HC Deb 11 February 1985 vol 73 c7
8. Dr. Marek

asked the Secretary of State for Wales what steps are proposed to minimise the further risk of pollution of the River Dee.

Mr. Wyn Roberts

Improved monitoring introduced following the pollution incident in January 1984 has enabled recent incidents to be detected in sufficient time to prevent polluted water entering the public supply. A working group established by the statutory water undertakers which abstract water from the Dee is considering the need for further measures, and its report will be made public shortly.

Dr. Marek

I accept that the majority of companies act responsibly after a pollution incident. However, does the Minister agree that, in the light of the phenol incident last year, it would be desirable if there was an obligation on companies to notifiy the water authority as soon as possible after any pollution incident?

Mr. Roberts

I am very glad to tell the hon. Gentleman something that he may already know — that the last incident, when some melamine was deposited in the river, was reported by the company of its own volition. I agree that when pollution is even suspected it is highly desirable that any company associated with it or knowing anything about it should report it to the relevant authority.

Mr. Raffan

Will my hon. Friend tell me how much the voluntary system depends on the co-operation of local companies? Will he assure us that they can all be relied upon to be as conscientious as Kronospan at Chirk?

Mr. Roberts

The procedures adopted after the first phenol pollution incident in January 1984 have been very successful. Although there have been two pollution incidents since then, the intakes of water from the Dee into the public supply system were closed in time so that the pollutants did not enter the supply system. The water authorities and the companies involved are to be congratulated on their prompt action after the phenol incident.

Mr. Barry Jones

Is the Minister aware that the Connahs Quay town council and the Alyn and Deeside district council still favour a public inquiry into the phenol incident, which poisoned many thousands of my constituents? Is the hon. Gentleman further aware that those who requested a public inquiry were told that a court case would ensue? It did not ensue. People on Deeside are angry and astonished that there is not to be a public inquiry. May we have one, please?

Mr. Roberts

We must ask ourselves whether a public inquiry would serve any useful purpose, and I believe that the answer to that is no. Following the phenol incident, the chief executives of the authorities and the companies concerned set up, their own inquiry and instituted remedial action. In addition, something known as the Dee working group was set up and it will be reporting shortly. When the report is published, I hope that Opposition Members will give it as much publicity as they can so that consumers' fears are allayed.