HC Deb 10 February 1986 vol 91 cc629-30
8. Mr. Rowlands

asked the Secretary of State for Wales what discussions he has had with the chairman of the Welsh water authority regarding the privatisation of its services; and if he will make a statement.

12. Mrs. Clwyd

asked the Secretary of State for Wales when he last met the chairman of the Welsh water authority; what subjects were discussed; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Nicholas Edwards

I spoke to the chairman of the Welsh water authority about water privatisation only last week. Both my hon. Friend and I regularly discuss the authority's affairs with the chairman. I have nothing to add to the statement that I made last week.

Mr. Rowlands

Does the Secretary of State not realise how deeply offensive it is to the overwhelming majority of Welsh people to introduce the concept of profiteering into such a basic supply as water to householders? Does he accept that privatisation is supposed to be a part of competition, but that there will be no such competition regarding the water supply? Does he agree that he has no mandate to introduce this system before the general election?

Mr. Edwards

Many people in Wales will wish to participate and own shares in the company. It is not true that there is no room for competition. There certainly is room for greatly improved services and efficiency, and that is to the benefit of all water users in Wales.

Mrs. Clwyd

The Secretary of State will no doubt recall that on Wednesday he told us that the chairman of the Welsh water authority was in favour of privatisation, and that I told him that I had spoken to the chief executive who told me that he could see no value in privatisation for consumers or employees. Will he tell the House who is speaking for the Welsh water authority? Is it the chairman, whom he appointed, or the chief executive, who is speaking for both the authority and the majority of people in Wales?

Mr. Edwards

The chief executive of the Welsh water authority has written to me about the statement that the hon. Lady quoted. In his letter to me he states: I am very sorry that confusion was caused but I would like to set the record straight and make it clear that I said nothing of the sort to Mrs. Clwyd. He concludes: I hope you do not mind my writing to you to set out the facts but I do feel particularly aggrieved when words attributed to me in the House were a complete fabrication.

Mr. Raffan

Will my right hon. Friend remind the Opposition that 25 per cent. of the water in Britain is already supplied by private sector water companies efficiently and without complaint? Will he hammer home the fact that privatisation will free the Welsh water authority from financial constraints, allow it to borrow money more cheaply and thus accelerate its capital programme?

Mr. Edwards

I agree with every word that my hon. Friend has uttered.

Mr. Livsey

What will happen to tenanted farms, forestry and land if the Welsh water authority is privatised? Will farmers be able to buy their own farms from the authority?

Mr. Edwards

The position will be exactly as it is now. The water authority will retain such land as it thinks necessary for its operations. Those whom the hon. Gentleman mentions will benefit from a more efficient authority which can provide a better service.

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