HC Deb 21 April 1964 vol 693 cc1078-9
10. Miss Quennell

asked the Minister of Housing and Local Government and Minister for Welsh Affairs whether, in view of the greatly increased population in the south and south-east of the United Kingdom, he will reconsider the traditional practice of discharging sewage effluent into the sea.

Mr. Corfield

The discharge of untreated sewage to the sea is normally a satisfactory method of disposal if the sewers are properly designed and the outfall can be suitably sited. There is no reason why this method should not meet the needs of increased population in many coastal areas. Where local conditions make some form of treatment desirable, my right hon. Friend always considers applications for loan sanction sympathetically.

Miss Quennell

I thank my hon. Friend for that very comprehensive Answer. Is he aware that under certain circumstances the result of this practice has been nauseating in the extreme in some of our shallow coastal waters? With the prospect of a large increase in the population in the South, does not he think that this is a matter which ought to be reconsidered in the light of possible developments?

Mr. Corfield

With due respect to my hon. Friend, I do not think that population has a direct bearing on the problem. I admit that local conditions vary, and where there are grounds for feeling that some treatment is necessary our technical officers are always available to give advice. We have a Committee of the D.S.I.R. studying the best possible design of outfalls and to assess the problem generally.

Mrs. Slater

Does not the hon. Gentleman believe that no local authority should deposit untreated sewage in the sea anywhere, and does not he agree that very often it is not the authority concerned which feels the effect, but some authority further along the coast? Should not it be the job of the Ministry of Housing and Local Government to see that every local authority treats its sewage in some way before disposing of it into rivers or into the sea?

Mr. Corfield

I do not agree that it is the job of the Ministry to force local authorities to spend money when there is no evidence that this is an unsatisfactory arrangement. I have explained that where there is evidence that it is unsatisfactory, help, both financial and technical, is available.

Mr. Temple

Is my hon. Friend aware that this is a national problem? May I ask what action his Department has taken as a result of the recent report of the Committee on storm water overflow?

Mr. Corfield

As I have already explained to the House the matter is under consideration by the Water Pollution Research Board of D.S.I.R. and we have had an expert report relatively recently from the Medical Research Council.