HC Deb 06 February 1974 vol 868 cc1193-4
1. Mr. Hardy

asked the Secretary of State for the Environment if he will urgently consider the need to reduce river pollution in Yorkshire, and take suitable action.

44. Mr. Harper

asked the Secretary of State for the Environment what advice he has given to the new water authorities regarding reductions in their efforts in cracking down on river polluters; and what is his present policy on the extent to which polluters must be required to pay for the consequences of their action.

The Under-Secretary of State for the Environment (Mr. Hugh Rossi)

At present the responsibility for dealing with river pollution rests with the river authorities and after 1st April will be transferred to the new water authorities. It will be for them to decide how best to deploy the resources available to them for carrying out their functions, but under Clause 39 of the Protection of the Environment Bill, now being considered in another place, they will be able to recover the costs of cleaning up pollution from the polluter.

Mr. Hardy

Will the hon. Gentleman make clear that the Yorkshire Water Authority will not be allowed to take an outdated and over-relaxed attitude on river pollution? Will he also confirm that cuts in Government expenditure will not be such as to lead to the pollution of our rivers and streams being ignored? Will he make clear to the water authorities that the rivers and streams in industrial areas will not be forgotten, that targets will not be abandoned and that these waters will be clean at the time anticipated by the people who live in the areas?

Mr. Rossi

My answer is "Yes" to the last part of the hon. Gentleman's supplementary question. In the first part of his question he was referring to Press reports which have subsequently been denied by the Chairman of the Yorkshire Water Authority, who said subsequently that there will be no let-up in the drive against water pollution and that the number of pollution inspectors will be increased. On the question of public expenditure, my right hon. Friend the Minister for Local Government and Development has suggested to chairmen of water authorities that one area in which action could, if necessary, be postponed without harm to the economy is in improvements to dirty rivers not used for water supply. That is a temporary measure for economic reasons only.

Mr. Harper

Who guards the guards? Is the Minister aware that the new water authorities are in charge of all water from the raindrop to the consumer and out to the sea, and also of land drainage, fisheries and sewerage? Does not this mean that the new water authorities are policemen and polluters at the same time? Is not the corollary of the situation that problems such as the foam problem which has existed in Castleford for the past 20 years will exist for another 20 years in view of the soft approach of the new water authority chairman?

Mr. Rossi

The hon. Member takes too gloomy a view. The Government's intention is clearly set out in the Protection of the Environment Bill.

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