiency the chances of making the Irwell anything but part of the industrial machine are practically nil.
It may well be that action that can be taken here will be a useful warning for other parts of the country where rivers have not got into the advanced and awful state that the Irwell is in now. I do not think it is wise to be very optimistic and to think that very much can be done to restore the Irwell and to make it a pleasant stream in any way at all. If something can be done, industry undoubtedly will lend a hand and the local industrialists and Chamber of Commerce are extremely keen to help. If industry will co-operate with the successor to the Lancashire River Board there is possibly a chance, not that we shall notably improve the waters of the Irwell or the Roach, but that we shall show to authorities concerned with rivers not yet in that advanced state of pollution, the best way of preserving in something like decency a stream which must essentially serve industrial purposes. There are many of these streams in the country.
I hope the Minister will realise that all those responsible for these areas are at one in wishing to arrest or even to mitigate the terrible pollution that has taken place. I hope an effort will be made to improve the position and above all to set an example of what can be done in other streams. I have not found in my division a voice raised against such an effort. I have found great willingness to co-operate in every possible way, bearing in mind that industrial efficiency and maximum output unfortunately must take precedence over the amenity value of the Irwell.
§ 6.24 p.m.
§ Mr. Jack Jones (Rotherham)
I speak as one who, with the exception of perhaps 98 one hon. Member, lives as near to the Irwell as anybody in this House. We have listened to a carefully designed Budget Speech which stated that we must increase production, and I am one of those simple fellows who believe that to secure that production one must have a sane and satisfied atmosphere in the workshops. I speak on behalf of those disciples of angling who get enormous pleasure from a few hours of fishing. I know of nothing more relaxing or more calculated to take one away from the turmoil of this House than fishing. This Debate will have been of value if it does nothing more than to draw the attention of the Minister to this question of ensuring that the rivers of Lancashire where fishing is followed, are not allowed to get into the same condition as the Irwell.
With the growth of industry there has been a great increase in the disposal of effluent. Leather, paper and other industries have had to find an outlet for their effluent and the River Irwell has become an industrial sewer. As a result we do not see on the River Irwell what is to be found on the River Weaver where, the Minister if he goes there at the opening of the angling season, will find thousands of good honest British workmen enjoying a little repose not 30 miles from the Irwell.
I hope that everything possible will be done in the future to safeguard the amenities of rivers of this kind, where working men can have the form of sport they enjoy most, just as some hon. Members opposite can rent at high prices reaches of salmon rivers in the North of Scotland. I hope that as a result of this Debate no rivers will be allowed to get into worse condition, and that the Irwell will receive more attention. I should like to compliment my hon. Friend the Member for Rossendale (Mr. Anthony Greenwood) for raising this matter on behalf of working men who derive enormous enjoyment from fishing, to the benefit of their industrial production.
§ 6.28 p.m.
§ Colonel Clarke (East Grinstead)
Like the hon. Member for Rotherham (Mr. Jack Jones) I join in the Debate because I am a fisherman, and I want to see the sport of fishing distributed as widely as possible. I know that the pollution of many of these rivers in industrial areas is preventing a great number of people 99 who might enjoy that sport from doing so. I am glad indeed that the hon. Member for Rossendale (Mr. Anthony Greenwood) has brought up this matter with regard to the River Irwell. As an officer of the British Field Sports Society I should like also to thank him for the complimentary remarks he made regarding the work of the society in trying to prevent this pollution.
I am sorry that my hon. Friend the Member for Bury and Radcliffe (Mr. W. Fletcher) has left the House, because I should like to emphasise exactly what the society have done in this matter. My hon. Friend said he thought the hon. Member for Rossendale had obtained the benefit of advice from the British Field Sports Society. Actually, of course, the society has spent a great deal of money in recent years in having surveys made of these rivers and letting people know what a tremendous amount of harm was done in this way during the industrial revolution and what a tremendous amount of pleasure is now being denied to fishermen in industrial areas.
I feel that my hon. Friend was rather defeatist in this matter. I see no reason why we should submit to the managers of these factories doing what they like. In many cases that is the position. In my constituency I heard only this morning of a case where the County Medical Officer of Health had been trying for some time to persuade a man with a small factory to do something about the effluent. He had just stuck his toes in and said that he did not see any reason why he should do anything, since there was no legislation to make him do it. I know that we cannot discuss legislation now, but I think I should be in Order in saying that I recollect that in the last Parliament we passed an Act which consolidated existing legislation relating to pollution. Many of us have been looking forward to some other Act which will further widen the powers of local authorities and others in this respect.
This question of pollution does not affect just one river. There are many rivers all over the country which are affected, and the survey of the British Field Sports Society has made this known to the public. I believe the public conscience is now being roused. I am glad that this matter has been raised, and I 100 give my full support to anything that can be done to try and put it right. I am certain that a great many people in the industrial areas have been denied a great deal of pleasure, and as a fisherman, I also very much regret the state of this river.
§ 6.32 p.m.
§ Mr. James Hudson (Ealing, North)
I apologise for intervening in this Debate when Members may desire to bring business to an earlier conclusion than usual, but I have a better qualification for speaking about this matter than most other Members because for many years I lived on the banks of the Irwell. I have had a closer experience of the Irwell than even my hon. Friend the Member for Rossendale (Mr. Anthony Greenwood) has had. I fell into it. Indeed, I fell into it in days when the water was infinitely worse than it is now, when it was absolutely black and when the stink of it was different from all other stinks which have ever been experienced by man.
§ Mr. Ellis Smith (Stoke-on-Trent, South)
Has my hon. Friend been there lately?
§ Mr. Hudson
Yes, I have been there lately. That is one of the points I want to make, that things are now much better than they were in days gone by. I remember, too, that when I fell in I was a prominent worker in the local Band of Hope. The amount of water that I was able to partake of on that occasion—it was not the pure water which we sang about in the Band of Hope—still leaves a reminder of the dreadful things that the mill owners in my hon. Friend’s constituency and the constituency of the hon. Member for Bury and Radcliffe (Mr. W. Fletcher) did to the Irwell in those days. Some of them are still prepared to do so.
I am a little disappointed by my hon. Friend’s speech. He spoke too excusingly of the difficulties of the local manufacturers in this connection. The Irwell joins the Mersey near where my hon. Friend the Member for Rotherham (Mr. Jack Jones) now lives, and it used to pollute the Manchester Ship Canal. In the Manchester Ship Canal just after the Irwell had entered into it, was the effluent of the Manchester Corporation’s sewage works. For many years the local council of the area where I live complained that when night came the Manchester 101 Corporation turned their crude sewage into the Manchester Ship Canal. I understand that that has now ceased. The Manchester Corporation has had to make very expensive arrangements for dealing properly with the sewage so that it does not cause a nuisance as the constituents of my hon. Friend do.
I was appalled at the intervention of the hon. Member for Bury and Radcliffe. He ought to be as keen on improving the Irwell as those of us who live on its banks lower down. I was appalled at the readiness with which he suggested that this stream was bound to continue to be the defective thing that it has been. The River Weaver is another tributary of the Mersey, and it might be just as bad as the Irwell but for the care that has been taken, at any rate in the middle reaches of that stream, by industrialists who have their works on its banks.
I do not know what steps can be taken but I hope that greater attention will be paid to this matter. I hope steps can be taken by regulation, and better still by education and appeal, to get the industrialists in the upper parts of the Irwell, round Rochdale, Oldham and up to Irwell Springs, to save the waters of this stream from the pollution that has for so long been practised there. Irwell Springs is a lovely name; it is the only part of the Irwell where there is a little pure water still running. The river is not allowed to run more than about a mile before the pollution begins.
I admit that a matter like this cannot be put right in a day or two, but action should now be taken. I am a fisherman, although I never hope to see fish in the Irwell. I should think the fishes’ memory of what the Irwell has been like during all the time that I have known it, will for ever discourage any poor fish from swimming into the Irwell again. If, however, the fish can go back there it will be something to be thankful for. The people who have lived on the banks of the Irwell will also be grateful because they are so sick of the pollution and stink of that poor stream.
§ 6.37 p.m.
§ Mr. Hardy (Salford, East)
I make no apology for intervening in this Debate. I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Rossendale (Mr. Anthony Greenwood) on raising this question. I do not agree 102 that there has been the improvement which it has been suggested has taken place in recent years. I am sure that a great deal more could have been done. I am not an angler, although I have every respect for anglers; but I think this House should be more concerned with the health of the people. Three years ago, when there was a serious flood which ruined hundreds of houses and furniture, the damage was done not by clean water but by filth from the river and its bed.
If hon. Members were compelled to live next to the River Irwell, something would have been done many years ago; but because these are only working-class people, little or no attempt has been made by the Government to tackle the question at all. In fact, when the flood took place and damage to the extent of £500,000 was done, the Government were approached, but all we got was sympathy Of coarse, sympathy is like gravy without the meat. We had to appeal to the Lord Mayor of London’s Fund to enable us to compensate or rehabilitate some of those people —to restore them to their houses with the utility furniture available at that time.
If steps were now taken by the Government, I feel sure that they would eliminate the fear which exists in the minds of the people who are compelled to live in that area. The River Irwell has been a music-hall joke for many years—as black as ink and filthy. The filth has been responsible for creating a lot of disease. Negotiations have been going on for a considerable time between the catchment board and the local authorities in the area, but the improvement scheme has been abandoned because the Government are not prepared to say what grant they will make towards it.
I hope the Minister will give us some definite information tonight about the steps which the Government propose to take in order to try to prevent the recurrence of the flooding which took place three years ago. The people who are compelled to live in this industrial area are very seriously disturbed. We can imagine the position after a day like yesterday in Manchester, Salford and other districts around there. I do not want to make it appear that Manchester gets all the rain and that Salford gets none. There was incessant rain from five o’clock in the morning yesterday until late in the evening, and one can imagine 103 the fear and dread which exist in the minds of people compelled to live in that area when they see a day like that. If the river were as clean as it ought to be or as it may have been many years ago, that fear and dread would not exist.
As a representative of this area, and one who has lived in it all his life, I believe the inhabitants will expect me to congratulate the hon. Member for Rossendale who raised the subject. We have been hoping for some considerable time that something definite would be done by the Government. I sincerely trust that they will make up their minds to make these people feel happier—or, if they cannot make them feel happy—make them more comfortable in the knowledge that the Government will deal with this serious question of the River Irwell.
§ 6.43 p.m.
§ The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Health (Mr. Blenkinsop)
I think we are all very grateful to my hon. Friend the Member for Rossendale (Mr. Anthony Greenwood) for raising this subject this evening and also for the wide variety of experiences which have been related by other hon. Members—experiences which went as far as that of the hon. Member for Ealing, North (Mr. J. Hudson) and his trial by immersion. It has been suggested to me that some of his well-known views might have suffered a change as a result of his experience of water on that occasion but, as he rightly says, the water was not the sort of water in which he and others are interested.
This is, indeed, a serious subject, and it is of the greatest importance that we should give every possible consideration to ways in which we can alleviate the difficulties which arise from the particularly hideous condition of the Irwell. I believe that all those who are in any way concerned with this problem realise that it must inevitably need a long-term policy to achieve any striking improvements to this river. There is no doubt that we can do more in connection with rivers which have not yet reached the state of the Irwell, but that does not mean that we ought not to do what we can for the Irwell itself.
I want to say a word or two about the action which has already been taken and which will, I hope, continue to be taken 104 in the future. I should dike to pay a compliment to the old committee, the Mersey and Irwell Joint Pollution Committee, who did some very valuable work before the war—so much so that it could fairly be said that at the outbreak of the war the river was in a much better condition than had been the case for some considerable time previously. It may be that that is not saying very much, but at any rate the committee did make real progress and showed that it was possible to make improvements.
Unhappily, during the war and since, the conditions have deteriorated, partly because of the new factories which have been established on the side of the river and partly because of shortages of material, some of which were mentioned by my hon. Friend the Member for Rossendale. The main problem is, of course, that of the use of straw pulp for paper manufacture. That is, perhaps, the most important single item of all the many contributory factors—and there are many contributory factors. I believe there are some 210 trade premises which have discharged their effluents into the River Irwell by the time it reaches the Manchester Ship Canal, and there is also the effluent from some 54 sewage disposal works, although it may be true that the effluent from the sewage disposal works is pure by comparison with some of the trade effluents.
The problem is, what can be done, in particular, about the effluent from paper mills what can be done to try to remove the excess soda in the effluent from these mills? Some mills have already installed recovery plants, and both my own Ministry and the Board of Trade are interested that this should be done. The recovery of caustic soda can be of value and we shall certainly encourage in every way possible the use of these plants. We have to face the fact, however, that their installation is expensive, and naturally the mill owners themselves have wanted to know how long they are likely to go on using the straw pulp, which is a substitute for the wood pulp they used previously. As far as we can see, they are likely to go on using it for some time, and the advice we have been given from those who made a very careful survey of the position suggests that, on economy grounds, there may indeed be a need for a further use of straw pulp. We have, therefore, discussed this matter with the Board of Trade and 105 we shall see that, before any fresh straw pulp apparatus is installed in any of the factories or in new factories, full consideration is given to methods of recovery of caustic soda.
The question of other trade premises which discharge their effluent into the river has also been raised this evening, although none is quite so serious as that of straw pulp. Further, the local authorities in the area are considering in what way their sewage disposal works can be improved and whether or not a regional scheme for sewage disposal could be developed. Again, this is inevitably a long-term problem; the solution will take some time to develop, as well as being expensive, but I have no doubt that if it were possible it would be of great advantage to the area. Reference has also been made to the Water Pollution Research Board who have done, and are doing, some valuable research work. They are trying to see whether there is any less expensive way of recovering soda which might help us in tackling that side of the problem.
As my hon. Friend the Member tor Rossendale said, we are in process of setting up a new river board, as we are in the process of setting up new boards throughout the country, under the new Act. I believe that today the Order has been made defining the area of this new river board. The area of the board will include the Mersey and its tributaries—the Irwell and other tributaries of the Mersey. One of the first problems it will have to tackle will be this very serious problem of pollution here and in the other streams. It will take some time to establish this new board, because the full statutory procedure has to be gone through and a further draft Order has to be made for the constitution of the board itself. It will not directly affect the powers because, as my hon. Friend said, there are wider powers already in existence in that area than in most other 106 areas of the country; but it should be possible for the new board to give perhaps rather closer attention to the problem than was possible in the past.
I should mention the fact that the new river boards will take over the functions of fishery boards. I do not think we can be optimistic enough to hope we can provide for the two hon. Gentlemen who spoke about fishing and the point of view of anglers any catches—or any that they would value—in the river Irwell in either the near or long-distant future. However, we do, of course, take account of those interests in setting up the new river boards, and in considering what action can be taken to preserve other rivers from the sort of difficulties that have arisen here.
I can say, therefore, that we are giving continual consideration to ways in which we can lay down reasonable standards for rivers. Obviously this is not a matter I can go into fully tonight because it would undoubtedly require legislation, but we are considering the report which has been submitted by the sub-committee of the Central Advisory Water Committee which has made a series of very interesting and helpful suggestions for the future, some of which would not necessarily require legislation to carry through. My hon. Friends and all others who have shown interest in the subject can be assured that we are very anxious on our part to do everything we can to assist in dealing with this problem, remembering all the time the essential economic conditions in which we are working. It is for that reason that I cannot offer an early hope to my hon. Friend, but with the co-operation of the new board and the authorities I am sure some improvement can be made eventually and that deterioration in our rivers can be prevented.
Adjourned accordingly at Six Minutes to Seven o’Clock.
(It actually took until the early 1980s before fish began to reappear in the lower River Irwell.)