While there are costs and technical issues, we consider water companies already have sufficient powers under section 94 of the Water Industry Act 1991 to provide, improve and extend the system of public sewers.
May I take issue with my hon. Friend, because they simply do not? The only way for water companies to provide mains sewerage to those rural villages in my constituency that need it is to use section 101A of 1991 Act, which requires them to prove the case on environmental grounds, not regeneration and economic grounds. The Water Bill is just up the Corridor at the moment and it amends section 101A. Will my hon. Friend please look at it and consider the minor amendments needed to make the changes so that we can give a real boost to those rural communities that need mains drainage?
I understand my hon. Friend's point. He has been active on the matter and recently wrote to us on a number of suggestions. However, if properly maintained, cesspits and cesspit tanks are perfectly environmentally acceptable. I appreciate that there is a cost attached to that and that there is also an issue of rural development. We are happy to explore ways of dealing with the issue if there is a case to do so on cost benefit grounds as well as environmental grounds. One way to do that might be to consider the facility in the English rural development programme in relation to support for rural communities and infrastructure. I shall write to my hon. Friend in more detail on that and am happy to explore the options. We accept that he raises important points.