HC Deb 19 July 1995 vol 263 cc1661-2
17. Mr. Canavan

To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment if he will arrange to meet the chairmen of the water companies to discuss quality and reliability of water supply. [33390]

Mr. Clappison

Only last week, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State met leading figures in the water industry who reconfirmed the high reliability and quality of British water supply.

Mr. Canavan

Does the Minister realise that more than 12,000 consumers per year have their water supplies disconnected because they cannot afford to pay their water charges? Is he aware that that number has increased by 86 per cent. since privatisation, while the fat cats on the water boards have laughed all the way to the bank with massive salary increases and other perks? Will the Minister intervene to stop that scandal? Will he consider introducing legislation similar to that in Scotland, where it is illegal to disconnect people's water supply under such circumstances?

Mr. Clappison

The hon. Gentleman should be aware that disconnection takes place only as a last resort, that the numbers involved are very small and that supplies are usually disconnected for a very short period. The hon. Gentleman's question, which included hostility towards the water boards, illustrates the pathological hatred that the Opposition have towards the water industry. They completely disregard the industry's success in improving reliability and quality—both of which are now of a very high standard—and its overall success in winning business abroad and increasing investment at home. The real answer to the hon. Gentleman's question about quality and reliability is that both are good.

Mr. Nicholls

May I draw my hon. Friend's attention to a water authority that does not fit that pattern, South West Water Authority? On one particular weekend, the authority gave an increase of £67,000 to its managing director while ensuring that many people in my constituency could not even get water to come through their taps. Do not exceptional cases such as that bring the whole system into complete disrepute?

Mr. Clappison

My hon. Friend echoes comments that have already been made. As he must know, South West Water has special circumstances; the overall picture of the water industry—with which Opposition Members are unable to live—is of success, and improvement in water quality and reliability.