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Water

Volume 130: debated on Monday 28 March 1988

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To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what will be the procedure for the payment for water consumed through an underground leak during the trial period of metering; and how the sewerage return rate will be calculated.

As with existing metered supplies, customers in the trial areas will be charged on the basis of the amount of water which passes through the meter, including any water that leaks from supply pipes on the customer's side of the meter. However, provided that there has been no obvious negligence or deliberate abuse by the customer, most water undertakers will adjust abnormally high metered consumption due to a leak back to a typical figure for measured consumption, on condition that the customer repairs the leak where it is the legal responsibility of the customer. This would apply both to the measured water supply charge and to the sewerage charge, which will be assesed on the usual fixed percentage of clean water supplied. The water industry is considering issuing a code of practice which would make a clear statement about the adjustment of bills in cases of leakage.

To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment when he expects to publish the code of practice for the water metering trial areas; and when the contractors for the Isle of Wight installation will be announced.

We do not intend to publish a code of practice for the water metering trial areas. Subject to the enactment of the Public Utility Transfers and Water Charges Bill, each metering trial scheme will have to be approved under clause 4 by my right hon. Friend the Secretry of State, who may make his approval subject to conditions. Water undertakers are already required to make such schemes available to the public. In addition, schedule 1 to the Bill and regulations to be made under clause 5, will form a water metering code, which will apply to metering generally, as well as to the trials. The choice and timing of appointment of contractors to install meters during the course of the proposed trial on the Isle of Wight is a matter for Southern Water, although my right hon. Friend will need to be satisfied that all undertakers involved in the trials have made satisfactory arrangements to ensure that contractors who need to enter people's homes to carry out installation work are properly vetted.

To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment how many households have had their water supplies disconnected in each year between 1982–83 and 1987–88.

[holding answer 24 March 1988]: The number of households disconnected by water authorities in England and Wales was as follows:

Houses
1982–831,171
1983–842,685
1984–852,148
1985–864,562
1986–877,400
Figures for 1987–88 are not yet available.

To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what publicity has been produced by his Department to announce the new financial arrangements for customers of water authorities in the light of the Social Security Act 1986.

[holding answer 24 March 1988]: I understand that, as part of the publicity arrangements for the social security reforms, the Department of Health and Social Security is sending a leaflet explaining income support to all existing supplementary benefit claimants. This leaflet includes advice on paying water charges. Other explanatory leaflets available to the general public also include advice on the new benefit provisions.

To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment (1) what arrangements he has made with local authority environmental health officers for the monitoring of water disconnections to domestic users by (a) the water authorities and (b) the private water companies after 11 April; and if he will make a statement;(2) what arrangements he has made with the private water companies for them to publicise to consumers the new financial arrangements that will be in force on 11 April;(3) what arrangements he has made with the private water companies about monitoring the effects of the new financial arrangements for water supplies after the enforcement of the Social Security Act 1986.

[holding answer 24 March 1988]: None. Disconnections are the responsibility of individual water undertakers. The water industry operates a strict code of practice on disconnections which is explained in its leaflet "Water Services Bills—How to get help if you can't pay your bill". It advises people who have difficulty paying their water charges to get in touch with their water supplier. It also explains that advice can be obtained from the citizens advice bureau or consumer advice bureau, and that people on supplementary benefit should contact their local social security office. These arrangements have worked well in the past, and I am confident that they will continue to do so.

To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what plans his Department has to monitor the disconnections of water supply to domestic users after 11 April.

[holding answer 24 March 1988]: Information on the number of disconnections for non-payment is collected annually by the Department from each water authority. We have no plans to change this arrangement.

To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment if he will list the number of water disconnections that occurred for each of the last 12 months for which figures are available.

[holding answer 24 March 1988]: Figures are collected by the Department on an annual, not a monthly, basis.

To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment how many cases have been reported in the past 12 months in the Houghton and Washington area of water containing nitrate in excess of the European Economic Community recommended levels.

To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment who will be responsible for monitoring the implementation of legislation associated with European Community directives on raw and drinking waters when water authorities are privatised.

My right hon. Friends the Secretaries of State for the Environment and for Wales will be responsible for monitoring the implementation of legislation associated with EC directives on drinking water quality when water authorities are privatised. The National Rivers Authority will be responsible for monitoring to assess compliance with EC directives on raw water quality. Ultimate responsibility for ensuring that EC requirements are met will, however, continue to lie with Her Majesty's Government.