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Lead In Water

Volume 983: debated on Wednesday 30 April 1980

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asked the Secretary of State for the Environment what advice he has given to local authorities and water boards about the amount of lead in water.

The Department has recently issued advice to the water industry on detailed identification of problem areas, and on monitoring the effect of water treatment.

Has the Minister read the Lawther report, which pointed to severe water contamination in certain areas? Does not he accept that water tanks which are lined with lead, and lead water pipes, may need to be replaced? What does he intend to do about that? Is he prepared to give grants towards replacement? Has he had discussions with his right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Social Services about the advice that should be given to expectant mothers in areas that have a high lead content in the water, as such advice is necessary both for the expectant mother and for the mother who needs to use water in preparing a baby's feed?

The hon. Lady will be aware that an extensive survey took place, which covered many parts of the United Kingdom. We have taken due notice of those areas where the incidence of lead was high, but not unacceptably high. The hon. Lady is right. My colleagues and I are considering the Lawther report. Part of the report—recommendation 13—states that action should be taken. The Department is considering as quickly as possible what action should be taken.

Is the Minister aware that certain Scottish water authorities are adding lime to the water since that lines the pipes and thereby eases the problem? Is something similar being done in areas of England and Wales that have the same problem?

The problem is particularly acute in Scotland. The remedies being applied in Scotland have been reported to us. The Department is in touch with my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland.