HC Deb 26 October 1983 vol 47 cc279-80
16. Mr. Adley

asked the Secretary of State for the Environment if he will hold a meeting with the chairman of the Wessex water authority to discuss capital expenditure by the authority.

Mr. Waldegrave

I expect to meet all the chairmen of the English water authorities individually during December, when we will discuss their authorities' financial prospects for 1984–85.

Mr. Adley

I thank my hon. Friend for his reply. Is he aware that twice in recent years the river Stour has caused serious flooding in Christchurch and that many of my constituents cannot disabuse themselves of the idea that it is due to work done by the water authority to straighten out the river and so on? Is he further aware that in discussions that I have had with the water authority I have found that there is difficulty in assessing the work that can be allocated to capital resources, which is causing confusion, probably due to legislation passed in the House rather than to the water authority's shortcomings? Will my hon. Friend consider that matter?

Mr. Waldegrave

I am aware of the problem, as my hon. Friend has been assiduous in bringing it to the attention of my predecessor and myself. The chairman of the water authority has had meetings with some of the district councils concerned to investigate and draw up plans. I shall investigate my hon. Friend's point.

Mr. Denis Howell

Is the Minister aware that a study of the appointments that he has made to this and every other regional water authority, in which the chairman receive a salary of £24,000 and the member's salary is £9,000, shows blatant political bias? Every one of those regional water authorities is packed with Conservatives in whom we can have no confidence. Furthermore, is it not disgraceful that the first act of every one of those water authorities was deliberately to exclude the press from attendance at any of their meetings? Does not that justify the criticism that he is supplanting local democracy with "watercrats" and creating a centralised bureaucracy, to which we have every right to object?

Mr. Waldegrave

I strongly refute the implication of the right hon. Gentleman's first point. The chairman of the north-west water authority is a Labour councillor and there are two other Labour councillors on it. There is at least one other Labour chairman. He is a distinguished chairman, appointed on his merits, and previously was a Labour councillor. Political bias has in no way entered into those appointments.

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