§ 16. Mr. Jessel
asked the Secretary of State for the Environment if the Government will promote and uphold the environment of the River Thames.
§ Mr. John Patten
The quality of the River Thames has improved significantly in recent years, and I expect this improvement to be sustained.
§ Mr. Jessel
As the River Thames, with its wild life, is a beautiful and highly-prised asset in the Twickenham area, is it not quite monstrous for the Thames water authority now to demand the power, without permission from the Government, to stop the flow of water over Teddington weir so that at low tide just below the weir the river could run dry? Will the Government insist on retaining the power in the hands of Ministers, who are democratically answerable to Parliament and the public?
§ Mr. Patten
The River Thames runs though my constituency as it does through my hon. Friend's, so I fully appreciate the need to guard the environment, water quality and flow of that river. But I hope my hon. Friend will appreciate that in the light of the forthcoming public inquiry—whenever it happens, although it is on the horizon—I cannot at this stage comment on the detail of what he said. However, knowing him, I suspect that the campaign will be as long, as loud and possibly as successful over this issue as it has been thus far over the Royal Military School of Music.
§ Mr. Dubs
Is the Minister aware that many people living in the Thames water authority area are seriously concerned about the effects of the privatisation of that authority because of the grave damage that that would cause to the environment and to the quality of the water and its implications for costs and the threat of water metering? Will he have none of this?
§ Mr. Patten
No, the Minister will have as much of it as he possibly can. Consumers in the Thames water authority area are looking forward very much to a privatised authority, I am sure, because, after all, it is the Thames water authority which this year is managing to get ahead with rises in water charges of approximately 3 per cent.