Clause 11 - Power to provide for further exemptions

Water Bill [Lords] – in a Public Bill Committee at 5:00 pm on 16 September 2003.

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Photo of Bill Wiggin Bill Wiggin Shadow Minister (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) 5:00, 16 September 2003

I beg to move amendment No. 24, in

clause 11, page 13, line 15, at end insert—

'(d) a prescribed industry, or

(e) trickle irrigation.'.

We touched on trickle irrigation when debating a previous clause. I seek to have trickle irrigation added to the list of general exemptions, which would be helpful. The Government have assured me that the agency will take irrigation into consideration, but there is a difference between sprayer and water-gun irrigation of the sort that we see in fields, and trickle irrigation, in which water seeps out of a hose pipe with holes. I am told that it is much more efficient and that it uses far less water because the water is more targeted. That is why it would be a worthy exemption.

I also ask in the amendment for ''a prescribed industry'' to be added to the list of exemptions. I had in mind bottled water, but certain industries may or may not be omitted, and allowing the Government to prescribe which industries they should be would be constructive.

Photo of Elliot Morley Elliot Morley Minister of State (Environment and Agri-Environment), Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

I do not dispute that there is a difference between trickle irrigation and spray irrigation. Nor do I dispute the fact that trickle irrigation is generally thought to be a more efficient use of water. However, trickle irrigation can use significant amounts of water, depending on how it is managed. For example, if trickle irrigation is left on night and day, it can use rather large quantities of water. It is therefore appropriate that it should be included, so that we can manage water resources more carefully. I hope that the hon. Gentleman agrees.

The amendment would also preserve the scope for exemptions from the licensing system for specific purposes. The clause already allows exemptions for the types of abstractions listed, when it is sensible to do so in order to provide for the available water resources, so they do not need to be specified. However, trickle irrigation, although desirable, is a

significant water user, and it needs to be brought under the remit of the Bill.

Photo of Bill Wiggin Bill Wiggin Shadow Minister (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs)

I hoped that the Government would seize on the opportunity to encourage trickle irrigation, rather than treat it like other sorts of irrigation. That was one of the purposes of the amendment. I take the Minister's point about prescribed industries being included in another part of the Bill, and I have no problem in withdrawing that suggestion, but I am sad that the Government have missed a trick with trickle irrigation. It would have been helpful to emphasise to those large-scale farmers who use more than 20 cu m of water a day that it is the way forward. The amendment would therefore have been a useful addition to the Bill.

Photo of Elliot Morley Elliot Morley Minister of State (Environment and Agri-Environment), Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

I conceded that trickle irrigation has benefits. Depending on how the agency handles the licensing regime, people may see an advantage in moving towards using trickle irrigation. It is a matter for future consultation on how the abstraction licensing system is to be applied.

Photo of Bill Wiggin Bill Wiggin Shadow Minister (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs)

I am grateful to the Minister for that reply. I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 11 ordered to stand part of the Bill.