Previous Section Home Page

Column 737

The Government have also argued that we need investment. If so, what is the essential difference between from 12 water authorities working in the marketplace, borrowing in the marketplace and delivering a service and three super-quangos operating in the marketplace but still subject to the same PSBR constraints as the current regional authorities in Scotland ? If the Secretary of State were being honest, he would tell us that there is no difference. There is an ideological preference for three super-quangos with appointees from the Secretary of State, but it makes no sense in terms of efficiency, effectiveness and value for money for Scottish consumers, who currently enjoy all three qualities in great abundance.

7 pm

The Government can end the water torture and we can end the Tory turmoil. Far be it from the Opposition to give the Government a way out, but we are telling the Government, on behalf of the Scottish people, that there is a way out ; they can start to resurrect their political fortunes in Scotland if they merely accept the wisdom of our advice.

Let me state again--before the Minister, who is desperate to get on his feet, rises to finish the debate--the simple proposition : why not have 12 water authorities, comprising elected members whom we trust with £7.5 billion-worth of expenditure every year on vital services such as education, police, fire and every other service ? Are we really saying to the Scots and to elected councillors that we simply cannot trust them to run water and sewerage services ? Surely not. I hope that the Secretary of State remains conscious of the figures imprinted on every Conservative mind --that in the Strathclyde water referendum 1.1 million people did not say no to privatisation ; they said no to the crazy, half-baked proposals for three super-quangos and a grudging acceptance of councillors. We will certainly have none of that. The Scots agree with us, and that is why we will divide the House on this important new clause.

Mr. Stewart : First, on behalf of my hon. Friend the Member for Dumfries (Sir H. Monro), may I thank Opposition Members for their best wishes to Lady Monro ? Secondly, I welcome the debate, in which a number of important and constructive points have been made. We shall return to the particular point raised by the hon. Members for Linlithgow (Mr. Dalyell) and for Midlothian (Mr. Clarke) about the water pollution problems caused by abandoned coal mines. We have heard a number of rumbustious speeches, including that of the hon. Member for Fife, Central (Mr. McLeish). He will forgive me if I regard his advice on how the Tory party should increase its vote in Scotland with a wry smile. I am not sure that he is the best source of advice on these matters.

The hon. Member for Glasgow, Provan (Mr. Wray) put the case for what the Government were proposing extremely well. We need extra finance for water and sewerage in Scotland. There needs to be a partnership between the public and the private sector in order to achieve that.

It is a practical problem, not a problem of ideology. Hon. Members, including the hon. Member for Banff and Buchan (Mr. Salmond), have talked about privatisation and asked for an assurance that there will be no privatisation of water and sewerage in future. I say simply that the answer

Column 738

that the Government are proposing to the practical problem of the need for extra finance in water and sewerage--the problem is sewerage, not water--means that there is simply no need for privatisation in Scotland in future. There is clearly a need for a new structure which maximises the benefits of economies of scale.

What is the essential difference then between the two sides of the House, given acceptance by Opposition Members that the new amendments on disconnections clear that matter up without any equivocation ? It is about the number of councillors on the new water authorities. Opposition Members take the view that all members of the new authorities should be councillors, but we believe that there should be a partnership and that, as my hon. Friend the Member for Dumfries reassured the Committee, there should be a significant number of councillors on the new authorities, but that it would be unreasonable to bind the Secretary of State on specific numbers, and that other people also have the right to be considered on merit for the new authorities.

I believe that we are putting forward a practical solution to a practical problem, and I therefore recommend that the House does not accept new clause 1.

Question put, That the clause be read a Second time :

The House divided : Ayes 244, Noes 278.

Division No. 240] [7.06 pm


Abbott, Ms Diane

Adams, Mrs Irene

Ainger, Nick

Ainsworth, Robert (Cov'try NE)

Allen, Graham

Alton, David

Anderson, Ms Janet (Ros'dale)

Armstrong, Hilary

Ashdown, Rt Hon Paddy

Austin-Walker, John

Barnes, Harry

Barron, Kevin

Battle, John

Beckett, Rt Hon Margaret

Beith, Rt Hon A. J.

Benn, Rt Hon Tony

Benton, Joe

Bermingham, Gerald

Berry, Roger

Blair, Tony

Blunkett, David

Boyes, Roland

Bradley, Keith

Bray, Dr Jeremy

Brown, Gordon (Dunfermline E)

Brown, N. (N'c'tle upon Tyne E)

Burden, Richard

Byers, Stephen

Caborn, Richard

Callaghan, Jim

Campbell, Mrs Anne (C'bridge)

Campbell, Menzies (Fife NE)

Campbell, Ronnie (Blyth V)

Campbell-Savours, D. N.

Canavan, Dennis

Cann, Jamie

Carlile, Alexander (Montgomry)

Chisholm, Malcolm

Clapham, Michael

Clark, Dr David (South Shields)

Clarke, Eric (Midlothian)

Clarke, Tom (Monklands W)

Clelland, David

Clwyd, Mrs Ann

Coffey, Ann

Connarty, Michael

Cook, Frank (Stockton N)

Cook, Robin (Livingston)

Corbett, Robin

Corbyn, Jeremy

Corston, Ms Jean

Cousins, Jim

Cox, Tom

Cunningham, Jim (Covy SE)

Cunningham, Rt Hon Dr John

Dalyell, Tam

Darling, Alistair

Davidson, Ian

Davies, Bryan (Oldham C'tral)

Davies, Rt Hon Denzil (Llanelli)

Davies, Ron (Caerphilly)

Davis, Terry (B'ham, H'dge H'l)

Dixon, Don

Dobson, Frank

Donohoe, Brian H.

Dowd, Jim

Dunnachie, Jimmy

Eagle, Ms Angela

Eastham, Ken

Etherington, Bill

Evans, John (St Helens N)

Ewing, Mrs Margaret

Fatchett, Derek

Field, Frank (Birkenhead)

Fisher, Mark

Flynn, Paul

Foster, Rt Hon Derek

Foulkes, George

Fraser, John

Fyfe, Maria

Galloway, George

Gapes, Mike

Garrett, John

George, Bruce

Gerrard, Neil

Gilbert, Rt Hon Dr John

Godman, Dr Norman A.

Godsiff, Roger

Golding, Mrs Llin

Graham, Thomas

Grant, Bernie (Tottenham)

Griffiths, Nigel (Edinburgh S)

Next Section

  Home Page