HC Deb 12 June 1974 vol 874 cc1593-4
4. Mr. Dixon

asked the Secretary of State for the Environment whether he will now make a statement about sewerage rates in Cornwall for 1975–76.

The Minister of State, Department of the Environment (Mr. Denis Howell)

Under the Water Act 1973, the South West Water Authority is responsible for fixing such charges for sewerage.

Mr. Dixon

Will the Minister elaborate on statements made by his ministerial colleagues to the effect that in 1975–76 there will be a reduction for people who are now invited to pay a sewerage rate but who are not on the main sewerage system? Can a concession be introduced for 1974–75 as well?

Mr. Howell

I answered that question in an Adjournment debate two nights ago.

Mr. Marks

Will my hon. Friend emphasise that sewerage has always had to be paid for through the rates? Does he not agree, however, that it and the other activities of the water authorities should now be transferred to the national Exchequer, out of the rating system?

Mr. Howell

There is considerable discontent about water and sewerage charges, exactly as we predicted when we were in opposition. The setting up of an administration taking those services out of local government is costing a great deal of money. We predicted that, and it has happened. I very much regret that this Government came to office much too late to stop this trend.

Mr. Tyler

Will the Minister confirm that the 150 per cent. increase in my sewerage rate and in the sewerage rates of my constituents in Cornwall is a direct result of the Water Act, which was supported in the Lobby by the hon. Members for Truro (Mr. Dixon), St. Ives (Mr. Nott) and Falmouth and Camborne (Mr. Mudd), and the then hon. Member for Bodmin, Mr. Hicks? Will the hon. Gentleman also confirm that it is as a direct result of the previous Government's proposals that we are suffering a massive increase in water rates at the same time? Will he and his colleagues reconsider the Act, and if possible get rid of the unfortunate effect it is having on rural areas?

Mr. Howell

I agree with the hon. Gentleman that all this was predictable, and it was predicted. We voted against the Act, and we very much regret its effects. But we came into office three weeks before the new service was implemented, and there was hardly time to change it. We are stuck with it, and we must do the best we can and see how, as the years pass, we can improve matters. I am sorry that the hon. Gentleman's sewerage rate increased by such an abnormal amount. The highest figure I have for Cornwall is 61.2 per cent., which is bad enough. It seems that in Liberal households there is a need for even greater increases.