Clause 46 - General functions of the Council

Water Bill [Lords] – in a Public Bill Committee at 10:15 am on 16 October 2003.

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Photo of Bill Wiggin Bill Wiggin Shadow Minister (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) 10:15, 16 October 2003

I beg to move amendment No. 83, in

clause 46, page 52, line 26, after 'obtaining', insert 'publishing'.

This is not a particularly difficult proposal. It relates to the interests of consumers and the general functioning of the council, especially the acquisition and review of information. Like all members of the Committee, I am keen on transparency, which is a word the Minister uses almost as much as proportionality. The amendment would ensure that once the information is obtained, it will be available to the public because the council will be forced to publish it. Of course, sensitive information should not be published, but the amendment seeks to tease out the Government's thinking and to ensure that the Bill provides that information that can be published will be published. The amendment is intended to provide transparency, and I hope that the Government will take it in that way.

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

We do not disagree with that; we are committed to openness and transparency. However, the effect of the amendment is already covered in new section 27F in clause 46, which expressly provides for publication. We do not disagree, but the provision is already in the Bill. I hope that that addresses the hon. Gentleman's concern.

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

Yes, it does. I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

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

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

Clause 46 is important, as it sets up the new consumer council, providing for its remit and way of working. Clause 46 makes it clear that the new council will have offices in England and Wales, which will allow consumers in both countries physically to access its services. I am sure that they will also be able to have virtual access through a website and all the other things we do today, although that clearly does not have to be defined in the Bill.

However, in Wales we have always ensured that such bodies work under the aegis of the Welsh Language Act 1993. Will the Minister confirm that, when the council is working in Wales, it will make its services available and provide its information in both English and Welsh? My recollection is that we have had to amend the 1983 Act to ensure that such a body comes under its aegis. The Minister may have been

advised that we do not need to do that, but it is worth asking to ensure that the 1983 Act applies to the new consumer council.

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

We would expect that bodies operating in Wales would follow the normal and well-established patterns of that place. Those issues are more for the National Assembly for Wales, but I will ensure that the hon. Gentleman's point is drawn to its attention.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 46 ordered to stand part of the Bill.