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Water Quality

Volume 301: debated on Thursday 27 November 1997

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To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions what plans he has for the use of economic instruments to improve water quality; and if he will make a statement. [18473]

My right hon. Friend the Deputy Prime Minister made clear on World Environment Day our determination to find the best way to address environmental concerns and to make polluters pay for necessary remedial action. Regulation has achieved a good deal but it may not represent the most cost-effective means by which environmental objectives can be achieved, nor does it always make polluters pay for the cost of their activities.We want to find a mix of instruments that will be environmentally effective and economically efficient. Many of these will be regulatory in nature. Others may be voluntary. But we believe that economic instruments have a role to play in improving the environment. So, as my right hon. Friend the Chancellor announced in the Budget, we are actively considering their role as part of our environmental policy and as a contribution to reform of the tax system.Today, we are setting out ideas for the use of such instruments to protect and enhance the quality of our rivers and other waters. A copy of the consultation paper has been placed in the library. This is an important initiative. Water is of enormous environmental and economic importance and water pollution causes great concern to the public. We look forward to a period of active debate on these issues.