Supplementary Memorandum by OFWAT (DWB
DRAFT WATER BILL INQUIRY
At the time of giving evidence at the Hearing
on 13 February, ONCC witnesses had not seen the paper on the proposals
for the Water Advisory Panel that DETR had forwarded to the Committee.
ONCC has now had an opportunity to consider
the extent to which the DETR paper clarifies the intended role
of the Water Advisory Panel. I attach a copy of my Chairman's
letter to DETR setting out ONCC's comments on the paper.
I hope that it will be possible for the Environment
Sub-committee to take account of our further views on the proposals
for a Water Advisory Panel.
Secretary to the Council
Letter from OFWAT National Customer Council
to the DETR
WATER ADVISORY PANEL
I have seen a copy of the DETR paper forwarded
to the Environment Sub Committee. I am surprised that the paper
makes no reference to either the future existence of or interaction
with the Consumer Council for Water which together with the Advisory
Panel is a key part of the proposals for new regulatory arrangements
set out in the draft Water Bill.
ONCC, in common with Ofwat, raised a number
of concerns in its response to the draft Water Bill on the proposal
to set up the Panel. The DETR paper goes someway to addressing
some of our concerns about the case for the Panel. However, in
the specific areas of the Panel's membership and role your paper
confirms rather than dispels our fears.
We are at a loss to understand the logic behind
the proposal that the Panel to be appointed by the Secretary of
State should include members with, among other skills and expertise,
an "understanding of customers' perspectives". In addition,
the Panel's role is intended to include provision of advice on
"customer implications". Without further clarification
the paper is a recipe for creating, one assumes unintentionally,
confusion and overlap between the Panel and the Consumer Council
for Water. We have no problem with and indeed support the retention
of appropriate arrangements for the Director to have the services
of a panel of expert advisers. But in relation to customers the
expert advice should come from the Consumer Council for Water
as it does now from ONCC and the CSCs.
I would be grateful to know if you are planning
to do any further work to develop and refine the proposal for
a Water Advisory Panel and whether the paper represents Ministers'
"bottom line" on the matter.
A copy of this letter goes to Philip Fletcher.
22 February 2001