HC Deb 11 February 1981 vol 998 cc852-3
9. Mr. Foulkes

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland if, pursuant to section 1(1) of the Rivers (Prevention of Pollution) (Scotland) Act 1951, he will seek to prevent further pollution of Scottish rivers and of the River Girvan in particular.

Mr. Rifkind

I am satisfied that river purification authorities take all the measures open to them to prevent pollution of Scottish rivers. On the specific question of the River Girvan, I am fully aware of the situation and am being kept in touch with developments. A solution to this problem is still being sought.

Mr. Foulkes

Is the Minister not aware of the anger in Ayrshire because the Secretary of State has not only refused to take any action over the issue of the River Girvan but has also refused to meet a deputation of local people? In the light of the High Court's decision yesterday and in the light of his statutory responsibility, will the Minister agree to an early meeting with the National Coal Board to discuss action to deal with the poison in the River Girvan?

Mr. Rifkind

The hon. Gentleman should be aware that my right hon. Friend's statutory responsibilities are confined to the promotion of river purification boards and other matters of that sort. He has no specific anti-pollution powers. These are the responsbilities of the regional council. I am aware of the decision yesterday of the High Court, which upheld an appeal by my right hon. and learned Friend the Lord Advoate against the National Coal Board. I hope that the board will be taking into account the judgment that has been made against it and will be considering its own responsibilities in the light of that judgment.

Mr. Myles

Will my right hon. Friend and hon. Friend recognise the considerable co-operation that has been given by agriculture in Scotland towards preventing pollution of rivers, especially when one bears in mind the considerable cost to the private individuals concerned?

Mr. Rifkind

Yes, I am happy to acknowledge that agriculture has made that contribution. It is much appreciated.

Mr. John MacKay

Will my hon. Friend join me in welcoming the hon. Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Foulkes) to the ranks of the hunting, shooting and fishing brigade? Does my hon. Friend realise that salmon, which represents an important economic factor in the countryside of Scotland as well as bringing pleasure to many in Scotland, is under considerable pressure both in British waters and abroad? Will he take every possible step to ensure that when it comes into our rivers it is not killed by pollution?

Mr. Rifkind

The hon. Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Foulkes) is known for his sympathy with the interests to which my hon. Friend refers. I acknowledge the force of my hon. Friend's supplementary question.