Oral Answers to Questions — Scotland – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 9th June 1993.

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Photo of Malcolm Chisholm Malcolm Chisholm , Edinburgh Leith 12:00 am, 9th June 1993

To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland what is his estimate of the cost of (a) the implementation of EC water directives over the next 15 years and (b) other water investment over the same period.

Photo of Mr Hector Monro Mr Hector Monro , Dumfries

The capital costs of meeting European Commission water and waste water directives and other investments is estimated at some £5 billion over the next 15 years divided equally between the two categories.

Photo of Malcolm Chisholm Malcolm Chisholm , Edinburgh Leith

Does the Minister realise that the Scottish people are sick and tired of the figures he has given today being used as a cover for water privatisation? Does he not understand that people in my constituency do not want front door water privatisation or back door water privatisation, whether by franchising or competitive tendering? Why cannot water investment be paid for by public borrowing? Why on earth should that mean cuts in other public expenditure, as Ministers have claimed? If the Secretary of State has difficulty in persuading his Cabinet colleagues, why does he not remind them that the figure of £5 billion over 15 years announced by the Minister today was exactly the same as the water debt written off at one stroke by his Government in 1989 as sweetener to the newly privatised English water industry?

Photo of Mr Hector Monro Mr Hector Monro , Dumfries

It is rather sad that the hon. Gentleman never listens to Questions in the House and apparently never reads the answers. I have explained to him and his Opposition colleagues time and again that they have to be patient. Another few weeks will make all the difference. They will find out what policy we intend to introduce from the six, seven, eight, nine or 10 options before us. If he waits until then he may have quite a surprise.

Photo of Mr Phil Gallie Mr Phil Gallie , Ayr

Is my hon. Friend aware that Opposition Members have consistently opposed standing charges in public services? Is he aware that Labour-controlled Strathclyde regional council has just imposed a standing charge on water services? Does he not think that that is shameful'?

Photo of Mr Hector Monro Mr Hector Monro , Dumfries

My hon. Friend is well aware of the situation in his constituency and in surrounding areas. Water costs are extremely high in Scotland and have increased year by year, particularly over the past three years. That must be carefully considered in deciding our future policy.

Photo of Mr Archy Kirkwood Mr Archy Kirkwood Liberal Democrat Chief Whip

Has the Minister considered allowing publicly controlled local water authorities access to private money markets in a way that does not count against the public sector borrowing requirement? That would solve at a stroke the problem to which he referred earlier of the need for capital investment without the ideological difficulties that will be created by privatisation. Earlier, the Minister said that we might get a surprise when the announcement is eventually made. That can only be interpreted as meaning that the Government are abandoning their privatisation plans.

Photo of Mr Hector Monro Mr Hector Monro , Dumfries

The hon. Gentleman might be wrong again. If he is prepared to wait a few more weeks, he will find the answer to his concerns. His proposal is one of many that are being considered, and it has not been lost in the pile of results that have come in from all over Scotland.

Photo of Michael Connarty Michael Connarty , Falkirk East

The Minister has been listening to the comments by some about the uniqueness of Scottish culture and morality. Will he go with that trend and give an assurance that we will not be surprised by the Government's abandoning the safeguard whereby in Scotland users cannot have their water supplies cut off—and that there will be no repeat of the terrible scenes in England and Wales, with rising dysentery and the loss of water supplies that are vital to people's lives? Will he give an assurance today that he will not abandon that basic tenet of Scottish morality and civil law?

Photo of Mr Hector Monro Mr Hector Monro , Dumfries

Regional councils have many ways of getting people to pay their water bills. Until we have the legislation, the hon. Gentleman must be patient.

Photo of Andrew Welsh Andrew Welsh , Angus East

As the need for investment on a much smaller scale was a major reason given by the Government for abandoning water privatisation in Northern Ireland. will the Minister similarly abandon plans for privatisation in Scotland, where it is not needed—or is it simply a case of double standards?

Photo of Mr Hector Monro Mr Hector Monro , Dumfries

I thought that the hon. Gentleman's rebellious approach to water would have stopped him asking any more questions. like the rest of his colleagues, he will have to wait to see.