Can Pere Antoni beach in Palma when it did have a Blue Flag. | R.D.

The row that has erupted over the loss of Blue Flags for fifteen Balearic beaches (offset by the gaining of three) found its way onto regional parliamentary business today.

The leader of Ciudadanos, Xavier Pericay, asked Biel Barceló, the tourism minister, to explain the loss. Barceló told parliament that the Blue Flags were one thing and that water quality was another. "The controls (for quality) are always done. It makes no sense to pay a company for something that is always done."

He went on to say that the organisation responsible for Blue Flags in Spain had asked for a payment of 21,000 euros (18,000 plus VAT). "The government did not consider that this was a priority. It hasn't been paid for three years."

The organisation, ADEAC, has taken exception to Barceló's claim that non-payment was the reason for the loss of flags, pointing out that in Asturias, for example, the number of flags has increased this year, despite the region also not paying. Pericay noted that Asturias hasn't in fact ever paid over thirty years and yet every time has an increased number of flags. He suggested that there should be a resolution to the row and that an independent body should be established to undertake controls for validating beach quality.

Barceló noted that there are 39 beaches in the Balearics which have certification, such as awards from the Spanish association for standards. "There are also unspoiled beaches like Illetes in Formentera and Es Trenc in Majorca which don't have the flag."