HC Deb 22 October 1984 vol 65 cc422-3
5. Mr. Hooson

asked the Secretary of State for Wales whether he has reviewed the experience to date with the consultative machinery for users and customers of the Welsh water authority; and what conclusions he has reached.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Wales (Mr. Wyn Roberts)

I note with pleasure that the seven local consumer advisory committees which we asked the Welsh water authority to establish in 1982 have provided a practical and effective channel of communication between all classes of consumer and the authority. Experience has been reviewed in a report to my right hon. Friend under section 24 of the Water Act 1973, as amended,[...] and some minor changes are under consideration.

Mr. Hooson

As there was remarkably poor local authority representative attendance under the old regime for the Welsh water authority, can my hon. Friend report any clear signs that there is a better attendance record in the new consultative committees?

Mr. Roberts

I can give my hon. Friend that assurance. Attendance in the first report period — November 1982 to March 1984—has varied from 66 per cent. in the Gwynedd LCAC to 72 per cent. for the west Wales LCAC. I remind my hon. Friend that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State took care in his guidelines for the formation of the consumer committees to provide that if a member failed to attend three consecutive meetings he would lose his membership.

Mr. Wigley

I congratulate Conservative Members on the well-rehearsed nature of that question and answer. Does the Under-Secretary of State not accept that constituents in all parts of Wales face nothing but frustration because of the inability to identify those with whom they should take up questions about the water industry? Would it not be much more satisfactory to have direct answerability of the water authority in Wales by means of direct election?

Mr. Roberts

I notice that the hon. Gentleman has at least changed his tactic. Not so long ago he was leading his troops like the Grand Old Duke of York. At great expense, he had brought them down again, having achieved nothing. The hon. Gentleman is now making a completely different proposal for an elected body. We have in the LCACs first-class committees which represent all kinds of interests — from farmers to industrial, commercial, domestic and fishing consumers — and a reformed authority as well.