Will my hon. and learned Friend confirm that the River Wye in my constituency is up to the mark, as it should be? Secondly, will he confirm that he is bringing the greatest possible pressure to bear on rivers in the United Kingdom which are not yet up to the top mark and that he is sustaining the greatest possible pressure on the rivers in the remainder of the European Community countries so that British industry is not disadvantaged in such an important area of trade?
Unfortunately the River Rother is not in either of the top two grades of river quality, but the hon. Gentleman should appreciate that its present condition is the result of activities that have continued for generations. The clean-up has started and its pace will quicken when the water industry is in the private sector.
I entirely agree with my hon. and learned Friend's comment about the River Rother. Does he accept that the River Aire, which also suffers from excessive industrial effluent, will likewise take a considerable time to reach the proper grade? In that regard, will he confirm that the National Rivers Authority will not be slow to set up regional operations within the Yorkshire Water region so that a proper plan can be developed and adhered to in the new-found capacity of the plcs to borrow and spend money?
Will the Minister comment—as there has not been a statement on the subject in this House—on the decision, announced in the other place, that £5·5 billion will be written off the debt of the water authorities to make their flotation a success? Is he aware that it will not be the sale of our water industry but a daylight giveaway?
The hon. Gentleman's comments are entirely incorrect, and I refer him to the Hansard of what my noble Friend Lord Caithness said in the other place. The write-off of the £5·5 billion refers only to the debt to the national loans fund which takes place on every privatisation. It will be replaced by securities with which each company will enter the private sector, and we shall announce our decisions on those securities at the appropriate time. If Opposition Members are really interested in these matters, I suggest that they read in Hansard precisely what was said in the other place, rather than relying on totally inaccurate reports of what was said by my noble Friend.
How far into river estuaries is testing conducted? Is my hon. and learned Friend aware that recent tests undertaken just off the coast of south Devon displayed figures of six times the acceptable rate of viral contamination?
I am aware that those recent tests showed results which left a good deal to be desired, and those matters are being considered by the South West water authority.