I beg to move, That this House doth agree with the Lords in the said amendment.
The Government gave an undertaking on Report that they would table a suitable amendment in another place in response to an amendment seeking to ensure that consumer bodies representing the interests of those affected by the trials were consulted. As a result of that undertaking, clause 4 was amended in the other place so that one of the matters to which the Secretary of State must have regard in considering whether to approve a metering trials scheme, in addition to consultation with those affected or likely to be affected by the scheme, which was the then position, should he consultation with any bodies representing their interests. Thus, consultation may be extended to include, for example, such bodies as the National Consumer Council, citizens advice bureaux and organisations such as local branches of the RNIB, Age Concern and Help the Aged. I stress that these are purely examples. It will be up to each undertaker to consider which bodies it would be appropriate to consult in each case, and for the Secretary of State to have regard to whether that consultation appears appropriate. This provides for a common-sense view, in all the circumstances, of which representative bodies it is reasonable to consult.
The amendment, by referring simply to bodies, rather than consumer bodies representing the interests of those persons affected by the scheme, goes wider than the amendment originally proposed by Opposition Members in the other place. That is because we felt that the term "consumer bodies" was imprecise, or, to put it another way, a bit woolly. Some important bodies, which the Government would expect water undertakers to consult, might not always fit such a description. An obvious example would be a local authority representing the interests of its tenants, or a social services client, resident in a trials area. Clearly, local authorities are not consumer bodies, but they represent—at least I hope they do—the interests of their tenants and social services clients.
The amendment is not complex, nor will it change the Bill in a radical way. However, it serves to emphasise the importance that the Government attach to full and proper consultation on the trials. I hope that it answers the concerns that were expressed by Members of both Opposition parties represented in the House tonight and that we shall not disagree with the thrust of the amendment, which I recommend to the House.