Water company attacks Meacher

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The Independent Online
A water company has taken out a national-newspaper advertisement to make an unusually direct and aggressive attack on an "inaccurate" report by Michael Meacher, Labour's spokesman on environmental protection.

In a recent Labour report on Britain's dirtiest beaches, he said bathing at some resorts was almost like "swimming in raw sewage". Some beaches mentioned were the responsibility of North West Water, described as the worst offenders.

The report, based on National Rivers Authority data, said bathers risked gastro-enteritis and diarrhoea because of pollution that was in some places100 times the safe level.

In an almost full-page advertisement headed: "An open invitation to Michael Meacher MP and the Labour Party from North West Water", the company responds in today's Independent (in an advertisement on page 8) by saying the MP had "neglected to point out that his report is based largely on some very old facts and figures" which would "damage the development of tourism ... To bring the Shadow Environmental Protection Secretary up to date, and avert any further damage to North West tourism, here are some 1996 facts and figures for him to digest before his next public outpouring."

The advertisement then lists sewage-treatment and environmental measures implemented over the past two years. "If misinformation is to be the basis of Mr Meacher's future reports to voters there is little we ... can do to stop him," it says. "However, we believe the public deserve something better - the truth" It ends by extending an "invitation" to Mr Meacher and colleagues to "come and see what has been achieved ... "We (their underline) have nothing to hide from anybody," it ends.

Mr Meacher was unavailable for comment last night.