§ Mr. McWalter
To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland if he plans to provide assistance to householders in rural areas of Northern Ireland who do not have access to mains water and sewerage connections. 
§ Mr. George Howarth
I can announce that from today the reasonable cost limit for connection of an existing property to mains water supplies will be increased from 199W £2,900 to £5,000. The reasonable cost limit for connection to the public sewers will also be increased from £2,300 to £4,000. This will enable nearly a third of all homes at present without running water—an estimated 6,000 in total—to link with the mains water and sewerage systems for the first time.
Technical constraints mean it will still be impossible to connect some remote homes to mains supplies. These homes will continue to rely on private water supplies, some of which may not be entirely satisfactory. I have therefore instructed my officials to explore whether it would be possible to provide some form of assistance to help people who live in these remote dwellings to improve the quality of their private supplies.
The maximum cost allowances available for the connection of new properties to mains water and sewerage services are currently under review. Revised charging guidelines for the provision of water and sewerage infrastructure to new properties will be introduced on 1 January 2001.
In the interim, the current maximum cost allowances of £2,900 for connection to mains water supplies, and £2,300 for connection to public sewerage services will continue to be applied to all properties.