Clause 54

Part of Crossrail Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 4:30 pm on 27 November 2007.

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Photo of Tom Harris Tom Harris Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Transport) 4:30, 27 November 2007

As far as I know, the hon. Gentleman is correct that the measure is unprecedented in the Channel Tunnel Rail Link Act. The Bill is not intended as a carbon copy of that Act and many of the clauses in the Bill will be adopted by future Governments to inform the construction of their policy.

Clause 54(1) disapplies the provisions of the Water Resources Act 1991 that would otherwise impose an absolute prohibition on abstracting water if that causes loss or damage to another person. Such a restriction could well prevent or delay Crossrail works from being constructed. Clause 54(2) provides that where water abstraction has caused loss or damage, the person suffering the loss or damage must be compensated. The overall effect of the clause is that the duty to avoid damage by water abstraction creates the possibility of compensation for damage but not the possibility of a court injunction. The practical protection for property owners arises from the requirement that the Environment Agency pre-approve abstraction, for which the hon. Gentleman can refer to paragraph 3 of part 3 of schedule 16.

The hon. Gentleman asked whether any work had been done that would suggest that water abstraction could be to the detriment of the construction of Crossrail. Once again, because we are at such an early stage without even having started construction, the purpose of those who drafted the Bill was to try to foresee all circumstances in the hope that the powers in the clause would not ever have to be used. Once again, going back to the cost and importance of the project, it is only fair that we should adopt a belt-and-braces attitude.