Clause 101 - Devolution: Wales

Water Bill [Lords] – in a Public Bill Committee at 2:45 pm on 21 October 2003.

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Photo of Bill Wiggin Bill Wiggin Shadow Minister (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) 2:45, 21 October 2003

I beg to move amendment No. 117, in

clause 101, page 125, line 42, leave out 'or mainly'.

Photo of Mr Bill O'Brien Mr Bill O'Brien Labour, Normanton

With this we may take amendment No. 118, in

clause 101, page 126, line 26, leave out 'or mainly'.

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

The amendment is very similar to an earlier amendment. It would deal with water or sewerage undertakers whose area is wholly or mainly in Wales. I intended the measure to deal with undertakers who are wholly, rather than mainly, in

Wales but in a previous reply the Minister explained that because of the way in which the areas are divided up there are few that are wholly in Wales. Nearly all the companies on the borders have a small area that goes over the border and thus would be precluded. Unless the hon. Member for Ceredigion (Mr. Thomas) wants to dive in, we do not need to pursue the matter. I hope that the Minister will confirm that I am right.

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

As the hon. Gentleman has conceded his ground, I will not discuss the amendment, which is as ill conceived this time as it was the first time around. However, I take the opportunity to question the Minister. My reading of the clause, whether it is amended or not, as the hon. Gentleman half suggested, is that it will enable the National Assembly for Wales to decide on the construction of new reservoirs in Wales, whether the reservoirs provide water wholly or mainly for Wales or for England. Can the Minister confirm that my interpretation is correct? I hope that it is, because it is important that the construction of reservoirs in Wales, which directly affects the Welsh communities, landscape and environment, is decided as a planning matter by the National Assembly and not a Westminster Department.

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

As I mentioned earlier, the construction of reservoirs in Wales is primarily a planning issue and would come under the power of the National Assembly for Wales.

Amendments Nos. 117 and 118 would restrict some of the National Assembly's water regulation functions to undertakers that operate entirely in Wales. We have already debated amendment No. 78 under clause 43, and we established that no undertaker serves an area wholly in Wales. The amendments would therefore exclude the Assembly, and the Secretary of State would have to exercise his powers throughout England and Wales. That is not the Bill's intention. We have dealt with areas that fall wholly in England, and those points were properly examined and the provisions are there. However, we would not want to undermine the Welsh Assembly's powers, as the amendments would.

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

I thought that that was not the hon. Gentleman's intention, but apparently it is.

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

The Minister is absolutely right that it is not my intention to undermine the powers of the Assembly. Offa's dyke is in my constituency and I am nervous that it might soon be Offa's dam.

We have had a clear debate, so I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 101 ordered to stand part of the Bill.