Clause 19 - Protected rights

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

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Amendment proposed [this day]: No. 38, in

clause 19, page 22, line 32, leave out 'four' and insert 'six'.—[Mr. Wiggin.]

Question again proposed, That the amendment be made.

Photo of Mr Bill O'Brien Mr Bill O'Brien Labour, Normanton 2:30, 18 September 2003

I remind hon. Members that with this we are considering the following:

Amendment No. 119, in

clause 103, page 128, line 40, leave out 'four' and insert 'six'.

Amendment No. 120, in

clause 103, page 128, line 43, leave out 'four' and insert 'six'.

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

For the benefit of those who read the report of our proceedings, I remind hon. Members that the purpose of my intervention at the end of this morning's sitting was to recall that, at the start of his contribution, the Minister referred to the phrase ''or any other period'', which might be an extension of the period of protected rights. He seemed to be quoting, but I could not see whether he was quoting from the Bill.

Although the Minister kindly offered to write to me and to other hon. Members about the limitations—as I saw them—on the extension of protected rights, I hope that he does not suppose that he has answered my point, and that we might see his answer in writing later. I am concerned that there might be valid circumstances in which a licence holder has not used the licence for a period of time that might not be encompassed in new subsection (9)(b) in clause 19.

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

First, I shall try to sum up where we are, which might be helpful to the Committee. On the hon. Gentleman's point, I can tell him that in the original Bill, the four-year period was fixed and there was no provision for an extension. During debate in the other place, the Government made a concession to ensure that the Environment Agency could, in certain circumstances, extend that period. Our view is that the Bill's wording is sufficient to give the agency the power to do that. We will re-examine the text to ensure that the concession is being delivered. I will ensure that that is checked, and if there is a problem, we will consider it.

To return to our discussion on protected rights, we were getting confused about the different issues of protected rights and abstraction rights. We are talking about protected rights, not abstraction rights. We are talking about abstractors who will be exempt under this Bill—those who come below the 20 megalitre

limit. They can continue with protected rights so long as they are abstracting. If they stop abstracting, they do not lose the right to abstract, but they will lose protected rights after four years. They can start to abstract again at any time.

There was an argument about four years versus seven years versus six years. I reiterate that the Bill is about resource management, and good resource management requires in all cases that exemptions be kept to the minimum that is reasonable. The four-year period is consistent with the proposed four-year time scale, later in the Bill, for removing an abstraction licence that is held and not used, and the period of review of discharge consents. That strikes the right balance between helping the agency to discharge its resource management duties and safeguarding the rights of the abstractor. I invite the Committee to support the measure.

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

I am disappointed that Labour Members came back from lunch quite so quickly, because there was a moment there where I would not have had to appeal to their better nature. As the Minister says, this is a question of judgment. I think that the provision should be consistent with the catchment abstraction management strategies, but the Minister does not agree, and I should like to press the amendment to a vote.

Question put, That the amendment be made:—

The Committee divided: Ayes 9, Noes 11.

Division number 5 Adults Abused in Childhood — Clause 19 - Protected rights

Aye: 9 MPs

No: 11 MPs

Aye: A-Z by last name

No: A-Z by last name

Question accordingly negatived.

Clause 19 ordered to stand part of the Bill.