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Volume 405: debated on Thursday 15 May 2003

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To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what plans she has to review the penalties that Ofwat may impose on water companies to improve customer service and satisfaction. [112878]

The Water Bill, which was published on 20 February, brings forward proposals to impose penalties of up to 10 per cent, of companies' turnover where they contravene the conditions of their licences or other statutory requirements. The Bill, once it becomes law, will require Ofwat to consult on and publish a statement of its policies with regard to the imposition of such penalties.

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what powers Ofwat has to insist that water companies should backdate refunds or rebates to 1 April 2000. [112879]

My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State supports the provision of rebates for customers whose surface water does not flow into public sewers. This involves a reallocation of charges between non-connected customers and other customers, which is taken into account on a year-by-year basis. Neither Ofwat nor the Government can require companies to offer retrospective rebates, or periods with no charge in lieu of past payments. Such a scheme would imply retrospective increases for other customers, which is against the Government's policy of stable and predictable charging.