HC Deb 17 May 1972 vol 837 cc520-2
30. Dr. Marshall

asked the Secretary of State for the Environment why, under his proposals for reorganisation of water authorities, private water companies are to be treated differently from public water undertakings.

Mr. Eldon Griffiths

The acquisition of the statutory water companies would mean rejecting over £200 million worth of investment by the private sector.

Dr. Marshall

In view of the statement in circular 92/71 that the Government are satisfied that the full integration of water services is now essential, what difference is there between the services provided by public water undertakings and those provided by private water companies?

Mr. Griffiths

The quality of the service varies between one undertaking. whether private or public, and another, but the crucial point is that there is no point in simply taking into public sector use some £200 million worth of investment when a perfectly good job is already being done.

Mr. Maddan

Does my hon. Friend agree that the private water companies' standard in respect of efficiency, research and development has been extremely high?

Mr. Griffiths

Yes, I agree that it has been extremely high, but I would not wish that to be taken to mean that the standard in public sector and local authority water provision has been worse.

Mr. Denis Howell

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that there is considerable resentment across the political parties in local government that there should be this disgraceful discrimination and that large municipal undertakings which have operated efficiently, economically and successfully are to have the supply of water removed from their control while small private companies, for the reason the Minister has given, are being left in private hands? Is this not just blind political partisanship?

Mr. Griffiths

No. The hon. Gentleman fails to understand what is involved. It would be inappropriate to put bodies of elected members of local authorities in a position where they were merely agents of a regional water authority. The private companies will be agents. It would be wrong to put in local councils as agents.

Forward to