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Volume 472: debated on Tuesday 4 March 2008

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what work is being undertaken to map the underground water drainage network. (190415)

The 10 water and sewerage companies in England and Wales have a statutory duty to keep records of the location of every public sewer, lateral drain or disposal main which is vested in them. They must also keep a record of the location of those that are subject to a declaration of vesting and those where an agreement to make such a declaration has been made.

There is no requirement to keep, and no comprehensive record exists of, the location of private sewers or drains. In March 2007, the Government published a Regulatory Impact Assessment (RIA) to accompany the announcement of its decision to proceed with the transfer of private sewers and drains in England and Wales into the ownership of the water and sewerage companies. The RIA recorded that the unpublished 2002 UK Water Industry Research report, ‘The Real Cost of Taking Over Private Sewers and Drains’, estimated that a mapping exercise for private sewers would cost £118 million.

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs how many responses he received to his consultation on the adoption of private sewers; if he will publish summaries of those responses; and what steps he now plans to take. (191408)

A total of 119 individual responses to the consultation were received. In addition, 68 letters were received from franchisees in support of a national drainage contractor’s response and 26 identical letters in support of one from a residents’ spokesperson.

I will ask officials to inform the hon. Member when the full breakdown of responses has been made available on the DEFRA website.

DEFRA officials are currently working with a stakeholder steering group on the practical aspects of implementation. This is necessary before preparing any draft regulations which would put transfer in place. The Government will consult on these regulations before presenting them to Parliament for approval.