§ 14. Mr. Freeman
asked the Secretary of State for the Environment what progress has been made by water authorities in further trials of universal residential metering.
§ Mr. John Patten
Following consultations on the Watts report. the water industry is developing a coordinated programme of trials.
§ Mr. Freeman
Bearing in mind the Government's excellent proposals for the abolition of the residential rating system, does my hon. Friend agree that the water authorities should now be giving urgent consideration to the introduction of universal metering as the only viable alternative system?
§ Mr. Patten
I congratulate my hon. Friend on his excellent question, and I have read and greatly admired his pamphlet on water metering. If domestic rating is abolished, clearly we must replace it with some other basis for charging for the water industry. That could well be via water metering. That is why we need well conducted trials to consider the pros and cons of water metering as a method of charging fairly for water.
§ Mr. Boyes
Are the Government not aiming to change the whole nature of the water authorities before the metering experiment takes place? Are chairmen of water authorities not informing the elected representatives that their services will no longer be needed because they are to be replaced with a number of full-time executives? The Labour party condemns the loss of the elected representatives of the water authorities. How, and from where, will the Minister choose the full-time executives? Is it not disgraceful, unacceptable and disgusting that the Government will be changing the nature of water authorities before Parliament has had an opportunity to debate the matter and decide its attitude to the water authorities?
§ Mr. Patten
The answers to the hon. Gentleman's questions are no, no, no and no. I cannot see the link between his questions and the question on water metering.