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House of Commons Commission

Volume 473: debated on Thursday 20 March 2008

The hon. Member for North Devon, representing the House of Commons Commission, was asked—

Drinking Water

24. What the Commission’s policy is on the provision of drinking water at meetings held in the House; and if he will make a statement. (195468)

The Administration Committee last considered the issue of the provision of drinking water in Committee and meeting rooms in March 2007 and concluded at the time that the current practice of supplying bottled mineral water should continue, but I am pleased to report that the Department of Facilities is re-examining the issue with the intention of providing further advice.

I congratulate the Cabinet Secretary and the Evening Standard on coming aboard my long-standing campaign to increase the use of tap water against the use of bottled water. The hon. Gentleman’s reply is welcome, but I urge a little more urgency on him. This is a major environmental issue and a substantial cost issue. Will he now take steps to give instructions to the administration that tap water should be available at all meetings and in all dining facilities as a proper alternative to bottled water, hopefully with a view to phasing out the use of bottled water?

I agree with the gist of what the right hon. Gentleman says. Tap water is widely available in the catering outlets in the estate, but I can assure him that this is being treated with some urgency and that the Department of Facilities is expected to report back soon after Easter.

I share a little concern about this because the water that we all drink comes from my constituency, so I hope that instead of some stringent adherence to the latest political correctness we will be presented with a choice in the future. Can we be reassured that there will be a choice? Tap water should be available, but not at the expense of choice.

I will not pre-empt the outcome of the Department’s investigation. We will have to wait and see, and decisions will be taken on the basis of cost and environmental considerations when we have the report.