asked Her Majesty's Government:
On whose authority the special adviser to the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland expressed critical remarks to the chief executive of the Northern Ireland Consumer Council concerning the council's call for water charges legislation to be left to the Assembly. [HL776]
All activities of the NIO special advisers are in accordance with the code of conduct and under the authority of the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland.
In relation to water charges legislation, there has already been a one-year delay in the introduction of these long overdue reforms. Any additional delay would mean:
there would be an immediate public expenditure shortfall of £80 million to £90 million as a result of the loss of anticipated revenue;
that Northern Ireland is likely to lose the RRI borrowing power which is currently contributing £200 million of investment in Northern Ireland's infrastructure earning year;
that we would continue to ask taxpayers in GB to pay more in taxes while people in NI continue to contribute only around half what people in England, Scotland and Wales pay;
there would be increased risk of costly infraction if Crown immunity is not removed; and
there would be a loss of the wider benefits which water reform will bring to customers and the environment.