HC Deb 29 January 1996 vol 270 cc631-2
7. Mr. William O'Brien

To ask the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster how many water companies have received charter marks; and if he will make a statement. [9985]

Mr. Willetts

Five water companies have won charter marks: Anglian Water, Severn Trent Water and Wessex Water in 1992 and Welsh Water and South Staffordshire Water in 1993.

Mr. O'Brien

In view of the appalling record of water companies in providing services to their customers and the fact that people in Yorkshire have suffered more than many others, will the Minister assure me that Yorkshire Water will not qualify for a charter mark and that others, such as Severn Trent Water, should have their charter marks withdrawn because of the appalling service to their customers?

Mr. Willetts

Water companies will have the opportunity to apply for charter marks in 1996, but, in order to win one, they will have to show that they have maintained the highest quality of service to customers. If they have not managed to achieve that, they certainly will not receive a charter mark.

Mr. Congdon

Does my hon. Friend agree that after years of neglect in the public sector, water companies have taken the opportunity of massive capital investment to improve infrastructure and water quality? Will he give particular credit to Thames Water, which has invested £2 billion in the past five years to improve water for Londoners?

Mr. Willetts

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for that point. It is revealing to compare the conspicuously dry summer of 1995, when there were 53 drought orders, with the previous hot summer of 1976, when there were 136 drought orders. That is a testament to the improvement in the quality of service after privatisation.