Water Bill

Environment Food and Rural Affairs written question – answered on 2nd May 2002.

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Photo of Mr Bill Tynan Mr Bill Tynan Labour, Hamilton South

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs when the Government will publish its response to the draft Water Bill consultation; and if she will make a statement.

Photo of Michael Meacher Michael Meacher Minister (Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) (Environment)

The Government response to the draft Water Bill consultation is being published today. It considers issues raised by over 150 respondents. Copies of the response are being placed in the Library.

There was general support for the aims of the Bill, although there were inevitably differences regarding a number of the proposals. The main changes that will be in the Bill as a result of the consultation are:

Ofwat will be governed by a Regulatory Board rather than an individual Director General, along similar lines to other economic regulators. This is instead of the Advisory Panel proposed in the draft Bill.

Ofwat's duty to ensure that water companies are able to secure reasonable returns on their capital will now be retained.

The draft Water Bill contains provisions in the broad areas of water resource management and better regulations as well as other specific provisions. In particular the draft Bill contains:

reform of water abstraction licensing to provide new powers to protect the environment and manage water resources more effectively and a requirement on water companies to prepare drought plans and conserve water;

amendment of the regulatory framework to improve the position of consumers and improve regulatory certainty, and in particular to set up a new, independent Consumer Council for Water; reform of the drinking water regulatory regime to cope with industry restructuring and the possible effects of the Competition Act 1998 giving the Drinking Water Inspectorate greater status, and increasing the level of fines that magistrates can impose; and improvement of the regime for controlling polluting discharges, and rationalisation of arrangements for reservoir safety and the regulation of water, sewerage and contaminated land.

The Government response to the draft Water Bill consultation reflects the Government's continued commitment to placing consumers at the heart of regulation and ensuring environmental sustainability in the water industry.

We aim to introduce the Bill as soon as parliamentary time allows.

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