Letter: Stagnant secrecy over clean water

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The Independent Online
Sir: Your leading article 'Clean water, dirty river' (20 December) appears to accept undiluted the bilge that has leaked from the water, pesticides and chemical industries lobby over the past few months. The consumer and the environment, while certainly mentioned, are allowed to languish in a backwater created by the flood of criticism that has been directed at the cost of clean water while having its source in the profits of the industries.

The truth, none the less, does bob to the surface occasionally. All of these European directives that are the subjects of your complaints were adopted unanimously by the ministers, who included British ministers. The urban waste water directive, in particular, was even anticipated in its effect by an announcement by Chris Patten when he was Secretary of State for the Environment. Until recently, British ministers were at pains to tell us how much better their performance was than popular opinion believed. The thing that has changed is that, at least in England and Wales, the water industry is privatised and is keen to pass all costs to the consumer without drawing too much public attention to profits, salaries, dividends, etc.

The European Parliament will be fully involved in any review of these water directives. My committee will listen to the evidence presented to it in the light of scientific, economic and political opinion and will accept revision where it is consistent with the best attainable results for the consumer and the environment.

It is unfair to complain that absurdities are 'European' when, in fact, they were produced by the ultimate absurdity of 12 national ministers reaching agreement in a stagnant pool of secrecy while suffering from as many kinds of tunnel vision as there are member states.

Yours sincerely,



Committee on the Environment

Public Health and Consumer Protection

European Parliament


20 December