Sewerage Provision

Oral Answers to Questions — Environment, Food and Rural Affairs – in the House of Commons at 11:30 am on 15th May 2003.

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Photo of Stephen Ladyman Stephen Ladyman Labour, South Thanet 11:30 am, 15th May 2003

What plans she has to change the law to make it easier for water companies to provide mains sewerage to rural villages.

Photo of Elliot Morley Elliot Morley Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

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.

Photo of Stephen Ladyman Stephen Ladyman Labour, South Thanet

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?

Photo of Elliot Morley Elliot Morley Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

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.