§ 15. Mr. Barnes
To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment when he next expects to meet representatives of the Office of Water Services and the water companies to discuss water disconnections; and if he will make a statement.
§ Mr. Barnes
Is the Minister aware that there are 50 disconnections of water supply per day in homes in England and Wales? There is evidence to show a clear link between rates of dysentery and disconnections. Why do not we have a more sensible system such as that which exists in Scotland where there are no disconnections? Debts are dealt with through the courts and evidence is passed from the citizens advice bureaux to OFWAT to deal with debts and payments. We do not want prepayment meters to be introduced so that people cut themselves off and dysentery spreads in their areas.
§ Mr. Yeo
The hon. Gentleman is entirely wrong in his assertion of a connection between dysentery and' disconnections. In Scotland, where disconnections are illegal, the incidence of dysentery shows exactly the same trends as in England and Wales. A water company has to go through a most elaborate procedure before any customer is disconnected. Disconnection is an absolute last resort for those who will not pay their bills; it is not for those who cannot pay their bills. If we were to ban disconnections it would do nothing to help poorer families; indeed, it would add to their costs as they would carry a share of the burden of those who refuse to pay. Disconnections would only help the skivers at the expense of the honest customer. That is why the Labour party espouses that cause.