To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what recent assessment she has made of the impact on low income families of the (a) pricing and (b) regulatory regime for water services. 
The Department has reviewed the needs of low income families for concessions on their water bills as part of its review of the Vulnerable Groups Regulations. The proposals of this review are detailed in the consultation paper Reductions for Vulnerable Groups which was published in February 2003. Data from the DSS Family Resources Survey in the table shows the percentage of household income spent on water and sewerage services in England 1997–98 by income decile.Guidance to the Director General of Water Services, following the Water Industry Act 1999, confirmed that the Secretary of State was keen to encourage the development of innovative tariffs that can assist customers who may face difficulty paying their bills and stated that the Secretary of State expects flexible payment options to be offered to customers to assist with payment problems. The Water Bill, which is currently in the House of Lords, proposes that the new Water Services Regulation Authority and Consumer Council for Water should have regard to individuals with low incomes, when considering consumer interests.