Clause 18 - Protection from derogation

Water Bill [Lords] – in a Public Bill Committee at 11:00 am on 18 September 2003.

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Question proposed, That the clause stand part of the Bill.

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

I twitched there, Mr. Amess, and leapt to my feet because I am not sure whether this aspect of the Bill will be very helpful. Could the Minister say a little about the advantage of the protection from derogation?

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

The protection from derogation relates to some of the examples that were given. Mineral water companies or any other existing licence holders have certain priorities. That means that they are protected from derogation of abstraction that would affect their existing licence.

Photo of Andrew Lansley Andrew Lansley Shadow Secretary of State for Health

I am slightly surprised that the clause limits the protection from derogation in relation to temporary or transfer licences. I am not quite sure that I understand. Obviously, if those licences are temporary, the requirement for protection will fall away relatively speedily in any case. If a licence has been sought and received from the agency, even if it is temporary and for transfer purposes, why should there not be a protection from derogation in the same way that applied in the past?

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

That is probably where a protected right is a device that operates to protect existing abstractors against later licensed abstractors. The clause identifies where those rights must be considered, for example by the Environment Agency in its determination of an application for an

abstraction licence—that is a new occasion—or by the Secretary of State for a called-in application on appeal. Such abstractors include those whose licence will no longer be required under our deregulatory process—the time-expired ones that are not being used.

The clause also allows the agency not to have to consider protected rights when it is reissuing a time-limited licence on the same terms as an expiring one. The rights of others will have been taken into account when any such licence was originally granted. I think that that is the point that has been made. Those rights are not being ignored but have already been taken into account. If the clause was removed—I know that hon. Members are not suggesting that—the agency's obligation to respect those rights when granting new licences would be removed. That would be to the detriment of existing abstractors, whose ability to abstract would be prejudiced. Temporary abstraction licences, as laid out in the Bill, will be only for abstraction of 28 days or less, so they are not likely to have a large impact on the rights of existing abstractors.

Abstractions for the purpose of water transfer represent a non-consumptive use of water. Most transfer abstractions will be conducted simply for the purpose of such activities as dewatering in quarries. As such, there is often no significant consequence if there is derogation from such abstractions. The clause recognises that existing licensees have certain rights but there may be some temporary or other circumstances in which a licence can be granted that will not impact on them. That is all that the clause tries to do.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 18 ordered to stand part of the Bill.