Select Committee on Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Twenty-Eighth Report


Annex 2

WATER BILL [HL] - CONSIDERATION OF COMMONS AMENDMENTS

Supplementary Memorandum by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

1.  Further to memoranda from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs reported on in the 12th and 23rd Reports of the Committee, this supplementary memorandum covers a draft Government amendment to amend the Water Industry Act 1991 to give the Secretary of State power to make regulations to impose a duty on sewerage undertakers to adopt private sewers under defined circumstances.

PRIVATE SEWERS

2.  The relevant existing law relating to sewers is contained in part IV of the Water Industry Act 1991. These provisions place a general duty on sewerage undertakers to provide, improve and maintain a system of public sewers. The Act gives sewerage undertakers a discretionary power to adopt new sewers or sewerage disposal works. This duty has resulted in a mixed approach and does not apply to lateral drains (the part of the drain which runs from the curtilage of the premises to the sewer).

3.  Since 1991 a Protocol for the construction of new sewers has been introduced. This means that all new sewers must now be built to an agreed standard which cannot preclude them from being adopted on the grounds of inadequate design or unacceptable construction. This measure has addressed the problem of new private sewers.

4.  The Bill as brought from the House of Lords also includes clauses on the requisition and adoption of lateral drains to bring them into line with the existing provisions on private sewers. Clause 98 allows for sewerage undertakers to take responsibility for the repair and maintenance of all new lateral drains.

5.  However, this still only goes some way to addressing concerns as it is estimated that about 50% of domestic properties are connected to existing private sewers in one form or another. Many householders are unaware that they have a private sewer until a problem occurs and they are faced with what can sometimes be considerable cost. In the event of a problem there can be difficulties establishing ownership, especially when ownership is shared, and households are often unwilling to accept responsibility or are unable to afford the high cost of repair. Sewerage flooding from private sewers is also a major concern.

6.  Defra published a consultation paper on existing private sewers and drains on 1 July. It set out the problems identified and sought views on proposed solutions. An early analysis of the responses indicates that there is broad support for private sewer ownership passing to sewerage undertakers who are seen as best placed to take on the responsibility.

SECTION 105A NEW CLAUSE - SCHEMES FOR THE ADOPTION OF SEWERS AND LATERAL DRAINS

Power conferred on:    Secretary of State

Power exercisable by:    Regulation

Parliamentary procedure:  Affirmative

7.  This clause provides for the Secretary of State to make regulations to place a duty on a sewerage undertaker to exercise its existing powers, under Section 102 of the Water Industry Act 1991, to adopt private sewers.

8.  A delegated power is sought to impose a duty on a sewerage undertaker as and when an adoption scheme is made by the Secretary of State.

9.  The power gives the Secretary of State a necessary degree of flexibility. Until we have analysed responses to the Department's consultation on private sewers it is not possible to say to what extent the Secretary of State will need to take action under this clause.

10.  The amendment allows the Welsh Assembly Government to make corresponding regulations for undertakers wholly or mainly in Wales.

SECTION 105B NEW CLAUSE - ADOPTION SCHEMES: APPEALS

Power conferred on:    Secretary of State

Power exercisable by:    Regulation

Parliamentary procedure:  Negative

11.  This clause provides an appeal mechanism for owners of sewers to make appeals in relation to the scheme.

12.  The clause will provide for grounds of appeal, and also allow for regulations to add further grounds of appeal.

13.  It is envisaged that the clause will also provide remedies on appeals, and also allow for regulations to add further remedies.

14.  It is envisaged that regulations will also set out further considerations and make further provision in connection with appeals under the new clause.

15.  A delegated power is sought in order to provide for an appropriate degree of flexibility in the balance of policy aims that may conflict with serious individual detriment.

16.  The power gives the Secretary of State a necessary degree of flexibility in relation to the mechanics of appeal.

17.  The amendment allows the Welsh Assembly Government to make corresponding regulations for undertakers wholly or mainly in Wales.


 
previous page contents next page

House of Lords home page Parliament home page House of Commons home page search page enquiries index

© Parliamentary copyright 2003