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Volume 502: debated on Monday 7 December 2009

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what (a) consultation he has undertaken and (b) representations he has received on the proposed transfer of drains and sewers to water and sewerage undertakers in England and Wales. (304020)

In July 2003 DEFRA published the Review of Existing Private Sewers and Drains in England and Wales consultation paper that sought views on a range of strategic options to deal with the problems of private sewers. The Government published a response to this consultation in October 2004. 81 per cent. of stakeholders favoured a change of ownership, and of these, 90 per cent. held the view that sewerage undertakers should take over responsibility. DEFRA acknowledged the strength of support for this solution and undertook to look at it in more depth.

Subsequently, representatives of 50 stakeholder groups were invited to a private sewers seminar in January 2005. This included a workshop looking at the potential impacts on small businesses. DEFRA undertook a telephone survey of over 130 drainage contractors to identify the potential impacts of any transfer on them and also commissioned qualitative customer research to investigate customers' potential views on transfer to water and sewerage companies.

In February 2007 the Government published their decision paper and committed to consult on options for the implementation of transfer. A consultation paper on implementation options was published in July 2007 and The Secretary of State announced on 15 December 2008 the Government's decision to proceed with transfer from 2011.

Copies of the 2003 and 2007 consultation papers and the Government's 2004 response to the review were placed in the Library of the House on publication. A Summary of Responses to the 2007 Consultation on Implementation Options was published in March 2008 and is available from DEFRA. Further consultation on the content of regulations to implement transfer will be published this winter.

My right hon. Friend, the Secretary of State, has received representations from a range of interested stakeholders during the course of the Review. DEFRA continues to consult with key stakeholders through working groups and meetings in developing proposals for implementation.