HC Deb 24 June 1974 vol 875 cc964-6
4. Mr. Cledwyn Hughes

asked the Secretary of State for Wales what representations he has received about the effect of increased water charges upon industry in Anglesey; what reply he has sent; and if he will make a statement.

The Under-Secretary of State for Wales (Mr. Edward Rowlands)

My right hon. and learned Friend has received representations from my right hon. Friend and from the Isle of Anglesey Borough Council. In our replies it has been explained that the increased charges are a direct result of the previous administration's Water Act. The Welsh National Water Development Authority will be reviewing its charging policy.

Mr. Hughes

Is my hon. Friend aware that the availability of water at reasonable rates is or was an important inducement to new industries to come to development areas like Anglesey? Is he further aware that excessive rates are a grave deterrent? In the consultations that he and the Secretary of State are to have with Lord Brecon and his colleagues, may I ask him to bear this point in mind?

Mr. Rowlands

We will most certainly bear that matter in mind. As an intention of our good faith, I remind my right hon. Friend that one of the first things we did was to meet Lord Brecon and to obtain from him an assurance and a commitment to reduce the charge for metered industrial consumers to 50p pet thousand gallons.

Mr. Speaker

In view of the exceptional circumstances I propose to invite the hon. Member for Brecon and Radnor (Mr. Roderick) to ask a Question of which he gave the required notice, but which was omitted from the Order Paper in error.

Mr. Roderick

I am grateful to you, Mr. Speaker, for repairing the omission. I wish to ask the Secretary of State for Wales what advice he has given to the Welsh National Water Development Authority on equalisation of water charges for 1975–76 and what was the response.

Mr. Rowlands

None as yet. This is a matter for the authority to consider in the first place. My right hon. and learned Friend will be meeting the chairman and members next month.

Mr. Roderick

In view of that reply, may I ask whether my hon. Friend appreciates the urgency of this matter relating to charges as we as elected Members do? Will he impress on the authority that my constituents and others in the area will not tolerate waiting until the 1980s for a solution to this vital matter?

Mr. Rowlands

I can assure my hon. Friend that this issue must be resolved as speedily as possible, and we shall convey that view to the chairman of the authority.

Mr. Cledwyn Hughes

Can my hon. Friend go a little further and indicate when we are likely to receive a statement on this matter? He will know from his visits to my constituency and other areas how deep is the concern about the grotesquely high charges which are being imposed on people. Will he now confirm that equalisation can be put into effect by means of the existing law and without need for any amendment?

Mr. Rowlands

I believe that equalisation can be carried through within the area of responsibility of the Welsh National Water Development Authority. We are meeting the chairman and the members of the authority next month and I ask my right hon. Friend to accept that we will do everything we can in this matter.

Mr. Alec Jones

My hon. Friend indicated earlier that he hoped some solution to the problem might be found as speedily as possible, but does he understand that we in Wales believe that "as speedily as possible" should mean action by next year?

Mr. Rowlands

I appreciate that point. That is one reason why we are meeting the chairman and the members of the authority in the near future.