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Sewers: Private Sector

Volume 502: debated on Tuesday 8 December 2009

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what recent assessment his Department has made of the effect of the proposed provisions of the Private Drains and Sewers Transfer Bill on the drainage contracting industry. (305348)

At each stage of the Review of Private Sewers DEFRA has published Impact Assessments to accompany consultations and decisions. The latest Impact Assessment accompanied Hilary Benn's announcement of the decision to proceed with transfer in November 2008 and is available at:

www.defra.gov.uk/environment/quality/water/industry/sewers/documents/impact-assessment-private-sewers.pdf

The Small Firms Impact Test within this Impact Assessment acknowledged that some smaller independent drainage contractors perceive transfer as a threat. Some do see opportunities, such as CCTV work for example, because of course the work on sewers and laterals will still need to be undertaken.

A further Impact Assessment will accompany the consultation on proposals for implementation regulations on which I anticipate consulting this winter (2009-10), prior to presenting the final regulations to Parliament for approval.

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what consultation his Department undertook with the drainage contracting industry regarding the transfer of private drains to water companies in 2011. (305349)

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.

Because of the drainage industry's fragmented nature and the fact that no national body specifically represents the views of smaller drainage companies it has been particularly difficult to seek contractors' views. However, following the workshop DEFRA undertook a telephone survey of over 130 contractors to identify the potential impacts of any transfer on them. DEFRA has also included the Society of British Water and Wastewater Industries and the National Sewerage Association, together with the Enterprise Directorate (formerly the Small Business Service), on a stakeholder steering group. These organisations have consistently made representations about the potential impact of transfer on smaller drainage businesses.

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 Hilary Benn 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 and DEFRA continues to work closely with a range of interested stakeholders in developing proposals for implementation.