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Water Supplies

Mrs. Peacock: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment if he will make a statement on water supply arrangements in England and Wales in the light of the Environment Agency's report published on 1 May. [28062]

Mr. Robert B. Jones: The Environment Agency's report, "Review of Water Company Plans to Safeguard Summer Water Supplies", underlines the exceptional lack of rainfall and consequent impact on water resources in many parts of the country during the past 12 months. It confirms the extent of the measures which the water companies are taking to maintain supplies even if this summer is as dry as last. Over £400 million of capital expenditure has been announced in England and Wales--investment which will be financed without increasing prices to consumers.

The Environment Agency's assessment is that the companies are taking appropriate measures, and that, despite the present level of many reservoirs and aquifers, these measures should be sufficient to enable essential supplies to be maintained in all areas even through a hot, dry summer. But there is no room for complacency and, should dry weather continue into the autumn, further measures could be required.

On 1 September last year, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State announced that he was putting in hand, with the agency, the Director General of Water Services and representatives of the water companies, a review of water resources and water supply in the longer term. This work is continuing and we expect to publish a report later in the summer.

Provided, that the costs of supply are met, the environment is properly protected, and waste is avoided, the aim should be to provide consumers with the water they want. Within the framework of sustainable development, it will, however, be necessary to make sometimes difficult choices about the extent to which supply should be guaranteed in extreme droughts for inessential as well as for essential purposes. These are matters on which there is a need for dialogue between companies and their customers, in the light of the costs and benefits of different levels of security of supply.

The work on the review so far suggests that the basic framework for making water resource and supply decisions is sound, and the water companies, the Office of Water Services and the Environment Agency, with the involvement of the Government where necessary, should be able to reach satisfactory decisions on the management of existing resources and the provision of the resources

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where needed. In planning and managing water resources and supply, particular attention needs to be given to the following points:

The director general proposes to put to my right hon. Friend shortly proposals for changes in arrangements for compensation of consumers for failures of supply.

Marsham Street Offices

Mr. Nigel Jones: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment (1) what has been the cost to date of the scaffolding provided for the work on his Department's offices in Marsham street; what is the expected total cost; what tendering procedures applied to the contract for the supply of scaffolding; who was the successful tenderer; and if he will make a statement; [27053]

Mr. Freeman: I have been asked to reply.

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As these are purely operational matters, I have asked the chief executive of the Property Advisers Civil Estate to write directly to the hon. Member.

Letter from N. E. Borrett to Mr. Nigel Jones, dated 30 April 1996:


Ashley Health Underpass

Mrs. Maddock: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport when work on the Ashley Health underpass on the A31 in Dorset began; when it was originally scheduled to be completed; when it is currently scheduled to be completed; and if he will make a statement. [27454]

Mr. Watts: I have asked the Chief Executive of the Highways Agency to write to the hon. Member.

Letter from Lawrie Haynes to Ms Diana Maddock, dated 1 May 1996:

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