§ 3. Mr. Gordon Prentice
To ask the President of the Board of Trade what recent representations he has received regarding the ownership of the electricity and water companies. 
§ Mr. Prentice
Does the Minister agree with his friend and colleague the prince across the water, the right hon. Member for Wokingham (Mr. Redwood), who believes that electricity and water do not mix and, indeed, said as much in The Times on 1 June? Does the Minister further agree with his colleague that British utilities are becoming the adventure playground of corporate capital, that the Government are paralysed by indecision, that there is no clear policy framework and that the Minister is responsible for chaos and confusion throughout that vital part of British industry?
§ Mr. John Marshall
May I ask my right hon. Friend not to pay too much attention to the hon. Member for Pendle (Mr. Prentice), who was such a disaster when he led Hammersmith council? Will my right hon. Friend confirm that, since the water industry entered the private sector, there has been a massive increase in investment, which has led to better quality water supplies?
§ Mr. Battle
In the face of the ad hoc restructuring of the United Kingdom electricity industry, with its daily bids and takeovers, is not the Government's confused for-and-against response simply generating more chaos? On the same day as the Secretary of State overruled the Monopolies and Mergers Commission and blocked PowerGen and National Power's takeover bids, he allowed Eastern to buy some of the generators and form the sort of vertically integrated company to which he says that he is opposed. Will the Minister confirm, as is well known, that he was opposed to that decision by the Secretary of State?
Why is there still no sign of a clear Government strategy or direction? While the mania for bids and takeovers means quick cash for speculators and directors, customers are increasingly becoming a mere afterthought as a result of the Government's approach.
§ Mr. Eggar
Typical customers are benefiting from a reduction in their electricity bills, this year and next, of about £90. That is a clear benefit of privatisation, and there are many others associated with it: improving standards of service in the electricity sector, and doubled investment in the water sector following the massive under-investment under the Labour party in the mid-1970s.
§ Mr. Congdon
Is not the most significant aspect of the ownership of those industries the fact that they have been transferred from the dead hand of state ownership to the dynamic private sector? Does my right hon. Friend agree that the proof of the pudding is in the fact that the old nationalised industries cost the state £50 million a week but now benefit the state to the tune of £55 million a week?