Select Committee on Environment, Transport and Regional Affairs Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence

Supplementary Memorandum by OFWAT (DWB 05(b))


  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.

Roy Wardle

Secretary to the Council

Letter from OFWAT National Customer Council to the DETR


  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.

Sheila Reiter

22 February 2001

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