To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
(1) what assessment she has made of the impact of a £5 billion reduction in water company investment in environmental improvements on the United Kingdom's ability to meet its legal obligations to nature conservation sites; and if she will make a statement;
(2) what representations she has received from the Environment Agency regarding the consequences of reducing investment by the water industry in environmental improvement; and if she will make a statement.
The Government are committed to the maintenance or restoration of internationally and nationally important nature conservation sites, including Natura 2000, Ramsar and Sites of Special Scientific Interest. An assessment of water company programmes' effects on these areas, already under way, will be kept under review.
The Government published guidance on the contribution expected from water company investment to meeting the United Kingdom's legal obligations in the Secretary of State's Initial Guidance on the Periodic Review in January 2003. The Secretary of State's Principal Guidance on the Periodic Review, which will be published shortly.
The Secretary of State received formal written advice on the environment programme for the Periodic Review 2004 from the Environment Agency in November 2003. Both the Secretary of State and I have also had meetings and correspondence with the Environment Agency and English Nature to discuss the proposed environment programme.