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Draft Water Bill

Environment Food and Rural Affairs written question – answered on 16th May 2002.

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Photo of Stephen Ladyman Stephen Ladyman Labour, South Thanet

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

Photo of Margaret Beckett Margaret Beckett The Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

My right hon. Friend, the Secretary of State, announced the publication of the Government Response to the draft Water Bill consultation on Thursday 2 May.

The Water Bill aims to ensure improved management of our water resources; place consumers at the heart of a more open and accountable regulatory process and increase the powers of courts and the Regulators to level appropriate financial penalties on water companies. In addition, the Bill will contain provisions for extending competition for users of large amounts of water.

The consultation response considered in detail more than 150 responses and following this, a number of amendments will be made to the draft Water Bill. The main changes are; firstly that 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. Secondly, the Director General's duties to ensure that companies can secure "reasonable returns on their capital" will not be altered. And thirdly the Director General of Water Services will be given a sustainable development duty. While this will not alter the Director General's purpose or aims, it will oblige him to be mindful of social and environmental concerns, when exercising his functions as economic regulator of the industry. The Director General supports these changes.

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