HC Deb 23 June 1982 vol 26 cc280-1
2. Mr. David Atkinson

asked the Secretary of State for the Environment if he will introduce legislation to enable local authorities to require the fitting of water meters into all new domestic properties as a condition of planning permission.

The Under-Secretary of State for the Environment (Mr. Giles Shaw)

No, Sir. Optional metering is now available in most areas of England and Wales and purchasers of new houses can ask the builder to fit a water meter during construction. Detailed guidance notes on the installation of household water meters can be obtained from the water authorities.

Mr. Atkinson

Does my hon. Friend agree that there is evidence that suggests that water meters significantly reduce the water charges on both domestic and commercial properties? Does it not make sense to encourage the installation of water meters in all new properties?

Mr. Shaw

I accept that there is evidence that water metering can be beneficial. However, I do not consider it right to make it other than an optional service to the consumer. The benefits available for high street shops and other commercial premises are considerable. The benefits for domestic premises depend very much on rateable value.

Mr. Wigley

Does the Minister accept that one of the pressures for metering is the imposition of water rates, particularly on elderly people and widows living by themselves and people on low incomes? If he does not intend to make any change in respect of water metering, will he consider changes in legislation to allow water rebates for such people?

Mr. Shaw

No, Sir. Water bills now reflect charges for a service that has already been consumed, whereas rates are local taxes. Therefore, as with other energy bills, the householder who finds it difficult to pay can obtain some redress through the DHSS.

Mr. Squire

Does my hon. Friend recognise that the advantages of the metering of water supplies are to some extent not being realised because of the high cost of installation of the meters? Will he keep that matter under review?

Mr. Shaw

There is a variable cost. Much depends on the individual property and the distance from the main. The average cost of internal domestic fitting is about £60.

Mr. Marks

The Minister agreed with his hon. Friend the Member for Bournemouth, East (Mr. Atkinson) that industrial and domestic users were better off as a result of water metering. Who is paying the bill?

Mr. Shaw

I made it clear that industrial and commercial consumers were likely to be significantly better off. The position of the domestic consumer depends on the rateable value. However, the costs and the benefits should be spread amongst all consumers.