HC Deb 17 March 1976 vol 907 cc1300-2
4. Mr. Kilroy-Silk

asked the Secretary of State for the Environment if he will bring forward proposals to make regional water authorities more democratic and representative of consumers.

The Minister for Planning and Local Government (Mr. John Silkin)

The structure of the membership of the water authorities is one of the matters to be raised in the consultative document on the review of the water industry, which will be published tomorrow.

Mr. Kilroy-Silk

Does my right hon. Friend accept that the water authorities dispense a great deal of public money, often frivolously, for instance, on personalised car number plates, money that is raised by precept from local authorities without direct representation on those water authorities? Does he accept that there is a strong case for local authorities being directly represented and for their members being accountable to them?

Mr. Silkin

My hon. Friend has made an interesting series of points. I should like him to wait until tomorrow to read the consultative document. I think that all hon. Members, including my hon. Friend, who have views on the subject will be well advised to communicate those views after the document has been published.

Mr. Fletcher-Cooke

Will the document to be published tomorrow provide some way by which the consumer can approach these bodies through the Local Government Commissioners? Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that there is a gap at present because neither the Parliamentary Commissioner nor the Local Government Commissioners can take up complaints against these bodies, which seem to be entirely irresponsible in the technical sense of the term?

Mr. Silkin

I do not think that it would serve the interests of public policy to give the hon. and learned Gentleman a sneak preview of the document to be published tomorrow. The general question of liaison between water authorities and those who use the services is discussed in the paper.

Mr. Whitehead

Is it not a fact that the regional water authorities have not exercised that restraint in the raising of revenue which was called for by the Secretary of State for local authorities generally because they are not democratically accountable?

Mr. Silkin

The temptations are very great on a day like this, but I suggest that my hon. Friend waits until the consulta- tive document is published. We will then welcome any advice which he or other hon. Members may give us.

Mr. Wigley

Can the right hon. Gentleman assure us that in drawing up this document, which is to be published tomorrow, consideration was given to the recommendations of the Daniel Committee on the relationship between the Welsh National Water Development Authority and the regional water authorities in England?

Mr. Silkin

I do not know what the words "sneak preview" are in Welsh, but the hon. Gentleman cannot get round me that way.

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