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Water And Sewerage Charges

Volume 890: debated on Monday 14 April 1975

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asked the Secretary of State for Wales whether he will issue instructions to the Welsh National Water Development Authority to spread increases in the water rate levied by the authority over a period of several years.

How can the hon. Gentleman refuse to use the admittedly limited powers which are available to him under the Water Act bequeathed by the previous Conservative Government? Is he not aware that both domestic and business ratepayers have seen their water rates increased by over 400 per cent. during the past couple of years? How can people possibly reconcile this with the expectations aroused in them by the Government's statement that the social contract means that everyone can maintain his standard of living? What possible recourse is there for ratepayers?

The hon. Gentleman is completely misunderstanding the issue. He asked me whether we would instruct the Welsh National Water Development Authority to equalise over a longer period. This was a unanimous decision of that water authority. If it had equalised over a period of years the rest of the domestic water users in other parts of Wales would still have had to pay the amount of money that it would have been necessary to raise. The water authority chose to correct gross discrepancies and distortions in charges for 1974–75. Communities such as Anglesey had increases of about 400 per cent. in one year.

Will the Minister look into the question of widening the borrowing powers of the authority, as it seems that the present inflexibility is resulting in totally unnecessary additional costs, which have to be borne on water and sewerage charges?

The chief executive of the authority made this point to me only recently, and other water authorities in England and Wales have complained quite strongly about their restricted borrowing powers under the Act. We are looking at this matter.

Order. I will call the right hon. Gentleman, but he has a Question down on this matter and if I call him now I may not do so for a supplementary question to his own Question.

I am much obliged, Mr. Speaker. In fact, my Question later on the Order Paper has nothing to do with this Question.

Will my hon. Friend say when he expects the publication of the Daniel Report, which will, or which should, present us with some solutions to the problems which worry hon. Members in all parts of the House? Secondly, will he and his right hon. and learned Friend bear in mind once again that what will help Wales most of all is the equalisation of water charges throughout the United Kingdom?

My right hon. Friend has mentioned the Daniel Committee's Report. That report has only recently been received in the Welsh Office. We are examining it. We hope to publish it as soon as possible.


asked the Secretary of State for Wales what representations he has received on the subject of the increases in water and sewerage charges in some parts of Wales this year.

My right hon. and learned Friend has received representations from 10 right hon. and hon. Members, 11 local authorities, the Farmers' Union of Wales, three other organisations and seven private individuals.

I hope that my hon. Friend will accept that nothing that I say is intended to be a reflection upon the competence or integrity of officials of the Welsh National Water Development Authority, but will he comment on the purchase of cars for the directors of the authority and for their deputies? Will he ensure that they are made aware of the feelings of Members of Parliament, as they should be aware of the feelings of members of the public? This is a totally insensitive action on their part. If cars were to be purchased, they should have been made part of the "perks" of the jobs when those concerned started in them.

The purchase of cars is the responsibility of the Welsh National Water Development Authority, but I am sure that the authoritiy will wish to give serious consideration to the disquiet which has been expressed on this matter.

Is the hon. Gentleman aware of the concern in some parts of Wales at this time of the year, with summer approaching, that not only do they pay an excessive charge for water and sewerage services but that water supplies are not available? Is there not an overall case for making special funds available to the authority to ensure that everyone has available a supply of mains water?

The development of these services depends on the capital limitations on the authority. This is one of the dilemmas that we face. The greater the demand for capital allocations, the greater the cost in charges. There is frequently a difference of opinion in this House. Hon. Members ask that the water authority should exercise financial disciplines of all kinds, and then they press for every possible scheme to be made available in their areas.