asked the Secretary of State for Wales when he expects to receive the report of the Daniel Committee on Water Charges.
Within the next few days.
When they receive this report will my hon. Friend and his right hon. and learned Friend take into account that water charges, based as they are upon the general rate, tend to operate unfairly, especially towards small businesses in Wales? Is my hon. Friend aware that one business man in my constituency has calculated that he is paying £1 per gallon of water? This is expensive, even for Welsh water. Will my hon. Friend therefore press forward with the scheme for the equalisation of water charges throughout the United Kingdom as a way of treating Welsh water consumers more fairly than they have been treated over the past two or three years?
I am sure that my right hon. Friend's remarks will be noted. I cannot anticipate what the Daniel Committee will report.
Will the hon. Gentleman bear in mind that few matters have caused such deep concern in Wales in recent months as water and sewerage? When he is considering the report and the remarks of his right hon. Friend, will the hon. Gentleman consider whether the grant from the Government can extend to these big additions made to the rates by the precepts of these bodies now in charge of water and sewerage? This is an important matter, and I hope the hon. Gentleman will consider it seriously.
I agree that this is an important matter, and it is regrettable that it was not dealt with under the Water Act 1973.
Will the hon. Gentleman keep in mind that it is the failure to ensure a material return for the Welsh water which flows from Welsh reservoirs to English conurbations which explains in great part the steep rise in the water rate in particular and rates in general?
That is one of the matters upon which the Daniel Committee was asked to report. I am sure the hon. Gentleman would not wish me to anticipate the report.
Is my hon. Friend aware that the recent dissatisfaction in many rural areas about the setting up of the water authority has spread to every area in Wales, because of the charges, which are so patently unfair? Will my hon. Friend consider urgently any solutions which the committee puts forward, and certainly any solutions for changing the method of calculating charges?
I am sure that that is one matter which the Daniel Committee will consider and report upon. I am sorry to repeat it, but if one sets up an independent committee it is best to wait for it to report.
Can the hon. Gentleman confirm a recent statement by the water authority that the amount of money it expects from water charges in 1975–76 is one-third up on 1974–75, and that the amount of money it expects from the sewerage rate is nearly 100 per cent. up on what it received in 1974–75? This extra money is needed largely because of inflation, but also because of increased loan charges. Can the hon. Gentleman explain to the House why the water authority is paying an interest rate of no less than 17¼ per cent.
Many of these detailed questions are the responsibility of the water authority. The House of Commons gave it that responsibility by the Water Act 1973, which the hon. Gentleman supported wholeheartedly during its passage through the House.On the question of sewerage charges, the authority inherited a huge backlog of schemes and the hon. Gentleman and others are quick to come to the Dispatch Box and demand that the schemes be included in this and next year's financial programmes.