After section 55

Water Industry (Scotland) Bill: Stage 3 – in the Scottish Parliament at 12:15 pm on 14th February 2002.

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Photo of Murray Tosh Murray Tosh Conservative 12:15 pm, 14th February 2002

Amendment 34, in the name of the Minister for Environment and Rural Development, is grouped with amendments 72, 73, 80 and 82.

Photo of Allan Wilson Allan Wilson Labour

In the past, the water authorities have from time to time encountered difficulties in requiring the owners of business premises served by the same service pipe as residential customers to install the necessary pipework to enable a meter to be fitted to those premises, while maintaining an unmetered supply for residential customers. A common scenario might be a restaurant situated in a block of flats or tenement building. Amendment 34 addresses that by enabling Scottish Water to require works associated with metering, such as the provision of a new service pipe and alterations to internal pipework, to be undertaken.

Amendments 72, 73, 80 and 82 are consequential on amendment 34. The purpose of amendment 34 is to deal with those loopholes. It will not result in the metering of water used for domestic purposes in the same or adjoining premises. That will continue to be charged for separately. It will make no change to the existing circumstances, which are that domestic customers can request a meter, but that the water authority cannot impose one upon them.

I move amendment 34.

Photo of Bruce Crawford Bruce Crawford Scottish National Party

Most of the amendments that we are dealing with today have been discussed before, have been promised by the Executive, were signalled earlier or are of a technical nature.

That is not the case with amendment 34. It is potentially far reaching and controversial. Amendment 34 is closely associated with an amendment introduced by the Executive at stage 2. It is clearly identified in schedule 6 of the bill, as amended at stage 2. When the amendment at stage 2 was moved by Allan Wilson, Fiona McLeod questioned him about whether the power was taken to install meters in domestic or non-domestic premises. He said:

"I asked precisely the same point in relation to this proposition. The problem only arises in a small minority of instances. It is best described as the Chinese restaurant syndrome".—[Official Report, Transport and the Environment Committee, 30 January 2002; c 2677.]

Amendment 34, combined with the Executive's stage 2 amendment, provides the minister and Scottish Water with concerning and far-reaching new powers. The effect will be, first, to give the ministers power to amend section 50 of the Water (Scotland) Act 1980, which describes what are to be regarded as domestic and non-domestic premises. Yet close examination of that section shows that Scottish Water is already provided with adequate powers. It states:

"A water authority shall not be bound to supply with water otherwise than by meter—

(a) any premises whereof part is used as a dwelling house and part for any business, trade or manufacturing purpose for which water is required".

Secondly, Scottish Water will be able to install a meter in any premises if it is given the power to do so by Scottish ministers. It will then be able to charge the lucky recipient for the privilege of installation. In short, amendment 34 will give Scottish ministers the power, by subordinate legislation, to allow Scottish Water to install meters in domestic premises and recover the cost from the householders.

Although we intend to vote against amendment 34 whatever happens, we need a cast-iron guarantee from the minister that there will never be a proposal to install meters in domestic premises, even though the Executive is giving itself the power to do that by subordinate legislation.

Photo of Allan Wilson Allan Wilson Labour

The power to supply water by meter is given in section 50 of the Water (Scotland) Act 1980. Let me make it clear that there is absolutely no intention by the ministers or Scottish Water to force anyone on to a meter for a domestic supply. If it had such an intention—which it does not—Scottish Water could be stopped by ministers from imposing meters through a direction under section 49 of the bill. That clarifies the point. However, I suspect that the nationalists will vote against the amendment anyway, as they never listen to the points that are made.

Photo of Murray Tosh Murray Tosh Conservative

The question is, that amendment 34 be agreed to. Are we agreed?

Members:

No.

Division number 20

For: Aitken, Bill, Alexander, Ms Wendy, Baillie, Jackie, Barrie, Scott, Boyack, Sarah, Brankin, Rhona, Brown, Robert, Butler, Bill, Chisholm, Malcolm, Curran, Ms Margaret, Davidson, Mr David, Douglas-Hamilton, Lord James, Ferguson, Patricia, Finnie, Ross, Fitzpatrick, Brian, Fraser, Murdo, Gallie, Phil, Gillon, Karen, Godman, Trish, Goldie, Miss Annabel, Gorrie, Donald, Grant, Rhoda, Gray, Iain, Harding, Mr Keith, Harper, Robin, Henry, Hugh, Home Robertson, Mr John, Hughes, Janis, Jackson, Dr Sylvia, Jackson, Gordon, Jamieson, Cathy, Jamieson, Margaret, Johnstone, Alex, Kerr, Mr Andy, Lamont, Johann, Livingstone, Marilyn, Lyon, George, Macdonald, Lewis, Macintosh, Mr Kenneth, MacKay, Angus, Macmillan, Maureen, Martin, Paul, McAllion, Mr John, McAveety, Mr Frank, McCabe, Mr Tom, McGrigor, Mr Jamie, McIntosh, Mrs Lyndsay, McLeish, Henry, McMahon, Mr Michael, McNeil, Mr Duncan, McNeill, Pauline, McNulty, Des, Monteith, Mr Brian, Morrison, Mr Alasdair, Muldoon, Bristow, Mulligan, Mrs Mary, Mundell, David, Munro, John Farquhar, Murray, Dr Elaine, Oldfather, Irene, Peacock, Peter, Peattie, Cathy, Radcliffe, Nora, Raffan, Mr Keith, Rumbles, Mr Mike, Scanlon, Mary, Scott, John, Scott, Tavish, Simpson, Dr Richard, Smith, Elaine, Smith, Iain, Smith, Mrs Margaret, Stephen, Nicol, Stone, Mr Jamie, Thomson, Elaine, Wallace, Ben, Wallace, Mr Jim, Watson, Mike, Whitefield, Karen, Wilson, Allan
Against: Adam, Brian, Campbell, Colin, Canavan, Dennis, Crawford, Bruce, Cunningham, Roseanna, Elder, Dorothy-Grace, Ewing, Dr Winnie, Ewing, Fergus, Ewing, Mrs Margaret, Fabiani, Linda, Gibson, Mr Kenneth, Hyslop, Fiona, Ingram, Mr Adam, Lochhead, Richard, MacAskill, Mr Kenny, MacDonald, Ms Margo, Marwick, Tricia, Matheson, Michael, McLeod, Fiona, Morgan, Alasdair, Neil, Alex, Paterson, Mr Gil, Quinan, Mr Lloyd, Robison, Shona, Russell, Michael, Sheridan, Tommy, Stevenson, Stewart, Sturgeon, Nicola, Ullrich, Kay, Welsh, Mr Andrew, Wilson, Andrew

Photo of Murray Tosh Murray Tosh Conservative

The result of the division is: For 80, Against 31, Abstentions 0.

Amendment 34 agreed to.

Photo of Allan Wilson Allan Wilson Labour

The purpose of amendment 35 is to give Scottish Water adequate power to enforce water byelaws. The amendment was prompted by a particular concern about enforcing byelaws on the use of lead solder in plumbing. The bill provides an opportunity to give Scottish Water sufficient powers in that regard.

First, amendment 35 will provide for an increased maximum penalty for the contravention of the byelaws. That will be an important signal to those who believe that they can flout byelaws, such as those on the use of lead solder, which are designed to protect public health. Secondly, if the byelaws are contravened, amendment 35 will provide for proceedings to be initiated within six months from when Scottish Water or the procurator fiscal became aware of evidence of the offence.

That change is intended to address the current situation in which prosecution is possible only within six months of the offence being committed. When lead solder has been used illegally in new premises, the water authority often does not discover that fact within six months, which means that the offence cannot be referred to the procurator fiscal. Amendment 35 will make an important improvement to the enforcement arrangements. I ask members to agree amendment 35.

Amendment 75 is a minor, tidying-up amendment that replaces references to local authorities in the 1980 act with references to "Scottish Water." I move amendment 35.

Amendment 35 agreed to.