Water Bill [HL]
Baroness Byford (Conservative)
My Lords, the amendment has been relayed simply because, on Report, I asked the Minister a series of questions aimed at eliciting the facts behind the Government's proposals to reduce the seven-year time limit to four years.
At the time, as reported in Hansard on 12th June at col. 428, the noble Lord admitted that he could not answer most of my questions. My noble friend says that there were an awful lot of them. That is a most unsatisfactory, not to say arbitrary, state of affairs. The Government have almost halved the length of time that a licence holder can retain a licence without using it and still be eligible for compensation if that licence is amended or revoked.
At the same time, the Government cannot explain their rationale for the action. They did not calculate the four years. They do not know what will happen to a farmer who loses his licence and then needs it again for perfectly good agricultural reasons. So far as I can see, they do not plan to allow water undertakers to refuse to supply water for a new build, even where the local supply is under great stress. Will a farmer needing water have a higher priority than a property developer or someone who washes cars? There has been no direction whatever. Which will come first? Will it be first come, first served?
Apparently, the Government have no estimates of the good things that may be expected to flow from those restrictions: good news for the environment, tourism and the countryside. I hope that the Minister will be able to give us a more satisfactory answer than we had on Report. I beg to move.