§ 11. Mr. Ron Davies
asked the Secretary of State for Wales what current steps are being taken by his Department to prepare the Welsh water authority for privatisation.
§ Mr. Mark Robinson
As my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Environment said in his statement to the House on 3 July, the Government intend to proceed with water privatisation as soon as practicable. Preparatory work to that end is continuing.
§ Mr. Davies
I take it from that answer that the Minister is confirming that staff in the Welsh Office are now carrying out preparatory work. Will he confirm that staff of the Welsh water authority are being directed to carry out preparatory work? Is not that expenditure of public 10 money and use of public servants' time fundamentally dishonest when neither the Welsh Office nor the Government have any mandate for their privatisation proposals? Will the Minister now take steps to direct staff in his Department to cease forthwith action on privatisation and direct the Welsh water authority to do the same? Will he confirm that the Government's privatisation proposals will form a centrepiece in the Government's manifesto at the next election?
§ Mr. Robinson
It is very likely that our privatisation proposals will form a central part of our manifesto. The hon. Gentleman has great first-hand experience of water as a result of his valiant attempt to push the Welsh Eight off the rocks during the regatta last week.
However, the answers to his other questions are no, Sir.
§ Mr. Roy Hughes
Can the Minister tell the House something about the debt of the Welsh water authority? Are we to understand that if the industry is privatised the debt will be wiped out, but if it stays in public ownership the debt will remain?
§ Mr. Robinson
There will be a major restructuring to take account of privatisation, but until that time comes we have no plans to change the capital structure of the water authority.