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Water

Volume 451: debated on Tuesday 7 November 2006

To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland who will be responsible for granting authorisation for the disposal of land by Water NI Ltd. from 2010. (99642)

Under article 217(1) of the draft Water and Sewerage Services (Northern Ireland) Order 2006, any company appointed as a water or sewerage undertaker cannot dispose of any of its protected land, except with the consent of, or in accordance with a general authorisation given by, the Department for Regional Development. The Department is currently developing a draft licence under which the company will operate. The terms of the licence will include provisions regarding the disposal of land. The draft licence will be issued for public consultation later this year.

To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland if he will take steps to ensure that the cost of the Affordability Tariff from 2010 is not passed on to water customers through higher bills. (99645)

The Affordability Tariff is being introduced to ensure that no household should need to spend more than 3 per cent. of household income on water and sewerage charges. The cost of the tariff will be met from Northern Ireland public expenditure and not from other customers.

The Affordability Tariff will be reviewed in 2009 by which time it is the Government’s hope and expectation that a devolved Administration will be well established. The Government therefore believe it would be wrong to pre-empt, or prejudge the outcome of the review.

To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland (1) what contingency plans are in place to make up the deficit if the five per cent. bad debt provision in the financial planning model for the planned Government-owned company Water NI Ltd. turns out to have been an underestimate; (99647)

(2) if he will ensure that any underestimate of the bad debt provision in the financial planning model for the planned Government-owned company Water NI Ltd. is not paid for by the consumer through higher bills.

The Department is currently developing a draft licence under which the company will operate. The terms of the licence will determine how variations from the estimated cost of bad debt will be dealt with. The draft licence will be issued for public consultation later this year.

To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland to whom any dividend earned by the planned Government-owned company Water NI Ltd. will be paid; and if he will take steps to ensure that any shortfall against the expected dividend is not paid for by the customer through higher bills. (99658)

To properly reflect the fact that capital in Northern Ireland Water Ltd. has a cost, the company will be required to pay a dividend to the Department for Regional Development. In the event that any shortfall in performance by the company reduces its ability to pay the dividend (either in whole or in part), the amount not paid must be covered from DRD’s resource departmental expenditure limit.