Clause 41

Flood and Water Management Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 3:00 pm on 21st January 2010.

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Agreements on new drainage systems

Photo of Huw Irranca-Davies Huw Irranca-Davies Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) (Marine and Natural Environment)

I beg to move amendment 63, in clause 41, page 26, line 8, after ‘Schedule 3’ insert

‘to the Flood and Water Management Act 2010’.

The amendment is a technical one. It is to ensure that the reference to “schedule 3” refers to schedule 3 of the Bill; it is necessary to avoid confusions.

Amendment 63 agreed to.

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

Photo of Nia Griffith Nia Griffith Labour, Llanelli

Clause 41 is extremely important because it will safeguard new house owners from the nightmare of having to pay for repairs. Many people across the country might not even know that they were going to be responsible for such repairs, and they find themselves faced with enormous bills. It is extremely important that we have the clause to tighten up the legislation and make it absolutely clear that from now on, no one will face that situation.

However, my concern regards the long delays that we have had in the adoption of existing sewers by the water companies. We still have people who have been waiting for some considerable time. They know that a survey has been undertaken and that work has been done to ascertain the magnitude of the problem up and down the country. However, they are very anxious now to see that the appropriate measures are put in place for those sewers to be adopted. If there will not be anything in the Bill to do that, will the Minister explain why that is the case? What I can say to my constituents on such an important issue?

Photo of Roberta Blackman-Woods Roberta Blackman-Woods Labour, City of Durham

I rise to seek some reassurance from the Minister that the new sewers and natural drains will not be connected to the public sewerage system until they comply with the universal building standards that are to be prescribed by him, and that those regulations will link to the current building regulations.

Photo of Huw Irranca-Davies Huw Irranca-Davies Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) (Marine and Natural Environment)

I think I can bring good news to my hon. Friend the Member for Llanelli—we have spoken about the matter on numerous occasions. The good news is that the powers for transferring in Wales already exist. We established them in the Water Act 2003, so that Welsh Ministers can make regulations about transfer. Of course, that is a devolved issue.

Let me put on my MP’s, rather than my Minister’s hat for a moment. Like my hon. Friend, I have a desire for the measure to apply to some of the estates in my area, where the sewers have not been adopted, and houses that were built in the ’50s, ’60s and ’70s have been extended. The sewers were substandard—they are now crumbling, and the bills are landing on the doorsteps. I therefore share my hon. Friend’s desire to see the urgent roll-out of the measure.

We have made it clear in England that transfer will be effected in 2011. I can tell my hon. Friend that, while it is a devolved issue, the approach to be taken in Wales has been set out in the strategic position statement, which I have seen on the website and is worth looking at. The timing and the detailed roll-out are, as both of us powerful pro-devolutionists know, a matter for Welsh Ministers. However, as MPs, I am sure that we will lobby the relevant Ministers in the Welsh Assembly Government to take the matter forward as quickly as possible.

On the comments made by my hon. Friend the Member for City of Durham, may I write to her with a detailed response, as she raises quite a technical issue? It is not directly related to the clause, but I am happy to write to her and give her the clarification that she needs.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 41, as amended,accordingly ordered to stand part of the Bill.