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""(aa) a qualifying licensed water supplier within the meaning of subsection (6) of section 23 of the Water Industry Act 1991 (meaning and effect of special administration order),""

On Question, amendments agreed to.

Clause 59 [Water resources management plans]:

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton moved Amendment No. 153:

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, in moving Amendment No. 153, I shall also speak to Amendments Nos. 154, 161, 162, 164, 166, 173, 174, 177, 181, 182, 184 and 186. Amendments Nos. 153 and 154 respond to Amendment No. 171AA moved by the noble Lord, Lord Dixon-Smith, in Grand Committee, where he sought to ensure that water companies consult planning authorities for the purposes of preparing their water resources management plans.

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The amendments give the Secretary of State the power to prescribe the parties to whom an undertaker must send a copy of its draft water resources management plan. We will ensure that these regulations specify the planning authorities appropriate to the undertaker's area of supply.

Amendment No. 161 is identical to Amendment No. 179A moved by the noble Earl, Lord Peel, in Grand Committee. It limits use of the direction-making power for the preparation of flood plans to those reservoirs subject to the 1975 Act's safety regime.

Amendment No. 162 in Clause 73 enables the Secretary of State to serve a notice on reservoir undertakers requiring them not to publish flood plans or to publish them only as specified. This power would be exercised only if the national security climate required it. The amendment makes clear that the provision applies to all reservoirs and not just the large raised reservoirs.

Amendment No. 164 provides the sanction for the requirement that relevant water mains and service pipes must be vested in a water undertaker if they are to be connected to the public water supply system. We consider that there needs to be a sanction to ensure undertakers comply with the requirement. The most appropriate way of doing this is to make the provision enforceable by the authority under Section 18 of the Water Industry Act 1991.

The remaining amendments are technical, tidy words, avoid ambiguity and deal with consequential issues. If the House wishes, I could go through them in detail. If not, I beg to move.

Lord Dixon-Smith: My Lords, I have no wish to debate the amendments. I want merely to express my gratitude to the Government and to the Minister for her explanation, particularly with regard to consultation and planning. I also thank my noble friend Lord Peel for his suggestion as regards reservoirs. We are grateful that the Government have made these amendments.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton moved Amendment No. 154:

    Page 74, line 39, at end insert "; and

(c) send a copy of the published draft plan and accompanying statement to such persons (if any) as may be prescribed."

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Baroness Miller of Chilthorne Domer moved Amendment No. 155:

    After Clause 59, insert the following new clause—

"Water conservation

It is the duty of—
(a) any Minister of the Crown (within the meaning of the Ministers of the Crown Act 1975 (c. 26));
(b) any government department;
(c) the National Assembly for Wales;

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(d) a person holding office—
(i) under the Crown;
(ii) created or continued in existence by a public general Act of Parliament; or
(iii) the remuneration in respect of which is paid out of money provided by Parliament;
(e) a statutory undertaker (meaning the persons referred to in section 262(1), (3) and (6) of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 (c. 8)); and
(f) any other public body of any description;
in carrying out his or its functions, to have regard, so far as is consistent with the proper exercise of those functions, to the purpose of furthering the conservation of water."

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, in the Bill, with agreement from all sides of the House, we have laid a duty on the Environment Agency to ensure that all water abstracters and users of water do so efficiently. However, we have not yet made an amendment to ensure that all government departments, Ministers, persons holding office under the Crown and any other public bodies do so. The amendment seeks to ensure that they have proper regard for the purposes of furthering water conservation. I do not believe it is reasonable that we should expect everyone else to be efficient in their use of water and not to expect that the Government will be at the heart of such conservation.

The amendment was tabled in Committee particularly with the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister and the planning authorities in mind. I thought I had heard an encouraging response from the Government that they would consider bringing forward an amendment along these lines. I would have thought that such an amendment was in line with what Defra is supposed to do in promoting sustainability across all government departments. The inclusion of such an amendment would help it to do so.

I look forward to hearing whether the Government are regarding the amendment with favour. I beg to move.

Baroness Byford: My Lords, although our names are not added to the amendment, we have debated water conservation from the day we started debating the Bill at Second Reading. It gives me great pleasure to support it. If for any reason the Government find the amendment unacceptable because it is not technically correct, I hope that they will confirm that they will take the issue on board and return with their own amendment. I, too, had expected to see a government amendment. Perhaps it is taking a long time to find the right wording or perhaps the Government were close to accepting the noble Baroness's wording.

I support the thrust behind the amendment. Water conservation for individuals, public bodies and businesses is most important and I hope that the Government will look sympathetically on it.

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9.30 p.m.

Lord Whitty: My Lords, in Committee I indicated that I would give further, positive consideration to the substance of this amendment. I regret that this has wide implications for the public sector as a whole and will involve some internal discussions. Those considerations are still under way, so I am not this evening in a position to bring forward an amendment. However, if I can, and if the noble Baroness can give me a little more time, I will do so at Third Reading. If not, I have no doubt that we will return to it if the noble Baroness should wish to pursue it. I cannot now agree the amendment.

Baroness Byford: My Lords, before the noble Lord sits down, he did not answer my question. Is the wording unacceptable, or where do the wrinkles of the amendment lie? It would help us at Report stage—as there is only Third Reading to come—to be given some indication as to where the difficulties may lie.

Lord Whitty: My Lords, I am sorry to disappoint the noble Baroness. It is not an issue of precise wording, but of whether the Government as a whole can accept the wording. I cannot indicate the Government's position tonight.

Baroness Miller of Chilthorne Domer: My Lords, I am disappointed not to have some more positive news from the Minister at this stage.

It would be absolutely appalling if, in a Bill in which we have laid duties on the private sector and on individuals, the Government were not able to accept a similar duty. I can imagine where the wrinkles lie and where the difficulties are, but some departments may not want to accept this. I accept that in planning terms, it will be difficult. However, given that the Government have admitted that the pressure on water is extreme—in fact, that is one of the reasons for the legislation—they should be most keen to consider it.

The Minister is right; I shall return to the point at Third Reading with all force if the Government do not bring something forward then. In the meantime, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Baroness O'Cathain moved Amendment No. 156:

After Clause 59 , insert the following new clause—

"RESTRICTION ON UNDERTAKERS' POWER TO REQUIRE FIXING OF CHARGES BY REFERENCE TO VOLUME In section 144B of the WIA, in subsection (1)(c) after "prescribed" there shall be inserted "by the Secretary of State, on application by a water undertaker or the Environment Agency,".".

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, the amendment deals with metering. We have heard the same old song many times in the course of the Bill.

The amendment would enable the Environment Agency as well as the water companies to apply to the Secretary of State for an area to be designated as an area of water scarcity. The Environment Agency

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accepts that real water savings from metering will come only when there is sufficient metering penetration to introduce innovative tariffs that dissuade high domestic use. The agency also recognises that large areas of the South East have unsustainable abstraction regimes. Therefore, we propose to give the agency a formal status in the process of making scarcity designations.

The Government have identified the,

    "prudent use of water resources and keeping its use within the limits of its replenishment",

as a priority for water policy. They plan to achieve the sustainable management of water resources through a,

    "twin track approach of demand management and development of resources".

These sentences are taken directly from Defra's Directing the Flow—Priorities for future water policy, which was published in November 2002.

However, the Government will permit the growth of metering only on a voluntary basis. Under current legislation—the Water Industry Act 1999—those occupying their homes on an unmetered basis may choose whether to be metered, and water companies may install meters in new buildings. The current situation in which free-meter options are offered is ineffective as a demand-management tool. Further, compulsory metering is more economical than optional or selective metering. Optional metering is more costly as meters may be situated in only every third or tenth house. In other words, compulsory metering is the only economic way of applying demand management in a scarce water area.

Water companies can carry out compulsory metering only when the area concerned is designated as an area of water scarcity under the Water Industry (Prescribed Conditions) Regulations 1999. Only the Government—namely, the Secretary of State—can designate an area as an area of water scarcity following an application from a water company. But the areas of the South East that have unsustainable abstraction regimes are not recognised as water scarce.

On 10th April in Grand Committee we tabled an amendment to empower the Environment Agency, instead of water companies, to make an application to the Secretary of State. In reply the Minister argued that water companies should be kept as the applicants as they have the detailed knowledge about water resources in their area, and, secondly, there is nothing at the moment to prevent the agency from proposing changes to the prescribed conditions; indeed, the Secretary of State must consult it on each application.

The Minister also said:

    "Although the Environment Agency obviously has responsibilities for the totality of supply and can suggest to the Secretary of State that a scarcity designation be introduced, it is not sensible to limit the initiation of that to only the Environment Agency . . . If the amendment suggested that the Environment Agency should be put on the same footing as water companies, I would at least understand that".—[Official Report, 10/4/03; col. GC 112-113.]

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The amendment seeks to address those points by giving the agency and the water companies equal status as applicants. I beg to move.

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