Clause 37 - Water Services Regulation Authority

Water Bill [Lords] – in a Public Bill Committee at 4:30 pm on 14 October 2003.

Alert me about debates like this

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

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

There is a little anomaly here that I should like to have clarified. The clause states that the Water Services Regulation Authority shall be known as that, but when it comes to the Welsh version is states that the authority ''may be known as''. I wonder why we cannot have the same application for the same name.

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

The clause adds a new section to the Water Industry Act 1991 and repeals section 1 and schedule 1 of that Act. It establishes a new corporate body to be known as the Water Services Regulation Authority. The office of the director general of water services is abolished. It is possible that the new authority will still be commonly known as Ofwat. There is nothing to stop that. That is not a problem. The Government believe that having a regulatory board will reduce the chance of shifts of policy or approach resulting from the changeover of individual directors general and will encourage consistent and transparent regulation. The Better Regulation Task Force reached the same conclusion in its report on the economic regulators in 2001. In Wales, both the English and the Welsh versions will be used. I hope that that answers the hon. Gentleman.

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

I am grateful to the Minister. I hoped that he might attempt to pronounce the Welsh, but seeing as I did not dare to do so myself, I am grateful for that explanation.

Photo of George Osborne George Osborne Shadow Minister (Treasury)

The Minister did not answer my hon. Friend's very pertinent question. The clause says that in England the body will be known as the Water Services Regulation Authority, whereas the Welsh language version is merely optional, as it states:

''In Welsh the Authority may be known as''—

I will not attempt to read out the Welsh name.

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

To speak in defence of the Minister, which I am not likely to do again, he gave the bilingual option as an alternative.

Photo of Mr Simon Thomas Mr Simon Thomas Plaid Cymru, Ceredigion

There are some words that dare not speak their name here. Hon. Members are trying to comment on the Awdurdod Rheoleiddio Gwasanaethau Dwr. I accept the point that has been raised by the hon. Gentleman. The answer lies with the Welsh Language Act 1993, rather than this Bill. It will be vital that the organisation in Wales not only has a Welsh name but provides services in Welsh to consumers who so choose.

There is another point on clause 37 that I should like the Minister to address. The body, whether one calls it the awdurdod or the authority, will have members appointed by the Secretary of State in consultation with the National Assembly. I should like to know a little more about the phrase ''in consultation''. Later in the Bill we transfer significant functions relating to reservoirs, for example, to the National Assembly, which we would all welcome. In that context, one would expect the National Assembly to have quite a significant role in the work of the authority, and—

Photo of Sir David Amess Sir David Amess Conservative, Southend West

Order. I am sorry. The hon. Gentleman is talking about something that is not relevant to the clause. It is in schedule 1. If he could be a little patient, we will come to that shortly.

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

Just to clarify the point about ''shall'' and ''may'', it is simply so that both Welsh and English can be used. If the word ''shall'' were used it would not be possible to have an English version. In relation to the appointments, the Secretary of State has responsibility—

Photo of Hugo Swire Hugo Swire Opposition Whip (Commons)

The Minister is wrong about that. It says ''in Welsh'', rather than ''in Wales''.

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

I am not going to argue about Welsh and Wales. The issue about the appointments is that the Secretary of State has responsibility in relation to this issue as she does for a number of appointments. It is normal where there is a Welsh interest and where legislation covers England and Wales for the Welsh Assembly to be consulted. In—

Photo of Sir David Amess Sir David Amess Conservative, Southend West

Order. I am reluctant to interrupt the Minister, but again I am afraid that he is talking about schedule 1, to which we shall come shortly.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 37 ordered to stand part of the Bill.