HC Deb 14 November 1990 vol 180 cc561-2
2. Dr. Goodson-Wickes

To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what consultations he has had with the chairman of the National Rivers Authority about the condition of the River Thames and its tributaries in London.

The Minister for the Environment and Countryside (Mr. David Trippier)

It is for the National Rivers Authority to decide how best to use its statutory powers in order to secure acceptable river quality standards.

Dr. Goodson-Wickes

I congratulate the Government on setting up the NRA and thereby tackling problems long neglected. I draw my hon. Friend's attention to the sorry state of the River Wandle, which flows through my constituency. That river will not be familiar to many hon. Members, but it is a tributary of the Thames once described as the busiest industrial river in the country. Will my hon. Friend give material encouragement to those of us who are striving locally to upgrade and improve the river?

Mr. Trippier

I compliment my hon. Friend on taking the personal initiative of bringing together the local authority, voluntary groups and the NRA in a group that I feel should be affectionately known as the "Wandles of Wimbledon". I am extremely keen to encourage the NRA to help my hon. Friend in whatever way it can. I recommend that he makes contact with the regional manager of the NRA. Whatever help it renders will be made easier as a result of the substantial increase in funding that we announced last week.

Mr. Tony Banks

Will the Minister pay tribute to the London county council and the Greater London council for all the work that they did to ensure that the Thames is probably the cleanest urban river in Europe? The efforts by people in Newham to clean up the River Lea were spoilt by the dumping of a large amount of industrial oil into the river. How many prosecutions have been taken out in the past 12 months against the irresponsible people who still pollute our rivers in London?

Mr. Trippier

I cannot give the specific number that the hon. Member seeks now, but I shall write to him on that matter. He will know that the NRA, which the Government were responsible for setting up, took action only the day after it was formed against the Shell oil company for polluting the River Mersey with oil from a fractured oil pipe and the company was subsequently fined £1 million. That made everybody sit up. There have been several similar examples throughout the year and they will continue.

I am most reluctant to single out the GLC for praise, but several initiatives have been taken, not least by the water companies and the NRA, which have played a significant part in cleaning up the Thames.

Mr. Jessel

Is my hon. Friend aware that thousands of my constituents who care deeply about the environment of the historic and beautiful stretch of the River Thames at Twickenham will be most grateful to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Environment for calling in a planning application to construct a large food shop beside the Thames, a plan that the autocratic Richmond upon Thames council had intended to push through against the wishes of a large majority of my constituents?

Mr. Trippier

My right hon. Friend is happy to accept my hon. Friend's congratulations and is most grateful.