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Column 527

environmental standards, but we should not allow the false picture of the present state of our water environment so sedulously painted by Labour Members to gain acceptance. They lost no opportunity to denigrate the state of our environment, but their charges, in this as in so many other cases, are very wide of the mark. They say that we have the dirtiest rivers in Europe. They are wrong. We have the highest standards of river quality in the European Community, with the exception of the Irish Republic and possibly Holland. They say that we have the dirtiest beaches in Europe, but they are wrong. We are making steady progress in cleaning our beaches. We are the only member of the European Community that has drawn up a clear and defined table and programme for securing compliance with the European bathing water directive.

Mr. Paul Boateng (Brent, South) : The hon. and learned Gentleman is going at a fine old lick, but could we have some intellectual content?

Mr. Howard : If the hon. Gentleman is not interested in the state of our rivers or beaches, he is typical of the general attitude of the Opposition. I am dealing with the facts.

Dr. Cunningham : As the Minister of State unusually is dealing with facts, perhaps he can deal with this one. If what he says about our position in Europe is true, why have we been singled out by the European Commission for more prosecutions in respect of drinking water quality and bathing water quality than all the other member states put together?

Mr. Howard : That is not right either. That is another of the hon. Gentleman's errors. That is as wide of the mark as any of the other charges that the hon. Gentleman delights in peddling. The fact is that we are making substantial progress in improving our water environment and have reached far higher standards than most of the other countries in Europe.

I shall give the hon. Member for Copeland some more facts. We have more of our households connected to a main sewerage system than has any other country in Europe. We have more of our sewage treated before disposal than has any other country in Europe. We have no need whatever to be ashamed of our record.

However, I want to come to the record of the Opposition. It was identified in the clearest possible terms in the report of the Select Committee, chaired by my hon. Friend the Member for Hornsey and Wood Green (Sir H. Rossi), and supported and signed by the hon. Member for Bootle, who was a member of the Committee. The Committee said : "There are a number of reasons why water authority effluents fall short of the present consent standards. The most immediate reason is because from the mid-1970s until the early 1980s there was a steady drop in investment by the water authorities in sewerage and sewage disposal."

The undisputed facts are that, when the Opposition were in power, investment by the water authorities fell by one third and investment in sewerage and sewage disposal fell by one half. Those are the facts. The Opposition like to convey the impression that those events took place in a far-off distant period of which they know nothing, but many of them were here. The hon. Member for Dewsbury was a Member of the House, albeit for a different constituency. Perhaps she would like to remind the House of the occasions when she rose during those years to


Column 528

protest against those cuts and against the damage to the environment that they caused. The hon. Member for Copeland was here, too.

Mrs. Ann Taylor rose --

Mr. Howard : Perhaps the hon. Lady will answer the question that I posed to her.

Mrs. Taylor : Before the Minister gets carried away, perhaps he would reflect on what he was not happy to discuss earlier : the actual levels of investment under a Labour Government compared with the actual levels of investment under a Conservative Government. The average level of investment under the last Labour Government between 1974 and 1979 was £1,254 million per year. The average investment under the Conservative Government has been £922 million per year. In no year since 1978-79 has investment under the Conservative Government reached the level of investment under the Labour Government. For the Minister to suggest that the problems faced by this industry today are the responsibility of the Labour Government is to ignore the fact that this Government have been in office for 10 of the last 14 years and that they have been-- [Interruption.] The Parliamentary Secretary to the Treasury (Mr. David Waddington) rose in his place and claimed to move, That the Question be now put.

Question, That the Question be now put, put and agreed to. Question put accordingly, That the Bill be now read a Second time :--

The House divided : Ayes 301, Noes 241.

Divison No. 11] [9.59 pm

AYES

Alexander, Richard

Amery, Rt Hon Julian

Arbuthnot, James

Arnold, Jacques (Gravesham)

Arnold, Tom (Hazel Grove)

Ashby, David

Baker, Nicholas (Dorset N)

Baldry, Tony

Banks, Robert (Harrogate)

Bellingham, Henry

Bottomley, Peter

Bowden, Gerald (Dulwich)

Bowis, John

Braine, Rt Hon Sir Bernard

Brandon-Bravo, Martin

Bright, Graham

Brooke, Rt Hon Peter

Brown, Michael (Brigg & Cl't's)

Bruce, Ian (Dorset South)

Buck, Sir Antony

Budgen, Nicholas

Burns, Simon

Burt, Alistair

Butcher, John

Butler, Chris

Butterfill, John

Carlisle, John, (Luton N)

Carrington, Matthew

Carttiss, Michael

Cash, William

Chalker, Rt Hon Mrs Lynda

Chapman, Sydney

Chope, Christopher

Churchill, Mr

Clark, Hon Alan (Plym'th S'n)

Clark, Dr Michael (Rochford)

Clark, Sir W. (Croydon S)

Clarke, Rt Hon K. (Rushcliffe)

Conway, Derek

Coombs, Anthony (Wyre F'rest)

Coombs, Simon (Swindon)

Cope, Rt Hon John

Cormack, Patrick

Couchman, James

Cran, James

Currie, Mrs Edwina

Davies, Q. (Stamf'd & Spald'g)

Davis, David (Boothferry)

Day, Stephen

Devlin, Tim

Dicks, Terry

Dorrell, Stephen

Douglas-Hamilton, Lord James

Dover, Den

Dunn, Bob

Durant, Tony

Dykes, Hugh

Emery, Sir Peter

Evans, David (Welwyn Hatf'd)

Evennett, David

Fallon, Michael

Favell, Tony

Field, Barry (Isle of Wight)

Fookes, Miss Janet

Forman, Nigel

Forsyth, Michael (Stirling)

Forth, Eric

Fowler, Rt Hon Norman

Fox, Sir Marcus

Franks, Cecil

Freeman, Roger

French, Douglas

Fry, Peter

Gale, Roger


Column 529

Gardiner, George

Garel-Jones, Tristan

Gill, Christopher

Glyn, Dr Alan

Goodhart, Sir Philip

Goodlad, Alastair

Goodson-Wickes, Dr Charles

Gorman, Mrs Teresa

Gorst, John

Gow, Ian

Gower, Sir Raymond

Grant, Sir Anthony (CambsSW)

Greenway, Harry (Ealing N)

Greenway, John (Ryedale)

Gregory, Conal

Griffiths, Peter (Portsmouth N)

Grist, Ian

Ground, Patrick

Grylls, Michael

Gummer, Rt Hon John Selwyn

Hamilton, Neil (Tatton)

Hampson, Dr Keith

Hanley, Jeremy

Hannam, John

Hargreaves, A. (B'ham H'll Gr')

Hargreaves, Ken (Hyndburn)

Harris, David

Haselhurst, Alan

Hayhoe, Rt Hon Sir Barney

Hayward, Robert

Heathcoat-Amory, David

Heddle, John

Heseltine, Rt Hon Michael

Hicks, Mrs Maureen (Wolv' NE)

Hicks, Robert (Cornwall SE)

Higgins, Rt Hon Terence L.

Hill, James

Hind, Kenneth

Hogg, Hon Douglas (Gr'th'm)

Holt, Richard

Hordern, Sir Peter

Howard, Michael

Howarth, G. (Cannock & B'wd)

Howell, Rt Hon David (G'dford)

Howell, Ralph (North Norfolk)

Hughes, Robert G. (Harrow W)

Hunt, David (Wirral W)

Hunter, Andrew

Irvine, Michael

Irving, Charles

Jack, Michael

Jackson, Robert

Janman, Tim

Jessel, Toby

Johnson Smith, Sir Geoffrey

Jones, Gwilym (Cardiff N)

Jones, Robert B (Herts W)

Jopling, Rt Hon Michael

Key, Robert

King, Roger (B'ham N'thfield)

King, Rt Hon Tom (Bridgwater)

Kirkhope, Timothy

Knapman, Roger

Knight, Greg (Derby North)

Knight, Dame Jill (Edgbaston)

Knowles, Michael

Knox, David

Lamont, Rt Hon Norman

Lang, Ian

Latham, Michael

Lawrence, Ivan

Lawson, Rt Hon Nigel

Lee, John (Pendle)

Lennox-Boyd, Hon Mark

Lester, Jim (Broxtowe)

Lightbown, David

Lilley, Peter

Lloyd, Sir Ian (Havant)

Lloyd, Peter (Fareham)

Lord, Michael

Luce, Rt Hon Richard

Lyell, Sir Nicholas

McCrindle, Robert

Macfarlane, Sir Neil

MacKay, Andrew (E Berkshire)

Maclean, David

McLoughlin, Patrick

McNair-Wilson, Sir Michael

McNair-Wilson, P. (New Forest)

Madel, David

Major, Rt Hon John

Malins, Humfrey

Mans, Keith

Maples, John

Marland, Paul

Marlow, Tony

Marshall, John (Hendon S)

Marshall, Michael (Arundel)

Martin, David (Portsmouth S)

Mates, Michael

Maude, Hon Francis

Mawhinney, Dr Brian

Mayhew, Rt Hon Sir Patrick

Mellor, David

Miller, Sir Hal

Mills, Iain

Miscampbell, Norman

Mitchell, Andrew (Gedling)

Mitchell, Sir David

Moate, Roger

Monro, Sir Hector

Montgomery, Sir Fergus


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