Water Bill [HL]

– in the House of Lords at 9:47 pm on 9th July 2003.

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Votes in this debate

Report received in respect of fluoridation.

Clause 102 [Interpretation, commencement, short title, and extent]:

Photo of The Countess of Mar The Countess of Mar Crossbench 9:54 pm, 9th July 2003

moved the Amendment:

Page 123, line 4, at end insert "save that section 58A shall not come into force until the results of the research into the effects of water fluoridation, as recommended by the Chief Medical Officer and the Chief Dental Officer, have been published"

Photo of The Countess of Mar The Countess of Mar Crossbench

My Lords, in moving this amendment in the absence of my noble friend Lord Baldwin, I believe that noble Lords who were here for the Committee (on recommitment) will have heard my noble friend's very full speech on the subject of the York committee review. I understand from that review that the Chief Medical Officer and the Chief Dental Officer have stated that they will announce in the autumn several research projects into the effects of water fluoridation.

Our amendment is very simple. It asks that the implementation of the amendment that we debated earlier be delayed until the results of the research are published. There is not much more that I can say. Noble Lords know of my concerns about these products. It is clear that the Chief Medical Officer and the Chief Dental Officer are aware that there are problems. In fact, there has already been one advertisement for a research specification on a question that we have discussed thoroughly: whether natural fluoride is the same as that which is added to our tap-water supplies, whether they are both bio-available in the same way and whether the effects are the same.

I am very pleased that my noble friend has returned, because he knows much more about the subject than I do. I beg to move.

Photo of Earl Baldwin of Bewdley Earl Baldwin of Bewdley Crossbench

My Lords, this amendment is tabled in my name. I understood that we were to resume at half-past ten, so I am not quite sure what has happened on this. But that is why I am late. I apologise for having missed my noble friend's remarks, but I will say very briefly what I was going to say.

The reason for this is a worry about the state of the science before anything is even put to the local authorities or whoever they are going to be. The Chief Medical Officer and the Chief Dental Officer are currently considering what advice on research to give to government. That probably will not be until the autumn. I do hope those who favour fluoridation can accept the need for more research which the two major reports have shown, in which case I should be grateful if they would consider the contradiction there seems to be in conceding that we do not know enough about fluoride and yet allowing further schemes to go ahead.

Basically, I do not feel that things should be even put in front of local communities until we know a great deal more about safety and efficacy. I go back to what I said earlier in the evening: do you want your policy to be based on good science or do you not?

I have three final points just to illustrate this. Both the major reports that we have had—York and the MRC—have recommended significant research into the effects of fluoridation. That may be a surprise to some of your Lordships from the briefings, because they do not tend to appear in it, but it is the case, and it is those that the chief officers are looking at.

The present evidence, as I think I said before, would not be good enough for even a medical drug. In answer to the noble Baroness, Lady Cumberlege, who is almost in her place, it was not a question of looking for endless research. The York reviewers, who are very experienced in this game, as this is what they do—they carry out systematic reviews—found that in the case of fluoridation, it was unusually bad, both in quality and in quantity. So that is the basis on which they think there should be more research. At present, it would not underpin a normal drug.

My third and final point, just to remind your Lordships what I said earlier, is that the present evidence of fluoride—I have this on the authority of the senior researcher at York—is actually less good than for HRT's cardio-protective effects, which turned out to be wrong.

Photo of Baroness O'Cathain Baroness O'Cathain Conservative

My Lords, I am sorry that I was not present at the beginning of the debate. Have the noble Earl and the noble Countess any idea of how long it would take for the results of research into the effects of water fluoridation to be published?

Photo of Earl Baldwin of Bewdley Earl Baldwin of Bewdley Crossbench

No, my Lords, I have not, and I do not believe that we should be influenced by that if we are serious about science and being sure of what effects it has. I do not know.

Photo of Baroness Gardner of Parkes Baroness Gardner of Parkes Conservative

My Lords, I am not sure how long the processes and so forth that we spoke about earlier would take, but there will be plenty of time for all that happen. In no way should we accept the amendment.

Photo of Baroness O'Cathain Baroness O'Cathain Conservative 10:00 pm, 9th July 2003

My Lords, I wish to make a couple of comments on the hot copy—as I think it was described—of the amendments that have been put down by the noble Earl, Lord Baldwin of Bewdley, and the noble Countess, Lady Mar.

I seek clarification from the Government. We had a good debate in our earlier discussions about whether the research that has been carried out to date was adequate. Several people made the point that the amount of research was not adequate, so I have some sympathy with this amendment.

In his contribution earlier, the noble Earl, Lord Baldwin of Bewdley, said that a lack of evidence was not an excuse. I accept that and think that research should be undertaken. Noble Lords know that, although I spoke to the amendment moved by the Minister earlier, my question is still whether we should push ahead or not. I hope that he agrees that getting up-to-date and accurate scientific research is in everybody's interests. I hope that, even if he cannot accept this amendment, the Minister will view it in a constructive way. There are outstanding questions relating to fluoridation and I would be grateful for some explanation.

Photo of Baroness Miller of Chilthorne Domer Baroness Miller of Chilthorne Domer Liberal Democrat

My Lords, we on these Benches certainly have sympathy with this amendment, especially with the fact that it will be difficult to conduct a proper public consultation and debate on whether people want their water to be fluoridated without receiving the evidence. I hope that the Government will seriously consider the spirit of this amendment and be as positive as they can.

Photo of Lord Turnberg Lord Turnberg Labour

My Lords, I agree entirely that the research would be very helpful and we should ensure that it goes ahead. However, I am not sure that we should delay any longer, because I suspect that such research would take rather a long time to complete. Furthermore, we will never have enough research to convince everybody. That is one of the problems. The question is whether we have enough research evidence to go ahead now, and I believe that we do.

Photo of Lord Warner Lord Warner Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Department of Health, Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department of Health)

My Lords, we are certainly not anti-science, as I hoped I indicated in earlier stages of our debate. However, we believe that the amendment is unnecessary. As I thought I had made clear earlier, we have asked the Chief Medical Officer and the Chief Dental Officer to consider the implications for government policy on fluoridation of the MRC report mentioned in the scientific briefing paper. In fact, on their recommendation, we have already commissioned a research study on the absorption of fluoride and expect the CMO and the CDO to recommend further research. However, there is a lot in what my noble friend Lord Turnberg has just said.

I repeat the assurances that I have already given to the House. We will not enable strategic health authorities to engage in any consultation before we have the reports from the CMO and the CDO and the results of the research on absorption that I mentioned.

I remind noble Lords that we cannot lay any regulations on the consultation process before the Water Bill has completed its passage in November at the earliest—and at the rate at which we are proceeding today, who knows? As I said, we expect the CMO's report and the research report on absorption by then. I hope that noble Lords will accept the assurances that I have given. We do not believe that this amendment is necessary.

Photo of The Countess of Mar The Countess of Mar Crossbench

My Lords, I thank the noble Lords who have taken part in this debate. Noble Lords will know that I have every reason to be sceptical about the results of scientific reports. I have had enough experience over the past 10 years with organophosphates not to believe everything that I am told. On organophosphates, I was proved right. I sincerely hope that that is not the case with fluoride.

In view of the assurances that the noble Lord gave me about the length of time—I hope that my noble friend will agree with me—I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Photo of Lord Grocott Lord Grocott Chief Whip (House of Lords), HM Household, Captain of the Honourable Corps of Gentlemen-at-Arms (HM Household) (Chief Whip, House of Lords) 10:05 pm, 9th July 2003

My Lords, I have it in command from Her Majesty the Queen and His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales to acquaint the House that they, having been informed of the purport of the Water Bill [HL], have consented to place their prerogative and interests, so far as they are affected by the Bill, at the disposal of Parliament for the purposes of the Bill.

Bill read a third time.

Photo of Baroness Miller of Chilthorne Domer Baroness Miller of Chilthorne Domer Liberal Democrat

moved Amendment No. 1:

Before Clause 1, insert the following new clause—

:TITLE3:"Water conservation

WATER CONSERVATION DUTY FOR ALL PUBLIC BODIES

It is the duty of—

(a) any Minister of the Crown (within the meaning of the Ministers of the Crown Act 1975 (c. 26);

(b) any government department;

(c) the National Assembly for Wales;

(d) a person holding office—

(i) under the Crown;

(ii) created or continued in existence by a public general Act of Parliament; or

(iii) the remuneration in respect of which is paid out of money provided by Parliament;

(iv) a statutory undertaker (meaning the persons referred to in section 262(1), (3) and (6) of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 (c. 8)); and

(v) any other public body of any description; in carrying out his or its functions, to have regard, so far as is consistent with the proper exercise of those functions, to the purpose of furthering the conservation of water."

Photo of Baroness Miller of Chilthorne Domer Baroness Miller of Chilthorne Domer Liberal Democrat

My Lords, I note that Amendment No. 1, which would place a water conservation duty on all public bodies, has been met almost totally, I think, by the government amendment that is grouped with it, Amendment No. 41. For that, I thank the Minister warmly. I am sure that it was hard work getting the agreement of all departments to it. It fulfils Defra's role of getting sustainability throughout government departments. It furthers that purpose.

I warmly welcome the government amendment, but I have one slight concern that, I am sure, the Minister will answer. In Amendment No. 41, what does the phrase "where relevant" mean? I presume that, wherever water is supplied, conservation will be relevant. I beg to move.

Photo of Lord Whitty Lord Whitty Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) (Food, Farming and Sustainable Energy)

My Lords, I welcome what the noble Baroness said. The phrase "where relevant" relates to some of the other activities of public bodies that are not particularly relevant to the issue of resources and conservation. In all areas—administrative effort and so on—in which it is relevant, Amendment No. 41 will cover it.

The amendment will place an obligation on all public authorities, not only in their own activities but in activities relating to other people—for example, planning, which we will come to later. The amendment meets the objectives that the noble Baroness and others identified in previous debates. I hope that, when we come to it, we will get support for Amendment No. 41.

Photo of Baroness Miller of Chilthorne Domer Baroness Miller of Chilthorne Domer Liberal Democrat

My Lords, I thank the Minister for his reply. It gives me great pleasure to withdraw the amendment. I beg leave to withdraw.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 5 [Existing impounding works]:

Photo of Baroness Byford Baroness Byford Conservative

moved Amendment No. 2:

Page 5, line 32, leave out "otherwise" and insert "in relation to England"

Photo of Baroness Byford Baroness Byford Conservative

My Lords, we return to the issue that I raised earlier. The amendment was tabled to draw to the Minister's attention the statement that he made on Report, when he said:

"while considering the totality of the territorial definitions, we have found that we may need to table our own amendments on other issues, including, for example, the fact that the Scilly Isles have been left out".—[Official Report, 12/6/03; col. 363.]

Will the Minister tell us what is happening on that front and why there does not seem to be a relevant government amendment? I beg to move.

Photo of Lord Whitty Lord Whitty Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) (Food, Farming and Sustainable Energy)

My Lords, the noble Baroness is right. I must hold up my hands. The discussions with the devolved administrations and others, to which I referred, on how we should put it in the Bill have not yet been completed. As the main point of the previous discussion is raised in the amendment, I am prepared to accept the amendment, on the strict understanding that we have to tidy it up in another place.

Photo of Baroness Byford Baroness Byford Conservative

My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister. It seems such a small point, but it is important. With that assurance, I am happy to beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 8 [Rights to abstract small quantities]:

Photo of Lord Whitty Lord Whitty Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) (Food, Farming and Sustainable Energy)

My Lords, in moving Amendment No. 3, I shall speak also to the other amendments in the group. They all relate to the system of protected rights and are technical or consequential in nature. A protected right is a device that operates to protect existing abstractors against later licensed abstractors and is touched on in a number of other amendments. Essentially, they are clarification or consequences thereof. I shall happily respond to any questions on the individual amendments. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Photo of Lord Whitty Lord Whitty Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) (Food, Farming and Sustainable Energy)

moved Amendment No. 4:

Page 9, line 34, at end insert—

"( ) An order under subsection (1) above may include provision for or in relation to the payment by the Agency of compensation, in cases specified in the order, to a person who—

(a) immediately before the making of an order under subsection (1) above, had been in a position to carry out an abstraction to which, by virtue of section 27(1) above, the restriction on abstraction did not apply;

(b) following the making of that order, requires a licence under this Chapter in order to carry out that abstraction; and

(c) has suffered loss or damage as a result of his having been—

(i) refused such a licence in respect of that abstraction; or

(ii) granted such a licence, but in respect of an abstraction of more limited extent than the one he had been in a position to carry out."

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 9 [Rights to abstract for drainage purposes, etc]:

Photo of Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton Government Whip

moved Amendment No. 5:

Page 10, line 22, leave out from "prevent" to end of line 23 and insert "an immediate risk—

(a) to a human being of death, personal injury or harm to health;"

Photo of Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton Government Whip

My Lords, Amendments Nos. 5, 27 and 28 are minor technical amendments which make changes to the drafting of Clauses 9 and 29, which we signalled we would do on Report. Should any noble Lords wish to ask questions, I will of course seek to answer them. I beg to move.

Photo of Lord Dixon-Smith Lord Dixon-Smith Conservative

My Lords, I rise briefly simply to say that these amendments are welcome. They are as a result of pressure that we exerted at earlier stages. It is good to see them here. I need say no more.

Photo of Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton Government Whip

My Lords, we were listening. I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Dixon-Smith, for that.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 12 [Orders under section 33 of the WRA, etc]:

Photo of Lord Whitty Lord Whitty Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) (Food, Farming and Sustainable Energy)

moved Amendments Nos. 6 and 7:

Page 14, line 28, at end insert—

"and references in this section (however expressed) to the revocation of an exception order are to be construed accordingly." Page 14, leave out lines 35 to 46 and insert—

"(5) An order under this section may make provision, subject to any conditions or limitations specified in the order—

(a) for the restriction on abstraction (and, in the case of abstractions from underground strata, the other restrictions in section 24 of the WRA) to continue not to apply to an abstraction despite the revocation of the exception order;

(b) for a person to be taken to continue to have a right to abstract water, for the purposes of Chapter 2 of Part 2 of the WRA, to the same extent he was taken to do so under the exception order;

(c) for the payment by the Agency of compensation, in cases specified in the order, to any person who suffers loss or damage as a result of the revocation of the exception order.

(6) If an order under this section provides as mentioned in subsection (5)(a), the order must also say whether or not the exemption so provided for is to be counted cumulatively with any other exemption which a person has by virtue of section 27 or 33A of the WRA."

On Question, amendments agreed to.

Photo of Lord Whitty Lord Whitty Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) (Food, Farming and Sustainable Energy)

moved Amendment No. 8:

Page 15, line 18, at end insert—

"( ) In this section, "inland waters" and "underground strata" have the meanings given in section 221(1) of the WRA."

Photo of Lord Whitty Lord Whitty Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) (Food, Farming and Sustainable Energy)

My Lords, in moving Amendment No. 8, I shall speak also to the associated amendments. This Act is in the form of amendments to other Acts. However, Clauses 5, 6 and 12 would otherwise be freestanding as clauses of this Act—namely, the Water Act 2003. Although freestanding, it would be of benefit to treat them as if the various parts of the Water Resources Act 1991 apply to them as these clauses all relate to the functions and powers of Chapter 2 of Part II of the Water Resources Act.

Amendments Nos. 8, 30 and 67 all have the effect of allowing appropriate provisions of that Act to be applied to these clauses. Amendment No. 68 applies the Environment Agency's general duties in the same direction. I beg to move.

Photo of Lord Dixon-Smith Lord Dixon-Smith Conservative

My Lords, this is another series of amendments that we are glad to see. At this hour and given the exigencies we are working under, I shall say no more.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 18 [Protection from derogation]:

Photo of Lord Whitty Lord Whitty Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) (Food, Farming and Sustainable Energy)

moved Amendment No. 9:

Page 20, line 41, leave out from "be)" to end of line 43 and insert "section 39A(2) or (3), 48(1) or 59C(10) below or section 99(3) of the Water Act 2003, or in a provision made in an order by virtue of section 12(5)(b) of that Act, in each case subject to any limitations mentioned there"."

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 19 [Protected rights]:

Photo of Lord Whitty Lord Whitty Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) (Food, Farming and Sustainable Energy)

moved Amendments Nos. 10 to 12:

Page 21, leave out lines 20 and 21 and insert—

"(b) it is such a right as a person is taken to have by virtue of subsection (2) below;

(ba) it is such a right as a person is taken to continue to have by virtue of subsection (3) below;" Page 21, line 24, at end insert—

"( ) it is such a right as a person is taken to continue to have by virtue of a provision made under subsection (5)(b) of section 12 of the Water Act 2003 in an order made under that section; or

( ) it is such a right as a person is taken to continue to have by virtue of section 99(3) of that Act." Page 21, leave out lines 25 to 29 and insert—

"(2) A person who is in a position to carry out an abstraction of a quantity of water which—

(a) by virtue of section 27(1) above is not subject to the restriction on abstraction; and

(b) also falls within subsection (2B) or (2C) below, shall be taken, for the purposes of this Chapter, to have a right to do so in respect of that quantity or, if lower, the maximum quantity mentioned in subsection (2A) below.

(2A) The maximum quantity is—

(a) if, by virtue of an order under section 27A(1) above, section 27(1) has ever had effect as if it referred, for the purposes of the abstraction in question, to a quantity of water lower than twenty cubic metres, that lower quantity (or, if more than one, the lowest of them); or

(b) in any other case, twenty cubic metres (and no more).

(2B) An abstraction falls within this subsection if it is an abstraction from inland waters carried out by or on behalf of an occupier of land contiguous to those waters at the place where the abstraction is effected ("contiguous land"), and—

(a) the water is abstracted for use on a holding consisting of the contiguous land with or without other land held with that land; and

(b) it is abstracted for use on that holding for either or both of the following purposes—

(i) the domestic purposes of the occupier's household;

(ii) agricultural purposes other than spray irrigation.

(2C) An abstraction falls within this subsection if it is an abstraction from underground strata and the water is abstracted by or on behalf of an individual as a supply of water for the domestic purposes of his household.

(2D) Subsection (2) above shall not apply to a person in respect of an abstraction which that person is, or was at any time, taken to have a right to carry out by virtue of any other provision mentioned in subsection (1) above."

On Question, amendments agreed to.

[Amendment No. 13 not moved.]

Photo of Lord Whitty Lord Whitty Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) (Food, Farming and Sustainable Energy)

moved Amendments Nos. 14 to 18:

Page 21, line 30, leave out "the right to abstract water which"

Page 21, leave out lines 37 and 38 and insert "and who was taken in consequence of that licence (or that part of the licence) to have a right to abstract water by virtue of section 48(1) below shall be taken to continue to have that right for the purposes of this Chapter."

Page 21, line 39, leave out from beginning to "does" in line 42 and insert—

"(4) For the purposes of this Chapter, the person who was the holder of the licence in question ("the old licence") shall cease to be taken to continue to have a right, by virtue of subsection (3) above, to abstract water if—

(a) during a period mentioned in subsection 4A below he" Page 21, line 46, leave out "the holder of the old licence" and insert "he"

Page 22, line 2, at end insert—

"(4A) The period referred to in subsection (4)(a) above is—

(a) four years; or

(b) if the abstractions authorised under the old licence were abstractions planned to be carried out at intervals of more than four years, or for emergency purposes only, such longer period as the Agency may determine on the application of the holder of the old licence."

On Question, amendments agreed to.

Photo of Baroness Byford Baroness Byford Conservative 10:15 pm, 9th July 2003

moved Amendment No. 19:

Page 22, line 6, at end insert—

"( ) A protected right that has been unused for four years shall not cease under subsection (4) above if the licence holder can demonstrate that his pattern of abstraction is or has been over a longer cycle."

Photo of Baroness Byford Baroness Byford Conservative

My Lords, with apologies to the House, I shall take a little longer on this amendment. At the end of our previous debate on this matter, the Minister said that,

"we accept the underlying general concern expressed and we wish to give further consideration to the best formulation of a suitable amendment".

She went on to say,

"We will therefore bring forward a suitable government amendment to cater for this situation".—[Official Report, 12/6/03; cols. 406-407.]

Unfortunately, although I have looked, I have not managed to find that amendment.

This is a most important issue. It relates to the needs of modern farming methods, to crop rotation patterns that extend for as long as seven years, and to the reduction in the use of plant protection chemicals and the upsurge in organic produce. The NFU is greatly concerned that an arbitrary reduction of all protected rights to a maximum of four years, if they are unused, would damage the progress of modern agriculture. The technical word used here is "phytosanitary", relating to the use of natural methods to control the damage inflicted by various pests.

I remind the House that this Government came into power on the back of a number of mantras or oft-repeated sayings, one of which was "joined-up government". Where is the joined-up government when one part of Defra is campaigning for curbs on pesticides while those responsible for this Bill are laying down conditions which can only result in an increase in their use?

In his letter dated 30th June, the noble Lord, Lord Whitty, stated that over the past four years there has been only one revocation owing to non-use but that there are over 2,600 licences against which there have been no abstractions in each case over the past four years. I accept that, but I think that the figure goes some way to explain the Government's wish to reduce the compensation period from seven to four years.

I know that the hour is late and that we have reached Third Reading, but I hope that the Government will take this amendment seriously. I beg to move.

Photo of Baroness O'Cathain Baroness O'Cathain Conservative

My Lords, I support my noble friend. I do so because another mantra adopted by this Government is to encourage organics and greater diversity in farm crops. Given that, flexibility is very necessary.

One does not realise the time-scales involved in converting from working as a basic intervention-type supported crop provider to diversification into horticulture and other forms of organic production. It is very important that this should be taken into account.

Photo of Lord Livsey of Talgarth Lord Livsey of Talgarth Liberal Democrat

My Lords, I add my support to the amendment. It is extremely important to provide flexibility. Not to allow for such flexibility by restricting the four-year rule here is truly unimaginative, not least because it flies in the face of the need for environmental sustainability. Those of us who have been intimately involved in farming over the years know that sound farming practice, in particular the control of pests and weeds in environmentally friendly ways, often depends on longer rotations than four years. It also means that the crop itself will give a better yield over the longer period as well as breaking the cycle of pest infestations.

So there are many reasons why the Government should accept what is in my view a very reasonable amendment. It would boost their credibility in terms of their sensitivity towards environmental sustainability and it would enlighten those away from this House that they understand the meaning of what is sound farming practice.

Photo of Lord Sutherland of Houndwood Lord Sutherland of Houndwood Crossbench

My Lords, I support the amendment on the basis that the issue in principle applies also with the mutatis mutandis to the quarrying industry. I declare an interest as non-executive chairman of Quarry Products Association.

Photo of Lord Dixon-Smith Lord Dixon-Smith Conservative

My Lords, perhaps I may illustrate the depth of the problem. I used to be a potato grower; I am not any longer. One of the reasons I am not is because I had an outbreak of potato eel worm on my farm. The isolation period before you can grow potatoes again, if you ever want to export potatoes, is 10 years for that particular crop. There is not a crop of potatoes in this country now that is not grown without irrigation. If you have an outbreak of eel worm you may well be unable to grow potatoes on your ground for 10 years. That is a farming fact of life that illustrates in a classic way the need for the amendment.

Photo of Lord Whitty Lord Whitty Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) (Food, Farming and Sustainable Energy)

My Lords, this part of the Bill deals with protected rights rather than with abstraction licences. It is therefore a question of whether you can remove the protected right, which will accrue only to old licence holders.

We believe that we have dealt with the problem to which noble Lords have referred. The grouping of the amendments may be slightly odd in this respect. Amendment No. 18, which we have just passed, and Amendment No. 16, to which we have yet to come, deal with a situation which provides for exceptions,

"if the abstractions authorised under the old licence were abstractions planned to be carried out at intervals of more than four years"— for example, the rotation system—

"or for emergency purposes only, such longer period as the Agency may determine on the application of the holder of the old licence".

Therefore, in the previous position where the protected right related to rotation or similar interval usage, the clause could provide for a longer period than four years. Amendments Nos. 18 and 16, to a large extent, already meet the situation which is of concern to noble Lords.

Photo of Baroness Byford Baroness Byford Conservative

My Lords, I listened carefully to the Minister's response. His phraseology—I shall check in Hansard tomorrow—was "may deliver". The amendment requires that it "shall not cease under subsection (4)". I am not satisfied. I beg leave to test the opinion of the House.

Photo of Lord Whitty Lord Whitty Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) (Food, Farming and Sustainable Energy)

My Lords, before the noble Baroness sits down, what I said, which is the phraseology of the amendment, is that:

"if the abstractions authorised under the old licence were abstractions planned to be carried out at intervals of more than four years, or for emergency purposes only, such longer period as the Agency may determine on the application of the holder of the old licence".

So it is decided on the basis of the application for a period for longer than four years.

We should bear in mind that we are not talking about abstraction rights but about protected rights and preserving the position of the protected rights of existing licence holders. We are not talking about the licensing system.

Photo of Baroness Byford Baroness Byford Conservative

My Lords, I know that it is late but I cannot see how the issue we have raised is covered in the amendments to which the Minister referred. I am quite happy to give him a second chance to respond—I know that it is not normal—but, if he does not wish to, I shall beg leave to test the opinion of the House.

On Question, Whether the said amendment (No. 19) shall be agreed to?

Their Lordships divided: Contents, 30; Not-Contents, 63.

Division number 3 Private Parking: Ports and Trading Estates — Water Bill [HL]

Aye: 28 Members of the House of Lords

No: 61 Members of the House of Lords

Ayes: A-Z by last name

Tellers

Nos: A-Z by last name

Tellers

Resolved in the negative, and amendment disagreed to accordingly.

Clause 21 [Form, contents and effect of licences]:

Photo of Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton Government Whip 10:32 pm, 9th July 2003

moved Amendment No. 20:

Page 23, leave out lines 21 to 24 and insert—

"(2A) For the purposes of section 61(4A) below—

(a) every full licence under this Chapter which is for a term exceeding twelve years shall; and

(b) any transfer licence under this Chapter which is for a term exceeding twelve years may, specify a minimum value for the quantity referred to in subsection (2)(a) above."

Photo of Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton Government Whip

My Lords, Amendment No. 20 makes minor changes to the drafting of Clause 21. The changes specify that the provisions relate only to licences of a term exceeding 12 years. The reason for the change is to make clear that there is no need for additional bureaucratic steps in a situation where the provisions to which the clause relates cannot apply. The clause relates to the occasions under Clause 27(3) when the volume of water set in a licence can be reduced without compensation. The safeguards in that clause ensure that that cannot apply to licences of a duration of less than 12 years.

Amendments Nos. 24 and 25 make minor technical changes to the drafting of Clause 23. Amendment No. 24 removes the power of the Secretary of State in new Section 51(1D) of the Water Resources Act 1991 to make regulations as to the grounds of appeal against an Environment Agency decision relating to the revocation of an impounding licence. Such provision is unnecessary because the grounds for appeal are already set out in new Section 51(1C).

Amendment No. 25 is consequential on that change, making it clear that the regulations governing how a notice may be served apply to the notice served upon the Secretary of State under new Section 51(1C). I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Photo of Baroness Byford Baroness Byford Conservative

moved Amendment No. 21:

After Clause 21, insert the following new clause—

"RENEWAL OF LICENCES

After section 46 of the WRA there is inserted—

"46ZA RENEWAL OF LICENCES

(1) Licence renewal will be subject to three tests, namely that—

(a) environmental sustainability must not be in question;

(b) the need for the licence is demonstrable;

(c) the water extracted under the licence is being and will be used efficiently and effectively.

(2) If the conditions of subsection (1) above are met, the regulator may negotiate changes to the licence but will not normally refuse renewal.""

Photo of Baroness Byford Baroness Byford Conservative

My Lords, this amendment is slightly different from the one presented on Report. We have lost count of the representations we have received on the subject of licence renewal. The issue is causing great concern to many people and businesses. The Minister is most reassuring on the subject, and we are reassured, but his words are not a satisfactory replacement for print on the face of the Bill. It may sound odd, but this Bill may have to last for 20 or 30 years. It seems wrong to ignore the possibility that the concept of an unwritten presumption of renewal will be lost in those years. Every industry that abstracts or impounds water has a vital concern in this issue. We must not let it go by default. I beg to move.

Photo of Lord Borrie Lord Borrie Labour

My Lords, during the Bill's passage noble Lords opposite have persistently but with moderation sought an amendment of this kind. I myself have occasionally intervened because I thought that water companies expending considerable sums on structural change need some sort of reassurance about the future extension or renewal of the licence. Noble Lords opposite have again put forward an amendment with moderation. The use of the word "normally" in the penultimate line is particularly moderate. I hope that the Government will look kindly on the amendment.

Photo of Lord Whitty Lord Whitty Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) (Food, Farming and Sustainable Energy)

My Lords, I regret that we cannot look on it that kindly. The current and future operational policy of the Government and the Environment Agency have been made clear. However, there are at least two serious problems about stating that on the face of the Bill, even in what I recognise is a very moderate and flexible amendment. First, it is difficult to anticipate in sufficient detail, and sufficiently narrowly, the circumstances for the presumption. In practice, therefore, it will fall to the agency to set out its judgment. We need to preserve that flexibility.

Secondly, and in a sense more importantly for primary legislation, the practical effect of the proposal could be to favour the position of existing abstractors at the expense of new ones, or indeed of the environment. Any reduced flexibility in interpretation is likely to make it more difficult, for example, to negotiate with an existing licence holder on his future needs under the most efficient conditions of use and thereby possibly to reduce his level of abstraction. That might of itself preclude another licence being granted or make it more difficult to secure environmental improvements. The provision therefore gives rise to questions of both equity and the environmental effect which need to be taken into account.

This is a matter for clear policy guidelines. We are therefore prepared to issue a direction to the Environment Agency wherever clarification is required as to the importance of this operational policy. That should give us the scope to frame an appropriate set of circumstances for non-renewal while allowing us sufficient flexibility to cope with future uncertainties. That takes us a step further in relation to what the noble Baroness seeks in the amendment. However, the restrictions implied in including the measure on the face of the Bill in these terms are not acceptable to the Government.

Photo of Baroness Byford Baroness Byford Conservative

My Lords, that has disappointed me. I thank the noble Lord, Lord Borrie, for his support. We have tried to come up with a measure that is shorter, simpler and relevant. I am deeply disappointed that the Government have not managed to meet us along the way. The Minister said that the Government would introduce guidelines. That brings me back to square one. I keep saying from this Dispatch Box that when we are taking forward legislation that is likely to last for 20 or 30 years it is not acceptable that so many provisions are put into guidelines or regulations over which this House has no control at all.

I repeat that I object to the way in which this Bill is being dealt with. I suspect that the Minister will not be surprised by my comments. Having noted on the recent Division that the Government have many supporters I shall not divide the House, but I urge the Government to think seriously about the matter. I hope that it will be raised in greater detail in another place. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Photo of Lord Sutherland of Houndwood Lord Sutherland of Houndwood Crossbench

moved Amendment No. 22:

After Clause 22, insert the following new clause—

"COMMENCEMENT AND EXPIRY OF LICENCES

After section 46 of the WRA there is inserted—

"46B COMMENCEMENT AND EXPIRY OF LICENCES

(1) A licence granted under this Chapter to abstract water—

(a) to prevent interference with any mining, quarrying or engineering operations (whether underground or surface); or

(b) to prevent damage to works resulting from such operations ("de-watering abstractions"); shall be stated to take effect and to expire simultaneously with any planning permission or any extension or amendment to any planning permission granted for such mining, quarrying or engineering operations instead of a specific date, or dates, in the licence for the de-watering abstraction itself.

(2) In all other respects, reference in this Chapter to the date on which a licence is stated to take effect and on which it expires, insofar as a licence for de-watering abstractions is concerned, refers to the commencement and expiry dates comprised in any planning permission authorising the mining, quarrying or engineering operations relevant to the de-watering abstraction.""

Photo of Lord Sutherland of Houndwood Lord Sutherland of Houndwood Crossbench

My Lords, the issue at stake was well rehearsed at earlier stages of the Bill and I do not propose to repeat all the arguments. I simply remind your Lordships that it concerns bringing together the length of a licence and length of planning permission to allow sensible investment plans to be drawn up by quarrying companies. As I indicated on the previous occasion, the investment involved is very significant indeed.

I add only one argument in response to a question asked by the Minister, I believe in Committee. The Minister asked about the extent of the Bill's effect on the quarrying industry if it were to go through in its current form. I can now provide some figures in that regard. I stand by these figures, which are conservative rather than optimistic. If the Bill goes through in its current form, 176 quarries will be affected after 2011. After 2017, at least 130 quarries will be affected. In terms of tonnage that will effectively sterilise, after 2011, between 1.5 billion and 2 billion tonnes of aggregate. That is a very large figure—the average annual turnover is 200 million tonnes—and is the equivalent of eight to 10 years' supply of aggregate. That is the tonnage that will be directly affected by the Bill if it is passed in its current form.

I remind the House that as recently as yesterday the Secretary of State for Transport issued a Statement on additional road building. Yesterday at a meeting of the Association of Parliamentary Environment Groups the relevant Minister told that gathering that the Thames Gateway was the largest brownfield building site in Europe and would require very significant infrastructure. I leave with the Minister the question of how that can be dealt with in the form of joined-up government and others bringing to fruition those fine plans if the quarrying industry finds itself with eight to 10 years' sterilisation of its assets. I beg to move.

Photo of Lord Dixon-Smith Lord Dixon-Smith Conservative

My Lords, I support the amendment. The quarrying industry is not a consumer of water in the conventional sense. It may have to take water from one place and put it somewhere else. While it is possible that a subterranean source of water downstream is diminished, there is an equivalent increase in a surface source of water as a result of those operations. The idea that the industry, which is the foundation, if I may put it that way—it is almost a horrible pun—of the construction industry in this country, might be vulnerable is not a tolerable one. I have the greatest difficulty in understanding why the Government cannot make a particular exception for this rather significant, indeed vitally important industry.

Photo of Baroness Miller of Chilthorne Domer Baroness Miller of Chilthorne Domer Liberal Democrat 10:45 pm, 9th July 2003

My Lords, I recognise that quarrying is a very important industry. Nevertheless, while it may not be a consumer of water it is a user of water. The Bill attempts to create, so far as possible, a level playing field for all users of water. For that reason, I do not feel inclined to support the amendment. I realise the enormity of the figures that the noble Lord has just given.

Secondly, I still have concerns that this amendment pushes the minerals planning authority into being a kind of de facto extraction licensing authority at the same time. I know from first-hand experience how difficult it is dealing merely with planning permissions and all the associated issues. The planning authority must rightly depend on the advice of the Environment Agency. I believe, therefore, that the responsibility for granting an extraction licence rightly rests with the Environment Agency. For that reason, I cannot support the amendment.

Photo of Lord Livsey of Talgarth Lord Livsey of Talgarth Liberal Democrat

My Lords, I do not entirely agree with what my noble friend has said. I must declare an interest. There are seven quarries in the area that I used to represent. There are, to my knowledge, 250 jobs involved. That is typical of remote areas where there is no other form of employment.

I sympathise with my noble friend's point that the planning situation is complicated by this water issue. There is obviously a need for contiguous planning and de-watering arrangements to be made. But that ought to be the subject of new minerals planning guidance for planning authorities. A framework for that could be found within this amendment and could be introduced to give guidance to planning authorities to bring about an equitable solution which would meet all the complex needs of the quarrying industry and those of the environment and provide a logical and ordered way of ensuring that the situation is under proper control.

I very much recognise the importance of this industry. I also see a need for straightening out some of the planning laws to ensure that some of the things that do go on—for example, starting up old planning permissions from a very long time ago—are sorted out. If all of that can be done with a new minerals planning guidance, it ought to be possible to satisfy most people on this point.

Photo of Baroness Miller of Chilthorne Domer Baroness Miller of Chilthorne Domer Liberal Democrat

My Lords, I apologise to the House. I should like to register my interest as a member of Somerset County Council, which is a minerals planning authority.

Photo of Lord Howie of Troon Lord Howie of Troon Labour

My Lords, we have been over this ground a number of times, both in Grand Committee and on Report. The amendment points to a great weakness in the Bill. As I have said previously, and as was said by the noble Baroness on the Liberal Front Bench, there is a difference between consumers of water and users of water. The underlying strategy of the Bill is to treat them as though they are the same, and to apply the same restrictions to them. A consumer of water is one thing; a user of water is something entirely different.

The amendments that we have put forward in relation not only to quarries but also to deep excavations in the construction industry and civil engineering world—a similar kind of activity—have dealt with the idea that, instead of taking the water away, using it and throwing it into the Atlantic Ocean or some such place, it is drained and then is put back more or less where it was before. One can never put it exactly where it was before but fairly close to where it was before.

There is one issue I should draw to the attention of the House. Since we last discussed these matters, the quarry industry has taken a number of officials to view quarries in order to see what happens there, what they are like and how the water is drained—perhaps gathered in a lagoon or a pool of some kind—and then restored. I am not sure whether those officials have ever seen a quarry before. They have now, and I am sure that their eyes have been opened and that they can see the distinction between the use and the consumption of water.

Finally, I want to reinforce the point raised by the noble Lord, Lord Sutherland. I declare an interest in that I am a civil engineer. I worry about these things. I am happy to say that apparently the Government are embarking on a considerable programme of road and housing extensions, all of which are absolutely necessary and all of which are utterly dependent on the quarry industry—whether it be for stone, gravel, sand or lime. It would be a grave error on the part of the Government to place burdens on the quarry industry which would jeopardise the effort that must be made by the construction industry to meet the demands that the Government themselves are making. I support my noble friend wholly and entirely.

Photo of Lord Berkeley Lord Berkeley Labour

My Lords, I also support the amendment. I shall not repeat what I said on Report. As my noble friend Lord Howie of Troon and the noble Lord, Lord Sutherland, said, the companies which have invested in quarries have probably invested millions of pounds, sometimes as a result of long planning permissions. They make their calculations, do a little work each week and each month and plan in considerable detail. Taking into account the associated costs, they calculate that they can make some money and supply all the aggregates that noble Lords have said are necessary.

The Government may then come along and say, "We're sorry. You will have to pay more or get rid of the water in a different way". However, unless the Government agree to pay compensation, surely that is a kind of retrospective legislation which I thought we did not have in this country. That is obviously acceptable with regard to new permissions and new licences, but such companies obtained permissions five, 10, 15 or 20 years ago in the expectation of carrying on a business in a certain way. If that changes due to subsequent legislation, surely it behoves us to ensure that they receive proper compensation for any change that takes place which means incurring additional costs or causes them to close down. Therefore, I hope that my noble friend will be able to give some reassurance on that point.

Photo of Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton Government Whip

My Lords, I begin by referring to the question raised by my noble friend Lord Berkeley, which I believe will be covered in the general sense. I am sure that my noble friend was not asking for a particular part of an industry to be singled out for separate treatment. I understand that the issue of compensation arises under Amendment No. 26.

I am in an unusual position. I understand that whether I say "yes" or "no" I shall manage to agree with the Liberal Democrat Front Bench. It is a pleasant position for me to be in.

As the noble Lord, Lord Sutherland, indicated, Amendment No. 22 was introduced on previous occasions, including on Report. I must repeat what I said at that stage. The amendment would, in effect, completely remove from the Environment Agency, and the Secretary of State on appeal, the responsibility for determining a key condition—the time limit—to apply to transfer licences, but only those granted for "dewatering activities".

Concerns were expressed by the noble Baroness, Lady Miller of Chilthorne Domer, and the noble Lord, Lord Livsey, about the process. This duty would, in effect, be transferred to planning authorities, which I believe both the noble Lord and the noble Baroness agreed are not ideally set up to deal with it. Indeed there is no statutory requirement for a planning authority to give effect to the Environment Agency's recommendation on those matters.

The noble Lord, Lord Sutherland, has referred to figures, assuming a refusal to renew licences. The whole policy is based on a presumption of renewal and the availability of technical solutions to resolve the problems that may arise, provided there is not, as the noble Baroness, Lady Miller of Chilthorne Domer, indicated, either damage to the environment or a problem with regard to other users of the water supply.

Of course, the real issue underlying the amendment is that of the initial investment uncertainties if a transfer licence is shorter than the intended life of the quarry. We recognise that important concern, but it is neither insurmountable nor particularly constrained to the quarrying industry, a question raised by the noble Lord, Lord Dixon-Smith.

Clearly and plainly we do not mean that there will be refusals in all cases. The noble Lord, Lord Sutherland of Houndwood, raised the issue, as did my noble friend, of the need to use the resources that we receive from the quarrying industry. If the quarrying industry is confident that it can deal adequately with the environmental effects of dewatering, then it has no reason to fear the availability of a licence to enable that to continue. If the problems were insurmountable, it would be right that there should be an opportunity to review the decision with the appropriate rights of appeal.

The noble Lord, Lord Sutherland, raised the issue of the number of quarries involved. The number of quarries that he indicated would be affected only were there to be a presumption of non-renewal. My noble friend Lord Howie of Troon has discussed with me in your Lordships' Chamber, in Grand Committee and, on many occasions socially outside, the issue of dewatering. If dewatering is not damaging the environment, if the water is going back into the same water source, and there is no problem for other users, his fears are groundless.

In those circumstances, and with those repeated assurances, I hope that noble Lords will agree to withdraw the amendment and accept that the industries to which they have referred will have the same open and fair consideration of those issues by the agency and the Secretary of State as any other group. I hope that the noble Lord will feel happy to withdraw his amendment.

Photo of Baroness Byford Baroness Byford Conservative

My Lords, before the Minister sits down, perhaps I can stress that she has said again that the Bill is based on the presumption of renewal unless damage is done. If the Minister could point to where that is stated in the Bill we would be quite happy. I have not managed to find it anywhere in the Bill. I know it is late; I know I am tired, but I cannot see it in the Bill.

Photo of Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton Government Whip

My Lords, we have had this debate at every stage of the Bill. The renewal of licences can be withheld only in circumstances where either there are reasonable grounds or there is an opportunity for a legal challenge. Reasonable grounds means damage to the environment or to other users' interests of the same water source. I do not think that I can say anything that will reassure the noble Baroness further. However, if I have failed to reassure her, I would be only too happy to write to her, repeating the detail that was given on previous occasions.

Photo of Baroness Byford Baroness Byford Conservative 11:00 pm, 9th July 2003

My Lords, the noble Baroness referred to what is technically supposed to be "in practice". But "in practice" is not "in legislation". Whatever the noble Lord does to his amendment—and I have no way of drawing him one way or another—we should record the fact that it is no use the Government going on saying, as they have during the passage of the Bill, "Well, in practice this will happen" or, "In practice that will happen" when it is actually not on the face of the Bill.

Photo of Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton Government Whip

My Lords, I have little to add. The noble Baroness appears to believe that the Government's intention behind this legislation is to prevent industries such as the quarrying industry from continuing to work. That is not what the Bill is about. We have discussed this issue on many occasions. It concerns how we prevent the continuation of something were it to cause environmental damage or damage to the interests of other uses of the same water supply.

Photo of Lord Sutherland of Houndwood Lord Sutherland of Houndwood Crossbench

My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness for her reply. I do so, predictably, in fairly lukewarm fashion. None the less, I thank her. I also thank the noble Lords, Lord Dixon-Smith, Lord Berkeley, Lord Howie and Lord Lipsey, who have spoken in support of the amendment. I understand the points made by the noble Baroness, Lady Miller.

The Government's principal response has been to say—a point we have just discussed—that there is a presumption of renewal. That would be most reassuring were it visible. In my judgment, it is not currently visible. As the Bill proceeds, it would be very helpful if further work could be done on that because the issue of presumption of renewal changes how this Bill will affect the water industry.

The reason is not simply the initial investment; it is the continuing investment. Money will have to be committed over a 15 or 20-year lifecycle from now on. That is a precondition of the Government achieving their aims in their massive construction proposals. The concern is not simply that the licence may be withdrawn haphazardly; rather it is that—if one is going to the banks to persuade them to lend the money—the banks require significant reassurance that the business is viable for more than a six-year period, or even a 12-year period in some cases depending on the level of investment.

I stress that point because it is very important for government policy conceived in a broader context. I hope that the Minister might take the opportunity to have a briefing from the civil servants who visited the quarries that we arranged for them because I think they probably now have a clearer understanding of the issues. The remaining question is whether the Government are turning the matter down on principle or whether in practice one could find ways around the issues. In terms of practice, the key is the degree of reassurance that one could have that the presumption of renewal would stand up not simply in a court of law but in front of the bankers who will lend the money that will keep this industry going. At this stage, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Photo of Lord Sutherland of Houndwood Lord Sutherland of Houndwood Crossbench

moved Amendment No. 23:

After Clause 22, insert the following new clause—

"RENEWAL OF LICENCES (MINES & QUARRIES)

After section 46 of the WRA there is inserted—

"46ZA RENEWAL OF LICENCES (MINES & QUARRIES)

(1) An application to renew a licence granted under this Chapter to abstract water—

(a) to prevent interference with any mining, quarrying or engineering operations (whether underground or surface); or

(b) to prevent damage to works resulting from such operations ("de-watering abstractions"), shall be subject to three tests, namely that it can be reasonably demonstrated that—

(a) environmental sustainability is not in question;

(b) there is a need for the licence;

(c) the water abstracted under the licence is being and will be used efficiently and effectively.

(2) If the conditions of subsection (1) above are met, the licence will be renewed for a minimum of six years.

(3) Where an application to renew a licence is refused under subsection (2) above, a person who made the application may appeal to the Secretary of State within such period and subject to such procedures as may be prescribed by order.

46ZB RENEWAL OF LICENCES (MINES & QUARRIES)

( ) Where an application to renew a licence is refused under section 46ZA or the terms of any licence renewed under that section are varied in comparison with the licence which it replaces and the effect of such refusal or variation would be such as to affect to a material extent—

(a) the economic viability of operating the site to which the application relates; or

(b) the asset value of the site to which the application relates, then compensation will be payable for any loss or damage resulting from any such refusal or variation.""

Photo of Lord Sutherland of Houndwood Lord Sutherland of Houndwood Crossbench

My Lords, I shall speak briefly to this amendment. The first part of Amendment No. 23 has been covered in principle by Amendment No. 21. I shall not speak further to that in detail because we have had a thorough discussion of the issue of principle there.

The second part, however, is particularly germane to issues we have just been discussing. It deals with reassurances concerning compensation. If in fact licences were withdrawn, the issue of compensation becomes a real one. The proposed new Section 46ZB is a request for clarification on the matter of compensation in the event of licences being withdrawn for the reasons given in the Bill. I beg to move.

Photo of Lord Dixon-Smith Lord Dixon-Smith Conservative

My Lords, I again support the amendments. The reality is that if one has a viable, extant quarry, and the terms of the water licence are subsequently amended—or even revoked—in such a way as to make the quarry non-viable, that is tantamount to withdrawal of planning permission. Withdrawal of planning permission would certainly be eligible for compensation in almost any circumstances. So it looks as though the effect of a planning permission could be amended without the eligibility for compensation under the Bill as drafted.

That is a fundamental point, and it returns us to the points made about the assurance required for those who provide the funding that backs those operations. This is a significant matter. I hope that the Government may find it in their heart even at this late stage to repent from their omission and agree to the amendments.

Photo of Lord Howie of Troon Lord Howie of Troon Labour

My Lords, I am happy to support the amendment, and shall do so fairly briefly. I worry not about the amendment but about its situation. From time to time when discussing these matters, people talk about something abstract, ethereal and possibly theological called the environment. We should bear in mind that the quarry is part of the environment. The well-being and continued well-being of the quarry is part of the well-being and continued well-being of the environment. That should not be forgotten.

Looking at the matter from my peculiar standpoint, I find that most people worried about the environment confuse the word "environment" with nature. They worry about heather—which is a splendid thing—birds and bees, and so on. So when we receive assurances from the Environment Agency—which is an admirable body, let me say right away; lest I should be misunderstood at this point—we must be sure that they are based on an understanding of the environment that is not narrow and theological but real.

I have some experience of the Environment Agency, English Nature and the natural trust, or whatever it is called. What is it called?

Noble Lords:

The National Trust.

Photo of Lord Howie of Troon Lord Howie of Troon Labour

Yes, my Lords, the National Trust—that august body of self-appointed persons. I have some experience of its attitude toward nature and things that are actually there. I say this with a certain amount of trepidation, because I happen to be a tenant of the National Trust coastguard's cottage near Beachy Head, which is threatened by coastal erosion.

Photo of Lord Berkeley Lord Berkeley Labour

That serves you right, does it not?

Photo of Lord Howie of Troon Lord Howie of Troon Labour

It does indeed, my Lords. At one time I owned it, but I exchanged that for a tenancy, which seemed a better idea. We there discovered that the attitude of the environmentalists—to give them a portmanteau title—was to prefer grass and chalk to houses. Houses should go. That is not my notion. The houses were part of the environment, just as a quarry is part of the environment. That analogy is fairly clear.

I found the environmental groups polite but savage—not at all as benign as we seem to be regarding them. Noble Lords are saying things such as, "We have assurances from those people". Assurances are all very well; they have been made in the House tonight on behalf of well-meaning people whom I trust absolutely—including the Environment Agency. I see in her place the noble Baroness, Lady Young, who is the embodiment of the Environment Agency, but she will not be there for ever. She will not be there 30 years from now; she will have moved on to higher things; of that I am quite sure. She will be governor of some colony, or something, but she will not be there. I do not say that her assurances will be like pie crusts, but they will be such that her successors will not remember them. I have no doubt that they will be kept in a file somewhere in Hansard. However, they will have no particular validity because the person who will then have to decide on these matters will have forgotten them or perhaps never even have heard of them. In 25 years in this House and several years in another place, I have heard many assurances, which are wonderful when made but which, like smoke rings, last for a relatively short time.

It would be preferable that the amendment be accepted, or that the Government, if unable to accept the amendment as it stands, were to reconsider the matter in another place on the strength of what we have tried to impress on them and perhaps come up with some other, more emollient words that meet these objectives. I support the noble Lord, Lord Sutherland.

Photo of Baroness Miller of Chilthorne Domer Baroness Miller of Chilthorne Domer Liberal Democrat

My Lords, on the issue of compensation, we on these Benches say that although planning permission is, of course, given to individuals or to small business, those individuals or small businesses may nevertheless be dependent on their rights to compensation for obstruction. Of course, the quarrying industry is operated on a much bigger scale. I believe that the issue of compensation for individuals, small businesses, or indeed such a big business should be dealt with in an equitable way. For that reason, I cannot support these amendments.

Photo of Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton Government Whip

My Lords, I begin by stating a previous interest and the fact that I do not view nature, the environment or the rural community through the eyes of the kind of chocolate box world that my noble friend Lord Howie of Troon seems to imply. Having served on the planning committee of a large county council for over 20 years, I can assure my noble friend that I recognise not only the groups of which he has advised me but also other groups with commercial and industrial interests.

To the noble Lord, Lord Dixon-Smith, I say that the issue of compensation and planning permission is hardly analogous in these particular circumstances. As the noble Lord, Lord Sutherland of Houndwood, recognised, Amendment No. 23 seeks to provide for the payment of compensation in the event that a licence is not renewed or is curtailed.

I cannot believe that noble Lords on the Opposition Benches would want to change the important policy principle of the polluter having to pay. The only reason for the non-renewal, or perhaps even curtailment, of a quarry dewatering licence would be an environmental problem that could not be overcome.

I say to my noble friend Lord Howie that if there is no environmental problem, if no one suffers, if the problem can be overcome, the issue does not arise. On the other hand, if it is not possible to overcome the problem technically or if the cost of doing so would render further development uneconomic, the amendment tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Sutherland of Houndwood, provides that whatever the environmental effect of a quarrying operation, it should become a public liability. I suggest to noble Lords that that cannot be right. On the basis of that argument, as the noble Baroness, Lady Miller of Chilthorne Domer, indicated, it cannot be right to accept that principle.

Photo of Lord Sutherland of Houndwood Lord Sutherland of Houndwood Crossbench 11:15 pm, 9th July 2003

My Lords, before the Minister sits down, has she taken account of the fact that the second part of the amendment, proposed Section 46ZB, refers quite explicitly to,

"Where an application . . . is refused under section 46ZA"?

The terms under which a licence could be refused are specified. Provided that those terms are met, compensation would reasonably be provided. I ask the Minister to take into account that proposed Section 46BZ merely brings the provision for compensation in those circumstances into line with the Environment Act provisions.

Photo of Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton Government Whip

My Lords, the circumstances could not arise under the terms of the Bill. I am certain that my answer to the noble Lord, Lord Sutherland, is correct. I noted his interest in pursuing those issues in another place. If it would help him, I shall write to him as soon as possible.

Photo of Lord Sutherland of Houndwood Lord Sutherland of Houndwood Crossbench

My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness for her reply and look forward to receiving her letter. I also thank those who have spoken in support of the amendment. I simply stress that bankers might reasonably want the assurance that, where no fault could reasonably be shown and for whatever reason—committees make mistakes—a licence is withheld, compensation would be available. Compensation should be available in those circumstances. Any reassurance that could be given in that respect would be very helpful. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 23 [Modification of impounding licences]:

Photo of Lord Whitty Lord Whitty Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) (Food, Farming and Sustainable Energy)

moved Amendments Nos. 24 and 25:

Page 25, leave out lines 13 and 14.

Page 25, line 15, leave out "such notices" and insert "notices of appeal under subsection (1C) above"

On Question, amendments agreed to.

Clause 27 [Compensation for modification of licence on direction of Secretary of State]:

Photo of Baroness Byford Baroness Byford Conservative

moved Amendment No. 26:

Page 32, line 28, at end insert—

"( ) After subsection (4) there is inserted—

"( ) Subsection (4) above shall not apply while the possibility of the abstraction of water under the licence constitutes part of—

(a) any water resource management scheme maintained under section 20, 20A or 20B above; or

(b) any drought plan maintained under section 39B above.""

Photo of Baroness Byford 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.

Photo of Lord Whitty Lord Whitty Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) (Food, Farming and Sustainable Energy)

My Lords, the aim of the reduction from seven to four years is to tighten up the controls. The control of actual revocation of a licence after seven years has been used rarely and would rarely be used where there is a four-year limit. The issue is whether, if a sleeper licence exists, the Environment Agency can intervene if there is no good reason for the non-use of water. If there is a good reason for its non-use, particularly if use is related to planning and rotation systems, there is no intervention by the Environment Agency.

The intention is not that all sleeper licences should finish after four years. The Environment Agency would have the right to look at a licence and to intervene and take it away if there were no good reason for it. In fact, the amendment as it stands is not really about whether a licence can be revoked but whether compensation can be received. If I have understood the implications of the amendment correctly, compensation would only be received if it were shown that the licence holder was not using the water for valid planning reasons. However, the licence would not have been revoked in those circumstances.

Photo of Baroness O'Cathain Baroness O'Cathain Conservative

My Lords, I thank the Minister, but the amendment concerns drought planning purposes. That is really the problem. As I explained several times during the passage of the Bill, one cannot plan for drought or for over-rainy conditions. It is a real problem in the South East. We have been very fortunate in the past few years and have been able to just about cope when there has not been a lot of rainfall, but in the past the drought has been very serious. Without this sort of sleeper licence the water companies are not able to cope.

Photo of Lord Whitty Lord Whitty Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) (Food, Farming and Sustainable Energy)

My Lords, if the non-use of a licence was a precautionary measure against drought, or contributed to a precaution against drought, there would be no grounds for the Environment Agency to intervene. Therefore, the issue of compensation would not arise. The Environment Agency must act reasonably. If it does not, there is the possibility of appeal to the Secretary of State or a judicial review of the decision. The amendment seems to envisage a situation in which a licence is revoked when the non-use is for a valid reason. That would not arise.

There are also technical problems with the amendment, if the noble Baroness, Lady O'Cathain, is tempted to pursue it. It misconceives the situation in the first place. It is certainly not the intention of the Environment Agency to revoke licences simply because they have not been used and certainly not in circumstances when non-use contributes positively to water resource management or to a precaution against adverse water resource development.

Photo of Baroness Byford Baroness Byford Conservative

My Lords, I thank my noble friend Lady O'Cathain for her contribution and I thank the Minister. If my amendment has technical problems—at this stage of the Bill I cannot do anything about that—my colleagues in another place may be able to look at it again. If the Minister is saying the Environment Agency will not intrude or misinterpret the situation in the wrong way, I must return to what I have said throughout the Bill. The Minister will be well aware of what I am going to say. I cannot find that anywhere in the Bill. It is not there. I do not think that I am asleep or too far past it.

One of the grievances that we have with the Bill is that too much is given to the Environment Agency. The noble Baroness, Lady Young of Old Scone, is in her place. There is no personal animosity at all in the matter. There is a question over whether the Environment Agency is responsible or reliant on having to come back to Parliament to explain its decisions. It is at arm's length from Parliament. Therefore, it is important that, if there is an opportunity in a Bill to do something positive, we should take it.

Having said that, although I do not know whether I feel any better for having said it, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 29 [Withdrawal of compensation for certain revocations and variations]:

Photo of Lord Whitty Lord Whitty Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) (Food, Farming and Sustainable Energy)

moved Amendments Nos. 27 and 28:

Page 33, line 25, leave out from "protect" to end of line 26 and insert "from serious damage—

(i) any inland waters,

(ii) any water contained in underground strata,

(iii) any underground strata themselves, or any flora or fauna dependent on any of them." Page 33, line 28, at end insert—

"( ) Expressions used in sub-paragraphs (i), (ii) and (iii) of subsection (1)(d) are to be construed in accordance with section 221 of the WRA, and "waters", in relation to a lake, pond, river or watercourse which is for the time being dry, includes its bottom, channel or bed."

On Question, amendments agreed to.

[Amendment No. 29 not moved.]

Photo of Lord Whitty Lord Whitty Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) (Food, Farming and Sustainable Energy)

moved Amendment No. 30:

After Clause 35, insert the following new clause—

"APPLICATION OF CERTAIN WATER RESOURCES PROVISIONS TO THIS ACT

(1) The relevant WRA provisions apply to (or in relation to) the following sections of this Act (the "applicable sections") as they apply to (or in relation to) Part 2 or, as the case may be, Chapter 2 of Part 2 of the WRA—

(a) section 5(existing impounding works),

(b) section 6(existing impounding works: works notices), and

(c) section 12(orders under section 33 of the WRA, etc).

(2) Accordingly, in the relevant WRA provisions—

(a) references to Part 2 of, or to Chapter 2 of Part 2 of, the WRA are to be read as if the applicable sections were included in that Part or that Chapter,

(b) references to the related water resources provisions are to be read as if those provisions meant, in relation to the applicable sections, the relevant WRA provisions other than section 222 of the WRA, and

(c) references to the Secretary of State are to be read as references to the appropriate authority (as defined, in each case, in the applicable section in question).

(3) The "relevant WRA provisions" are the following provisions of the WRA—

(a) section 120 (contributions between the Agency and certain other authorities),

(b) section 158 (works agreements for water resources purposes),

(c) section 201 (power to require information in respect of water resources functions), as substituted by section 70 of this Act,

(d) section 216 (enforcement: powers and duties),

(e) section 222 (Crown application), as in force immediately before the substitution made by paragraph 2(4) of Schedule 21 to the Environment Act 1995 (c.25) and for so long as the substituted section 222 does not apply to Part 2 of the WRA.

(4) Section 220 of the WRA (provisions relating to service of documents) applies to documents required or authorised by virtue of any of the applicable sections to be served on any person as it applies to documents required or authorised to be served by virtue of the WRA.

(5) References in the WRA to the functions (generally) of the Environment Agency are to be read as including the Agency's functions under the applicable sections."

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 37 [Consumer Council for Water]:

Photo of Lord Whitty Lord Whitty Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) (Food, Farming and Sustainable Energy)

moved Amendment No. 31:

Page 39, line 20, at end insert—

"( ) In the exercise of its functions the Council shall have regard, where relevant, to any benefits to consumers from the achievement of sustainable development."

Photo of Lord Whitty Lord Whitty Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) (Food, Farming and Sustainable Energy)

My Lords, the four amendments in the group respond to points made on Report about the sustainable development duty on the consumer council for water, a duty to consult the council and the allocation by the Competition Commission of the costs connected with appeals against price limits.

One amendment relating to the consumer council and licensees was overlooked on Report. I think it is the final amendment in the group. The other amendments respond to anxieties expressed at earlier stages. I beg to move.

Photo of Baroness Miller of Chilthorne Domer Baroness Miller of Chilthorne Domer Liberal Democrat

My Lords, I thank the Government for tabling the amendments. I am particularly pleased to see Amendment No. 31, which gives the consumer council the ability to have regard to sustainability duty. When the council is formed, it will be grateful for the opportunity to be able to have that duty within its remit.

Photo of Baroness Byford Baroness Byford Conservative

My Lords, on these Benches, we thank the Minister for considering the issues raised at length on Report and for tabling the amendments.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Photo of Lord Dixon-Smith Lord Dixon-Smith Conservative

moved Amendment No. 32:

After Clause 41, insert the following new clause—

"COORDINATED REGULATION

After section 5 of the WIA there is inserted—

:TITLE3:"PART 1A

:TITLE3:COORDINATED REGULATION

COORDINATED REGULATION

(1) In this section the Agency, the Authority, the Chief Inspector of Drinking Water and (if separately appointed) the Chief Inspector of Drinking Water for Wales and the Consumer Council for Water shall together be referred to as "the regulators".

(2) The Secretary of State, the Assembly and the regulators shall consult and cooperate with one another in those matters which affect the water industry and where there is or may be an overlapping or conflicting interest.""

Photo of Lord Dixon-Smith Lord Dixon-Smith Conservative

My Lords, the amendment is an abbreviated form of the amendment that we moved on Report. The Minister greeted that amendment with the immortal words:

"This amendment is better than the previous one, but it is not quite there yet".—[Official Report, 24/6/03; col. 183.]

The amendment is grouped with Amendment No. 36, which, I hope that the Minister will say, is the one that, he thinks, is "there".

I am not sure that the Minister's amendment is as broad in scope as ours, but, to the extent that it meets much of what we have asked for, I am grateful to see it. The Minister may wish to speak to it himself. I beg to move.

Photo of Lord Whitty Lord Whitty Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) (Food, Farming and Sustainable Energy)

My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Dixon-Smith, pre-empts me. Amendment No. 36 is intended to be an improvement on his amendment and to be more workable. It is directed at the same objective. The need for the regulators to co-operate with each other has been emphasised at several stages of the Bill's passage.

The point that I have made in qualification of that is that each regulator has distinctive duties. We consider that it is better that they use bilateral and multilateral memoranda, rather than having an all-embracing duty, as the noble Lord's amendment would impose. Our amendment will achieve the kind of co-ordination that the noble Lord and others have sought.

Photo of Baroness O'Cathain Baroness O'Cathain Conservative

My Lords, that is good news. It indicates that joined-up government—or joined-up agencies—is beginning to work. I thank the noble Lord.

Photo of Lord Dixon-Smith Lord Dixon-Smith Conservative

My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister for his response. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 45 [General functions of the Council]:

Photo of Lord Whitty Lord Whitty Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) (Food, Farming and Sustainable Energy)

moved Amendment No. 33:

Page 53, line 9, at end insert—

"DUTY TO CONSULT COUNCIL

(1) It shall be the duty of the Authority to consult the Council in relation to the exercise of each of its functions, except where—

(a) the Council has indicated to the Authority (whether specifically or generally) that it does not wish to be consulted; or

(b) the Authority considers that it would be clearly inappropriate to consult the Council.

(2) That duty is in addition to any duty on the Authority to consult the Council which is provided for elsewhere."

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 46 [Provision of information to the Council]:

Photo of Lord Whitty Lord Whitty Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) (Food, Farming and Sustainable Energy)

moved Amendment No. 34:

Page 53, leave out lines 26 and 27.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 51 [Enforcement of certain provisions]:

[Amendment No. 35 not moved.]

Photo of Lord Whitty Lord Whitty Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) (Food, Farming and Sustainable Energy)

moved Amendment No. 36:

After Clause 53, insert the following new clause—

"COOPERATION BETWEEN WATER REGULATORS

(1) This section imposes duties on each of the following—

(a) the Secretary of State,

(b) the Assembly,

(c) the Environment Agency, and

(d) the Water Services Regulation Authority.

(2) It is the duty of each of those mentioned in subsection (1) to make arrangements with each of the others with a view to promoting, in the case of each pair of them—

(a) co-operation and the exchange of information between them, and

(b) consistency of treatment of matters which affect both of them.

(3) That duty relates only—

(a) in the case of the Water Services Regulation Authority, to its functions under the WIA relating to the regulation of water and sewerage undertakers and licensed water suppliers,

(b) in the case of the Secretary of State and the Assembly, to their functions of the description referred to in paragraph (a), and to their functions under the WIA relating to the quality of water supplied by water undertakers and licensed water suppliers,

(c) in the case of the Environment Agency, to its functions concerning water resources and water pollution so far as they relate to water and sewerage undertakers and licensed water suppliers.

(4) As soon as practicable after agreement is reached on any arrangements required by this section, the parties must prepare a memorandum setting them out.

(5) The parties to any such arrangements must keep them under review.

(6) As soon as practicable after agreement is reached on any changes to arrangements under this section, the parties must revise their memorandum.

(7) Parties to arrangements required by this section must send a copy of their memorandum (and any revised memorandum) to each person mentioned in subsection (1) who is not a party to the arrangements set out in it.

(8) The Secretary of State must lay before each House of Parliament a copy of every memorandum (and revised memorandum) under this section."

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 55 [Determination references under section 12 of the WIA]:

Photo of Lord Whitty Lord Whitty Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) (Food, Farming and Sustainable Energy)

moved Amendment No. 37:

Page 68, line 4, at end insert—

"( ) For the purposes of subsection (3) above, where—

(a) the question or matter referred to the Commission concerns the review of a price control imposed on the company holding the appointment; and

(b) the Commission is to decide to what extent it is reasonable to take into account in its determination costs incurred or borne by the company in connection with the reference, the Commission shall also have regard to the extent to which, in its view, its determination is likely to support the company's (rather than the Authority's) claims in relation to the question or matter referred to it."

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Photo of Baroness O'Cathain Baroness O'Cathain Conservative

moved Amendment No. 38:

After Clause 59, insert the following new clause—

"RESTRICTION ON UNDERTAKERS' POWER TO REQUIRE FIXING OF CHARGES BY REFERENCE TO VOLUME

In section 144B of the WIA (restriction on undertakers' power to require fixing of charges by reference to volume), in subsection (1)(c), after "prescribed" there is inserted—

"by—

(i) the Secretary of State;

(ii) the Secretary of State on application by a water undertaker; or

(iii) the Secretary of State on application by the Environment Agency"."

Photo of Baroness O'Cathain Baroness O'Cathain Conservative

My Lords, the amendment would enable the Secretary of State to designate an area as an area of water scarcity. It would also enable the Environment Agency, as well as water companies, to apply to the Secretary of State for an area to be so designated.

As I said on Report, the Environment Agency accepts that real water savings from metering will come only when there is sufficient metering penetration to introduce innovative tariffs that dissuade high domestic use. The agency also recognises that large areas of the South East have unsustainable abstraction regimes. Therefore, we propose to give the agency a formal status in the process of making scarcity designations.

The Government support metering without using the word—I suspect that it is supposed to be an ugly word. In the Defra report, Directing the flow: Priorities for future water policy, published in November 2002, the Government identify the,

"prudent use of water resources and keeping its use within the limits of its 'replenishment' as a priority for water policy".

However, the Government will permit the growth of metering only on a voluntary basis. Under current legislation—the Water Industry Act 1999—those occupying their home on an unmetered basis may choose whether to be metered and water companies may, but not must, install meters in new buildings.

The current situation in which free meter options are offered is ineffective as a demand management tool. Compulsory metering is much more economical than optional or selective metering, as I have explained many times. Water companies can carry out compulsory metering only when the area concerned is designated an "area of water scarcity". On Report at 24th June, I tabled an amendment to empower the Environment Agency, as well as the water companies, to make an application to the Secretary of State to have an area designated as an area of water scarcity. In reply the Minister argued that the amendment precluded the Secretary of State making the decision herself that there is an area of water scarcity. He said:

"One could conceive of a situation where it would be necessary for the Government to take the initiative, which the amendment would not allow the Secretary of State to do".—[Official Report, 24/6/03; col. 249.]

The new amendment seeks to address these points by enabling the Secretary of State to take the initiative. It also addresses the other points made by the Minister in relation to previous amendments by giving the agency and the water companies equal status as applicants. I beg to move.

Photo of Baroness Miller of Chilthorne Domer Baroness Miller of Chilthorne Domer Liberal Democrat 11:30 pm, 9th July 2003

My Lords, there is much merit to this amendment. At this stage, in this House, we are unlikely to go much further unless the noble Baroness presses her amendment. I hope that the Government in another place will give Members a chance to fully discuss the issue and, should charging by volume be agreed, the associated issue of what safety net there will be for people who are on low incomes, who have medical needs or who have large families. They will need some form of adequate safety net. There should be full discussion of those issues.

Photo of Lord Whitty Lord Whitty Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) (Food, Farming and Sustainable Energy)

My Lords, we have some sympathy with what the noble Baroness says she is intending, but we have no confidence that this amendment achieves it. There may be a basic misunderstanding. If the purpose of the amendment is to change the process for designating the areas of water scarcity in order to introduce metering and other measures it is not appropriate to relate it to the previous Act. The provision for designation of areas of water scarcity is not actually in the primary legislation. The noble Baroness may argue that it should be—I am sure that the noble Baroness, Lady Byford, would argue that it should be—but it is not. It was in the prescribed conditions regulations. This amendment would not therefore change the process.

If the amendment has a more restricted intention it is not clear. The amendment could be read in two possible ways. It could mean that the Secretary of State should be bound by what the undertaker or the Environment Agency asks for. I do not think that that is the intention because we had that debate last time. But if it is for the Secretary of State simply to decide on the content of the regulations having due regard to the views of the Environment Agency or the undertakers, that is not very different from what exists at present. There may be some marginal advantage that the noble Baroness may see in making it explicit, but it is already the case that due regard must be taken of the views of those involved, including the undertakers, the Environment Agency, Ofwat, and others. So I do not think the amendment improves the situation.

The real problem with the amendment is that the noble Baroness seeks to make it easier to designate areas of scarcity, which is not really provided for in the existing legislation; it appears only under the regulations. No doubt, however, if the noble Baroness wishes to pursue the real intention of the amendment, she will inform her colleagues elsewhere. But this amendment will not achieve that.

Photo of Baroness O'Cathain Baroness O'Cathain Conservative

My Lords, first I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Miller of Chilthorne Domer, for her support. We are both of the same view that there is a problem with water scarcity and that the safety net must be in place for disadvantaged people.

If I have made a classic mistake in thinking that this provision was included in the legislation rather than set out in regulations, then I apologise. However, I was not aware that that was so. It is not a case of my being a Janus, looking in two directions at the same time. The whole point of the amendment is to address the importance of ensuring that we achieve the best possible management of scarce water resources.

I hope that I can take the hint, the coded message, from the Minister saying that there might be a warmer acceptance of the proposal in another place. At this point I certainly do not intend to divide the House, but I shall take the helpful suggestion from the Minister that I should get in touch with my colleagues in another place and hope that they may progress the matter there. In the meantime, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 62 [Water resources management plans]:

Photo of Lord Dixon-Smith Lord Dixon-Smith Conservative

moved Amendment No. 39:

Page 75, line 7, at end insert "which shall not be less than 25 years"

Photo of Lord Dixon-Smith Lord Dixon-Smith Conservative

My Lords, this amendment and Amendment No. 40 relate to a significant matter which we have already debated in various forms; that is, the need for very long-term planning in the provision of water resources and in particular the need for long-term investment.

I can best illustrate this by citing two examples which may be coincidental. The first refers to the designs of the Minister's right honourable friend the Deputy Prime Minister for the Thames Gateway and Essex area to have another 200,000 houses. Unquestionably those houses can be provided and to my mind they can be supplied with water—but not, of course, from the existing provision of resources and arrangements.

I have before me a different study dealing with the expansion of Stansted airport. I cite it because it relates to Stansted, but the implications are probably similar, although they may vary somewhat in degree depending on where the airport decisions are taken. I say that because there may be a greater pool of existing housing at Heathrow, which would help. This study, a serious undertaking backed in part by the studies already completed in relation to airports in the South East, although it takes into account certain other factors, postulates that if Stansted 4—that is, Stansted airport with four runways—is constructed, it would give rise to 128,000 additional houses.

Of course this may be a classic example of joined-up government for once. It may be that the Minister's right honourable friend in another place was anticipating something when he came up with his figure, although he could not say why he had arrived at it. That would be a very fortunate coincidence. However, the Department for Transport has not yet taken any decisions on airports, so we have to assume that these may be separate matters.

This clause deals with the preparation and review of water resources management plans. The important point I seek to make in tabling this amendment is to add two paragraphs to subsection (7). The subsection states that:

"The Secretary of State may give directions specifying—

(a) the form which a water resources management plan must take;

(b) the planning period to which a water resources management plan must relate".

It is that last paragraph in particular that has me worried.

The planning period for approved development plans as they exist, or for the approved structure plans as they exist, takes us up to something like 2011. One more review period—another five years—will take us up to around 2015. But given all the time that it takes to prepare for public consultation, to obtain planning permission and to get structures into place, the planning period needed for a major water infrastructure development is probably in excess of 20 years.

I accept that we do not yet have a decision in regard to the airports in the South East—although one may be arrived at fairly soon. The Minister may well argue that I am baying at the moon, but you cannot begin to plan such major infrastructure developments—be it simply the housing issue to which his right honourable friend referred or be it the housing issue plus the airport issue—without getting involved in long-period development planning, particularly in regard to the water industry. People are beginning to discuss issues in relation to transport up to 2030. My 25 years do not take us as far as that but, if I have read the information correctly, the M25 is now being planned on that basis.

This is an important amendment. The Minister may be able to reassure me in his response that he has this kind of period in mind. I am prepared to accept that there may be a degree of uncertainty about some of these matters at the present time, but we know that really major development in the South East will occur. We do not make good use of our water resources in this country—as I have said before, we use quite a small proportion of the water which falls in England—albeit areas such as the South East, which are much more densely populated, have a more acute problem and make much better use of their water resources.

If the water problems are to be solved—I am absolutely confident in my own mind that they can be solved—we will need a long planning period in which to solve them. That brings me back to the issue of water resources management plans and ensuring that they are based on a sufficiently long period to enable us to deal with the major projects that are bound to go ahead as far as one can see. There may be some dispute about the scale and we may make a mistake with over-provision of water resources that may cost water consumers a little, but I have always argued that that will not matter half as much as if we fail to provide adequate resources and these developments are constrained or have to take place in an environment where water is severely restricted. That is a sufficiently strong argument for suggesting the 25-year period.

Amendment No. 29 is a small amendment which I thought the Minister could agree without thinking about because it would be rather convenient for him if he had it there. I beg to move.

Photo of Lord Whitty Lord Whitty Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) (Food, Farming and Sustainable Energy)

My Lords, the noble Lord is right. Potential large developments such as the Thames Gateway and the various options on the airports will place huge requirements on water resources and need to be taken into account. But the first amendment is too rigid. It effectively states that the planning period, which currently is normally 25 years on a non-statutory basis, would never be less than 25 years. I believe that, in certain circumstances—partly because of the uncertainty of the future—we could need a shorter planning period in relation to a particular area or a particular development. I would not like to be tied down to that degree.

Moreover, the government amendment we have already discussed but not yet reached, Amendment No. 41, places on all statutory bodies a statutory duty to take into account water resources. That obviously includes all planning authorities, including government departments, involved with such large-scale developments. Therefore, the noble Lord's objectives will to a large extent be met by placing that duty under Amendment No. 41, which we will reach in a moment.

Photo of Lord Dixon-Smith Lord Dixon-Smith Conservative

My Lords, if this was an earlier stage of the Bill, I would be very happy with that reply; I would say that I would take it away and study it and perhaps come back at a later stage. We do not have that happy option, however, so although I think I am reassured, the amendments are down in part to make sure that the point is taken, particularly by the Government. I think I have succeeded in that ambition at least. With that, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 40 not moved.]

Photo of Lord Whitty Lord Whitty Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) (Food, Farming and Sustainable Energy)

moved Amendment No. 41:

After Clause 81, insert the following new clause—

"WATER CONSERVATION BY PUBLIC AUTHORITIES

(1) In exercising its functions and conducting its affairs, each public authority shall take into account, where relevant, the desirability of conserving water supplied to premises.

(2) In subsection (1), "public authority" means any of the following—

(a) a Minister of the Crown (within the meaning of the Ministers of the Crown Act 1975 (c. 26)),

(b) a Government department,

(c) the Assembly,

(d) a local authority (within the meaning of section 270(1) of the Local Government Act 1972 (c. 70)),

(e) a person holding an office—

(i) under the Crown,

(ii) created or continued in existence by a public general Act, or

(iii) the remuneration in respect of which is paid out of money provided by Parliament,

(f) a statutory undertaker (being any person who, by virtue of section 262 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 (c. 8) is a statutory undertaker for any purpose), and

(g) any other public body of any description."

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 89 [Water main requisitions: calculation of payments]:

Photo of Lord Whitty Lord Whitty Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) (Food, Farming and Sustainable Energy)

My Lords, in moving Amendment No. 42, which changes the wording relating to self-laid sewers, I should like to refer to Amendments Nos. 43 and 46. Amendment No. 43 achieves three inter-related aims. It ensures that the undertaker and non-domestic customers can enter into agreements equivalent to the self-lay provisions, and in such agreements the undertaker can agree to make a declaration for the vesting of such water mains or service pipes. It allows the detailed provisions of the self-lay regime to apply to domestic supplies only.

Amendment No. 46 clarifies the prohibition in the Bill on the connection of pipes laid by parties other than the undertaker. The prohibition is that pipes cannot be connected to the undertaker's network unless the pipes concerned are vested in the undertaker. These are sensible precautions to bring self-lay provisions into the main network. I beg to move.

Photo of Lord Livsey of Talgarth Lord Livsey of Talgarth Liberal Democrat

My Lords, I welcome the amendments, which relate to my Amendment No. 54. These proposals improve the situation considerably, and I welcome them.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 90 [Self-lay and adoption of water mains and service pipes]:

Photo of Lord Whitty Lord Whitty Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) (Food, Farming and Sustainable Energy)

moved Amendments Nos. 43 to 53:

Page 102, leave out lines 1 to 3 and insert—

"( ) Subsection (1) above shall not apply in the case of water mains or service pipes which are to be used (in whole or in part) for the purpose of supplying water other than for domestic purposes, but—

(a) nothing in this section shall prevent a water undertaker from agreeing apart from this section to declare any such water main or service pipe (or a part of it, as specified in the agreement) to be vested in the undertaker; and

(b) such a declaration shall take effect as a declaration made under this Chapter." Page 102, line 5, after "pipe" insert "to which subsection (1) above applies"

Page 103, leave out lines 36 to 41.

Page 105, line 28, at end insert—

"51D PROHIBITION ON CONNECTION WITHOUT ADOPTION

(1) Where a person (other than a water undertaker) constructs a water main or service pipe which is to be used, in whole or in part, for supplying water for domestic or food production purposes, no water undertaker may permit that water main or service pipe to become connected with its supply system unless it vests (to the relevant extent) in a water undertaker.

(2) In subsection (1) above, "the relevant extent" means the extent specified in the agreement for the vesting in the undertaker of the water main or service pipe in question.

(3) The prohibition imposed on a water undertaker by subsection (1) above shall be enforceable under section 18 above by the Authority." Page 105, line 30, leave out "51C" and insert "51D"

Page 105, line 39, leave out "mentioned in subsection (2) above" and insert "specified for those purposes in the relevant vesting agreement."

Page 105, line 44, leave out "51A(11)" and insert "51D(1)"

Page 106, line 5, leave out "51A(11)" and insert "51D(1)"

Page 106, line 25, leave out "under section 51A above"

Page 106, line 30, leave out "under section 51A above" and insert "to make such a declaration."

Page 106, line 34, leave out "51D(3)" and insert "51E(3)"

On Question, amendments agreed to.

Clause 91 [Requisition and adoption of sewers]:

Photo of Lord Livsey of Talgarth Lord Livsey of Talgarth Liberal Democrat

moved Amendment No. 54:

Page 108, line 19, at end insert—

"(5) The Secretary of State shall, within 2 years of the coming into force of this section, make regulations providing that the ownership of private sewers connected to the public system shall be transferred to sewerage undertakers or local authorities.

(6) Regulations may not be made under subsection (5) unless a draft of the statutory instrument containing the regulations has been laid before and approved by a resolution of both Houses of Parliament."

Photo of Lord Livsey of Talgarth Lord Livsey of Talgarth Liberal Democrat

My Lords, I make no apology for coming back to this issue. I welcome the correspondence I have had from the Minister as he is on the verge of carrying out a consultation. I tabled the amendment because it quantifies the situation on unadopted sewers. In fact, I would describe this as the unadopted sewers and cowboy builders' amendment. It underlines what a serious matter this is to many people throughout the country.

I shall quote briefly from a letter that I received from Councillor Ken Harris of Knighton on the Welsh borders. He describes the situation in the town, saying:

"The sewers in this particular part of the town consist of a pitch fibre system installed by the firm of Dorcas Engineering about 30 years ago. The firm went out of business about 15 years ago. The system was never adopted and the Water Authority—Severn Trent—maintain that they will never adopt such a system! In fact, one officer of the company 'threatened' me that if I created too much trouble over the problem, the Environment Agency could come in, close down the present system and force Severn Trent to install an adoptable sewer but at direct cost to the present residents. The Water Authority of the day when the system was installed declined to adopt it and subsequent Authorities right up to the present one—Severn Trent—have all followed the same line.

The result is that no-one will accept responsibility. Should any problems occur, then no Authority, certainly not Severn Trent, will accept any responsibility. This despite the residents having continuously paid charges over 30 years . . . Severn Trent, in their refusal to accept unadopted sewers, argue that it is not their responsibility to transport effluent to their treatment works. They say that the payments made by householders are only for the treatment of effluent when it reaches the Treatment Works. If this is the case, why do they accept responsibility for faults that occur in adopted sewers long before they reach the Treatment Works?"

Indeed, sums of money from householders have been asked for in certain instances that I know of to pay for that situation.

I do not want to pre-empt the Minister's consultation. However, I want to put it on record that I believe that a transfer of the unadopted sewers would address the question and would be the most satisfactory answer in this case, certainly from the point of view of strategy, pollution and the environment. There are other possibilities connected to management of systems, but not transfer of ownership, which is very important. Whatever comes out of the Minister's consultation, I hope that transfer will be the final solution. The issue of management is best resting with ownership in an integrated system. I would certainly advise this course when the time comes to make the final decision, and I believe that it would solve the problem.

Obviously, at this time of night, discussing such matters as sewers is not very desirable. We are nearly at midnight. None the less, I cannot underestimate the importance of the issue, and I am pleased that the Minister has written to me about his proposals for the consultation to take place. I hope that that is expedited very soon and that there will be a satisfactory outcome. I beg to move.

Photo of Lord Whitty Lord Whitty Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) (Food, Farming and Sustainable Energy)

My Lords, I recognise the noble Lord's views. It is one of the main options on which we are proposing to consult, but he is doing what he said that he would not do: trying to pre-empt the consultation by inserting the amendment in the Bill. Indeed, there would be a number of consequentials in terms of funding and responsibilities that would have to be faced, were we so to do. I cannot accept his amendment, but I accept his contribution towards the consultation.

Photo of Lord Livsey of Talgarth Lord Livsey of Talgarth Liberal Democrat

My Lords, I thank the Minister for that response. I believe that it is to the advantage of those who will be consulted to read the proceedings that have just occurred. Therefore, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Photo of Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton Government Whip

moved Amendment No. 55:

Page 118, line 2, at end insert—

"( ) in the paragraph relating to functions under section 67, for paragraphs (a) and (b) there is substituted—

"(a) for the making of regulations concerning water supplied using the supply system of a water undertaker, the function is transferred in relation to the supply system of any water undertaker whose area is wholly or mainly in Wales;

(b) for the making of regulations concerning water supplied other than using the supply system of a water undertaker, the function is transferred in relation to Wales.","

Photo of Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton Government Whip

My Lords, Amendments Nos. 55 and 56 are technical and relate to the regulation of standards of wholesomeness of water. They make amendments to the order that transfers functions to the National Assembly for Wales. The aim is that licensed water suppliers should be regulated on the same basis as the undertakers whose systems they use. The National Assembly will continue to set standards for any water put into the public water supply system, whether by licensees or undertakers or any water undertaker whose area is wholly or mainly in Wales.

Paragraph (b) of Amendment No. 55 ensures that regulation of private water supplies, which is a local authority function, still follows national boundaries. I beg to move.

Photo of Lord Livsey of Talgarth Lord Livsey of Talgarth Liberal Democrat

My Lords, as a Member from Wales I welcome the amendment. I am pleased to see that this work is being done.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Photo of Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton Government Whip

moved Amendment No. 56:

Page 118, line 44, at end insert—

"( ) in the paragraph relating to Article 2(c), at the end there is inserted "or any licensed water supplier using the supply system of any such water undertaker.""

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 99 [Specific transitional and transitory provisions]:

Photo of Lord Whitty Lord Whitty Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) (Food, Farming and Sustainable Energy)

moved Amendments Nos. 57 to 60:

Page 120, line 15, leave out second "the" and insert "an"

Page 120, line 18, leave out "is hereby revoked" and insert "shall cease to have effect (so far as it applies to that abstraction)"

Page 120, line 19, leave out subsection (3) and insert—

"(3) Subject to subsection (4), the person who was the holder of a full licence which ceases (or ceases in part) to have effect by virtue of subsection (2), and who had been taken in consequence of that licence (or that part of the licence) to have a right to abstract water by virtue of section 48(1) of the WRA, shall be taken to continue to have that right for the purposes of Chapter 2 of Part 2 of the WRA." Page 120, line 22, leave out subsection (4) and insert—

"(4) A person shall cease to be taken to continue to have the right mentioned in subsection (3), for the purposes mentioned there, if during a period of—

(a) four years, or

(b) if the abstractions authorised under the licence (or relevant part of the licence) were abstractions planned to be carried out at intervals of more than four years, or for emergency purposes only, such longer period as the Agency may determine on the application of the person, he does not carry out any such abstraction as would have been authorised by the licence (or relevant part of the licence) if it had still been in force."

On Question, amendments agreed to.

Clause 100 [Powers to make further supplementary, consequential and transitional provision, etc]:

Photo of Lord Whitty Lord Whitty Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) (Food, Farming and Sustainable Energy)

moved Amendment No. 61:

Page 121, line 16, at end insert—

"or who is a person who falls within subsection (3A).

(3A) A person falls within this subsection if he satisfies the Environment Agency of the following—

(a) that the nature of his operations, or proposed operations, requires him to make plans about the abstraction of water,

(b) that before the coming into force of any provision of this Act he would not have required a licence under Chapter 2 of Part 2 of the WRA in respect of any such abstraction for which he had reasonably planned (or, if there has already been such an abstraction, he did not require such a licence in respect of it),

(c) that following the coming into force of any such provision he does require such a licence in respect of it, and

(d) that he has suffered loss or damage as a result of his having been—

(i) refused a licence under Chapter 2 of Part 2 of the WRA in respect of that abstraction, or

(ii) granted such a licence, but in respect of an abstraction of more limited extent than he had reasonably applied for,

and he applies for compensation before any deadline provided for in the regulations under subsection (1)."

Photo of Lord Whitty Lord Whitty Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) (Food, Farming and Sustainable Energy)

My Lords, Amendment No. 61 is tabled in response to amendments tabled by the noble Lords, Lord Howie and Lord Sutherland, and relates also to Amendment No. 62, tabled by the noble Baroness, Lady Byford. In some cases, abstractions brought under licence control by this Bill may not be granted an abstraction licence or may be granted a licence on restricted terms. Clause 103 allows us to make regulations covering the payment of compensation where loss or damages arise in such cases, but only where the abstraction was ongoing when the requirement for licensing came into force. This amendment extends the scope of compensation to encompass abstractions planned at the time when licensing is introduced as well as those which are ongoing.

Our amendment deals with this subject without confining the compensation arrangements to the quarrying and mining industries, as the amendments tabled by the noble Lords did at an earlier stage and as the amendment tabled by the noble Baroness largely does. I therefore hope that she will accept the amendment. I beg to move.

Photo of Lord Dixon-Smith Lord Dixon-Smith Conservative

My Lords, the Minister has anticipated me as I anticipated him at an earlier stage. He has largely covered the points that we wish to make. His amendment goes over the same ground. It is very good to see it there and I thank him for it.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

[Amendment No. 62 not moved.]

Schedule 4 [Licensing of water suppliers]:

Photo of Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton Government Whip

moved Amendment No. 63:

Page 139, line 2, leave out "to (4)" and insert "and (3)"

Photo of Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton Government Whip

My Lords, Amendments Nos. 63, 65 and 66 are related to the competition provisions of the Bill and are minor technical amendments. Unless noble Lords wish to ask questions about the detail, I shall say no more about the amendments. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Photo of Lord Dixon-Smith Lord Dixon-Smith Conservative

moved Amendment No. 64:

Page 139, line 37, at end insert—

"(c) conditions requiring the payment by the licence holder of sums relating to any of the expenses mentioned in section 39(3) of the Water Act 2003."

Photo of Lord Dixon-Smith Lord Dixon-Smith Conservative

My Lords, under Clause 39(1), (2) and (3), the water undertakers are specifically bound to pay for,

"the expenses of the Council, and . . . the Authority, the Secretary of State or the Assembly in relation to . . . the Council".

No limit is set to those expenses. A general clause enabling the Secretary of State to require licensed water suppliers to make such a payment as she may direct is really a little inequitable. The costs should be shared between the water undertakers and it should be specified on the face of the Bill.

As this is the final group of amendments, although there are one or two still to be moved formally, I thank the Minister for his help and co-operation on the Bill. I cannot say that we on this side feel that he has conceded as much as he ought to have. If he were to say that he feels he has conceded more than he should have done, we might all feel happier. The Bill has involved a lot of hard work but it will leave this place a far better Bill than when it arrived. I am most grateful to the Minister for that. In the mean time, I beg to move.

Photo of Lord Whitty Lord Whitty Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) (Food, Farming and Sustainable Energy) 12:00 am, 9th July 2003

My Lords, Amendment No. 64 is intended to ensure that licensed water suppliers are required to contribute to the cost of establishing and running the new consumer council for water. I thoroughly agree with that. However, new Section 17G(1)(b) in Schedule 4 to the Bill allows a water supply licence to include conditions that would require such payments to be made. I certainly expect this provision to be used so that licensed water suppliers contribute to the costs not only of the consumer council but also of Ofwat so that there is a level playing field with the undertakers in that respect.

In referring explicitly to the costs of the consumer council, the amendment may cast doubt over what payments are covered by new Section 17G(1)(b), including payments towards the costs of Ofwat. I believe that there is no difference between us on that, as on so many of the Bill's issues. However, I do not believe that the amendment is necessary.

As regards the noble Lord's more general remarks, I thank all noble Lords for their co-operation, particularly on this difficult day. Noble Lords have reached at least some understanding on the content of the Bill. Of course, I conceded far too much; I always do. I was not able to accept all the points that were made but some of them have, either directly or indirectly, certainly helped to improve the Bill.

Photo of Lord Dixon-Smith Lord Dixon-Smith Conservative

My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister for his reply. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Photo of Lord Whitty Lord Whitty Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) (Food, Farming and Sustainable Energy)

moved Amendments Nos. 65 and 66:

Page 144, line 24, after "share" insert "at such time and"

Page 171, leave out line 43 and insert "first day on which all of the provisions of this Schedule and Schedule 8 are in force."

On Question, amendments agreed to.

Schedule 7 [Minor and consequential amendments]:

Photo of Lord Whitty Lord Whitty Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) (Food, Farming and Sustainable Energy)

moved Amendments Nos. 67 and 68:

Page 177, line 20, at end insert—

"In section 206 (making of false statements etc), in subsection (1), after "Act" there is inserted "or of section 5, 6 or 12 of the Water Act 2003".

In section 217 (criminal liabilities of directors and other third parties), in subsection (1), after "this Act" there is inserted "or under section 6 of the Water Act 2003".

In section 222 (Crown application), as substituted by paragraph 2(4) of Schedule 21 to the Environment Act 1995 (c.25), after subsection (10) there is added—

"(11) This section shall apply in relation to sections 5, 6 and 12 of the Water Act 2003 as it applies in relation to the provisions of this Act."" Page 181, line 3, at end insert—