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Volume 410: debated on Friday 19 September 2003

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To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what factors underlay the proposal of the Environment Agency to reduce the number of abstractions in the south east; what assessment she has made of the effect on water supplies in the south east as a result of this proposal; and if she will make a statement. [130471]

Proposals to reduce abstraction in the south east are aimed at improving the environment at important wildlife sites that are presently being damaged or are threatened with being damaged by abstraction.Water companies have been given the proposed list of sites and have been asked to identify the solutions that they would have to implement to make these environmental improvements.The Office of Water Services and the Environment Agency are scrutinising the companies' plans and I have asked them to report to me in November. From their reports I will identify the environmental improvement schemes that should be included in companies' final business plans for 2005–10, due in April 2004. Throughout this process, security of water supply to customers is paramount and the timing of any changes to abstraction will be arranged so that there is no risk to public water supply.