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Lord Williams of Elvel: Now we are getting somewhere. I am grateful to the Minister for supplying that last piece of information. I certainly agree that it is pointless to try to change the legislation in Committee while officials are still studying the results of an investigation that they have carried out. Nevertheless, I very much hope that at a later stage of the Bill noble Lords will have some idea of what those conclusions might be; or at least that the Government will say, "We think this, that and thus", and will take the matter to another place, so that Parliament can have its say on what should be the right way of handling radioactive waste, and not least the right way for the public to be informed, in a sensible and rational manner, as to how radioactive waste is being dealt with. I hope very much that in giving the Committee the information that the Minister has he will accept that we look forward to further statements from the Government about this matter.

Lord Lucas of Chilworth: Before the noble Lord, Lord Williams, sits down, is he primarily concerned with the low level waste that mostly emanates from hospitals and with substances of that kind, or does he have some rather more serious underlying worry?

Lord Williams of Elvel: My worry is not serious and underlying. It is simply a general unease that the public may not be informed about authorisations given to dispose of radioactive waste, whether low level or high level. I am not specifying what sort of waste it is.

I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

On Question, Whether Clause 95, as amended, shall stand part of the Bill?

Lord Williams of Elvel: Clause 95 allows the Secretary of State to delegate the functions of determining, or to refer matters involved in, appeals. The Committee will remember that we debated at some length the judicial functions that could be contracted out—that is to say, delegated—when we debated the Deregulation and Contracting Out Act 1994. Perhaps I may remind the Committee of Section 71 of that Act. It states that a function is excluded from Sections 69 and 70—that is, contracting out—if,

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    "its exercise would constitute the exercise of jurisdiction of any court or of any tribunal which exercises the judicial power of the State; or ... its exercise, or a failure to exercise it, would necessarily interfere with or otherwise affect the liberty of any individual".

There are also two other exceptions that I will not go into.

We need to be persuaded by the Government that Clause 95 of the Bill does not run directly contrary to Section 71 of the Deregulation and Contracting Out Act 1994. I look forward to hearing from the Minister exactly what the explanation is.

Viscount Ullswater: Clause 95 gives powers to the Secretary of State to delegate his functions of determining appeals against agency decisions or to refer matters involved in such appeals against agency decisions to persons appointed or nominated for that purpose. These powers apply to the Secretary of State for the Environment in relation to the environment agency for England and Wales and to the Secretary of State for Scotland in relation to SEPA.

Under the current legislation, applicants for or holders of certain environmental licences issued by the NRA, HMIP and HMIPI or other existing bodies have the right to appeal to the appropriate Secretary of State. This clause would give power to delegate this function to an appointed person who would have, with certain limited exceptions, the same powers and duties as the Secretary of State in deciding such appeals.

To a large extent these powers are not new. They are precedented in, for example, subsection 15(5) of the Environmental Protection Act 1990. Many environmental appeals are already dealt with by, for example, those members of the planning inspectorate of the Department of the Environment who have the relevant expertise and experience. However, under the existing provisions appeals can be delegated only on a case by case basis. Clause 95 would allow classes of cases to be delegated, thus streamlining the existing system.

I should stress that this is only a power to delegate. The Secretary of State will of course exercise his discretion in using it. Where it seems appropriate he will retain cases for his own determination and will have the power to call in cases if he thinks fit. Thus the Secretary of State would expect to deal with any case which involves difficult policy decisions or which raises particularly sensitive issues.

The purpose of this clause is to ensure that straightforward appeals, which represent the majority of cases referred to the Secretary of State, can be dealt with quickly and efficiently by those who have the experience and knowledge to do so. This should speed up the appeals procedure, and that must be in everyone's interest. But the powers are sufficiently flexible to ensure that the Secretary of State can retain his role in relation to appeals where it is appropriate for him to do so. I trust that with that explanation the noble Lord will feel able to withdraw his opposition to this clause.

Lord Williams of Elvel: I am grateful to the noble Viscount for explaining what this clause is about. But he has not addressed himself to the question that I put. All the precedents that he cited were prior to Royal

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Assent to the Deregulation and Contracting Out Act 1994. The question that I put (and I must perhaps be more precise about it) is: are the powers that it is proposed will be granted under Clause 95 of this Bill in any way in conflict with the judicial functions excluded under Section 71 of the Deregulation and Contracting Out Act 1994?

The noble Viscount said that the Secretary of State will use his discretion in using this power. If the power granted to him is in contravention of Section 71 of the 1994 Act, he will not be able to use that power at all. So it is pointless to have the clause. I hope that an explanation in greater detail will come in due course.

Viscount Ullswater: I appreciate that the clause as it stands has been drafted when the Deregulation and Contracting Out Act is on the statute book. But I feel that I should investigate what the noble Lord has brought to my attention to make entirely certain that the power we are taking in Clause 95 is not in some way contradictory to Section 71 of the Act he mentioned. In the meantime, I propose that the clause should stand part of the Bill.

Clause 95, as amended, agreed to.

7.15 p.m.

Lord Jenkin of Roding moved Amendment No. 345A:


After Clause 95, insert the following new clause:

("Efficient use of water and sewerage services"
Efficient use of water and sewerage services

.—(1) The Water Industry Act 1991 shall be amended in accordance with the following provisions of this section.
(2) In section 2(3) (d) after the word "undertaker" there shall be inserted the words "and the efficient use of water and of sewerage services supplied to consumers by a relevant undertaker".
(3) The following section shall be inserted after section 39A—
"Promotion of efficient use of water.

39B.—(1) The Director may, after consulting every undertaker and persons or bodies appearing to him to be representative of persons likely to be affected, from time to time—
(a) determine such standards of performance in connection with the promotion of the efficient use of water by customers as, in his opinion, ought to be achieved by water undertakers; and
(b) arrange for the publication, in such form and in such manner as he considers appropriate, of the standards so determined.
(2) Different standards may be determined for different water undertakers.
(3) Each water undertaker shall, in such form and manner and with such frequency as the Director may direct, take steps to inform its customers of—
(a) the standards determined under this section which are applicable to that undertaker; and
(b) that undertaker's level of performance as respects those standards."
(4) The following section shall be inserted after section 96A—
"Promotion of efficient use of sewerage services.

96B.—(1) The Director may, after consulting the sewerage undertakers and persons or bodies appearing to him to be representative of persons likely to be affected, from time to time—

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(a) determine such standards of performance in connection with the promotion of the efficient use of sewerage services by customers as, in his opinion, ought to be achieved by sewerage undertakers; and
(b) arrange for the publication, in such form and in such manner as he considers appropriate, of the standards so determined.
(2) Different standards may be determined for different sewerage undertakers.
(3) Each sewerage undertaker shall, in such form and manner and with such frequency as the Director may direct, take steps to inform its customers of—
(a) the standards determined under this section which are applicable to that undertaker; and
(b) that undertaker's level of performance as respects those standards."
(5) In section 37 the following subsection shall be inserted after subsection (1)—
"(1A) It shall be the duty of every water undertaker, in meeting its obligations under this Part, to do so in such a manner as will promote—
(a) the conservation of water, whenever it is economic to do so; and
(b) the efficient and economic use of water by customers of that water undertaker."
(6) In section 37(2), for the word "duty" there shall be substituted the word "duties".
(7) In section 94 the following subsection shall be inserted after subsection (1)—
"(1A) It shall be the duty of every sewerage undertaker, in performing its duty under subsection (1) above, to do so in such a manner as will promote—
(a) the conservation of water, whenever it is economic to do so; and
(b) the efficient and economic use of water and of sewerage services by customers of that sewerage undertaker."
(8) In section 94(3), for the word "duty" there shall be substituted the word "duties".").

The noble Lord said: With this amendment we return to a matter we discussed in Committee on 19th January. To me, and I know that I speak for my noble friend also, that seems a very long time ago. It is a question of a duty to conserve water and how we can best embody that duty in legislation.

The Committee may remember that the noble Baroness, Lady Nicol, moved an amendment which sought to put a very general duty to conserve water on the agency and various other bodies, including the undertakers. In his reply my noble friend on the Front Bench had some criticisms to make of part of the amendment. Referring to an amendment proposed by my noble friend Lord Marlesford, which put water undertakers under a duty to conserve water, he said:


    "This seems to us a more promising approach. Coupled with the setting of standards by the director general, it could offer helpful possibilities".

He went on to say:


    "I am therefore happy to undertake that we will consider, during the passage of the Bill through Parliament, whether it should be amended to introduce now a duty on water undertakers to promote water conservation".—(Official Report, 19/1/95; cols. 822 and 823.)

The Committee may remember that I drew attention to the fact that only that day I had tabled the new clause which is now before us. My noble friend had not had a chance to see it, but he undertook to consider it

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carefully. The new clause offers precisely what my noble friend thought was a more promising approach. In a sense it implements what the Government suggested in their publication Using Water Wisely; namely, that there was a case for requiring water undertakers to promote conservation and the efficient use of services by their customers, and that the Director General of Water Services might have the same powers as have the economic regulators of the electricity and gas industries concerning the promotion of efficient behaviour on the part of customers.

That is what the new clause seeks to do. It takes the form of extending the duties imposed on the Director General of Water Services, Ofwat, by Section 2 of the Water Industry Act 1991. It requires him to carry out his functions in the manner he considers best calculated not only to promote economic and efficient behaviour on the part of water and sewerage undertakers but also efficient use by their customers of the services they provide. As I said, there are close parallels with the Gas Act 1986 and the Electricity Act 1989.

Subsections (3) and (4) of the new clause would enable the director general to set standards of performance—precisely as my noble friend indicated on 19th January might be appropriate—to be achieved by water and sewerage undertakers, again for the promotion of the efficient use by customers of water and sewerage services.

Perhaps I may say at this point that it is important that the provisions should apply equally to sewerage undertakers as to water undertakers. For instance, it would be somewhat strange if there were a system which imposed duties on the use of water, with the result that in a particular area it might be appropriate to go in for metering of water but somehow one had a different system applying to sewerage. The words "integrated pollution control" must have some implications that these things should be treated together. For instance, sewerage undertakers might well be encouraged to embark on publicity programmes to try to persuade customers not to put down the drains inappropriate articles, such as plastic and so on, but to promote the Bag It and Bin It campaign with which we are all familiar and on which my right honourable friend the Secretary of State on one occasion made a speech that attracted a good deal of publicity.

There are a range of ways in which the duty might be carried out. But the structure of the clause is such that it puts a duty on undertakers to see that their customers use water and sewerage services economically and sensibly in order to promote conservation and broadly sustainable development. The clause also confers a power on Ofwat under the director general to set standards.

I may be pushing at an open door. It seems to me that the new clause, if not absolutely on all fours with what, in the earlier debate, my noble friend indicated he would smile on, is very close to it. I do not for a moment assert that the drafting is right. I have sufficient respect for parliamentary counsel to know that they will want to redraft the clause. It will not be necessary for me to argue the matter at great length at this stage. The case

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has been well made in earlier debates. My noble friend thought that he might be able to look at it during the passage of the Bill.

I make one further point. At least one water undertaking—Welsh Water—has expressed doubts and has written to a number of honourable and right honourable Members in another place to say that it believes that the new clause would give Ofwat the power to direct undertakers to install metering. As I understand it, that is not the director's policy which remains unchanged. He is anxious to encourage new developments to include metered supplies and that is now being done in many cases. But he fully recognises that it would be entirely inappropriate to impose a general duty to install meters in existing premises.

A short time ago, the director general published a document Paying for Water: the way ahead, in which he said:


    "In the long term, metering is the only satisfactory way of achieving payments which are well related to the amount of water used. A rapid change to universal household metering would, however, be uneconomic. Instead, metering should be targeted, and should spread progressively".

There are also obligations on the director general to consult widely before introducing metering. He must consult every undertaker and persons or bodies appearing to him to be representative of persons likely to be affected. So, with the greatest respect to Welsh Water—I say this in recognition that somebody present may wish to make the point —I think it has jumped the gun. The clause does not have the effect feared. It does not change in any way the policy of the director general on the question of the introduction of water metering. It puts the duty on undertakers to see that their customers use water and sewerage systems wisely so that Ofwat can set standards and monitor them. I beg to move.


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