HC Deb 07 March 1973 vol 852 cc400-2
23. Mr. Sutcliffe

asked the Secretary of State for the Environment when he expects to have completed his review into the sources of water supply in the Northern Region.

Mr. Rippon

As yet, it is too early to say how long this will take. I will do all I can to bring the question at issue to a speedy conclusion.

Mr. Sutcliffe

Is it not the case that, without taking any account of the demands of the Redcar steel complex or Teesside oil developments, the Tees area is expected to absorb its water yield by 1977, and that, whether it is Kielder or Irthing, it will take five years to bring water to the Tees; that delay is critical, and that uncertainty is bound to affect the expansion of existing industry and the attraction of new industry?

Mr. Rippon

Nobody has been disputing the need for the water and no one is denying the need to have regard to the timetable. The question at issue is the most suitable source of supply.

Mr. Armstrong

Will the right hon. and learned Gentleman tell us what extra information he expects to receive that was not given at the exhaustive public inquiry which was held and which convinced his inspector about the urgency of the case? Is he aware that every Member of Parliament in the Northern Region—apart, apparently, from the Secretary of State himself—has been inundated with demands from every section of the community to get ahead with the project at Kielder? Can he tell us whether he gets any support among his hon. Friends?

Mr. Rippon

I cannot anticipate what evidence may be brought forward by those concerned.

Mr. R. W. Elliott

Has my right hon. and learned Friend noted—I have no doubt he has—that it is satisfying to those of us who have been concerned with regional development in the Northern Region for many years now that the region leads the field in the take-up of the much improved incentives to industry coming in that are now offered by the present Government? Bearing this in mind, will he take note that considerable Press publicity was given to a firm which has now decided against considering the Northern Region because of the danger of shortage of water? Will he therefore hasten his decision?

Mr. Rippon

I appreciate the need for getting on with these matters as quickly as possible. I found when I got to the Department that a good deal of time had already been taken. I am sure that, whatever the reasons for its decision not to go to the North-East, the firm my hon. Friend mentioned should not have taken it on the basis he suggests.

Mr. Tinn

Is the right hon. and learned Gentleman aware that the possibility of the Irthing development was fully considered and rejected for good reasons by the Northumbrian River Authority? Is he not further aware of the great concern and alarm which the delay in his decision has caused to all responsible people in the North, presumably outside his own constituency?

Mr. Rippon

I have set out my reasons for the view that I expressed as Secretary of State in the letter in which I conveyed my decision. I must stand on that for the time being.