HC Deb 13 December 1989 vol 163 cc982-3
6. Mr. Michael

To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment how he intends that the level of payment to be made for water and associated charges in respect of domestic hereditaments will be determined in future; and from what date any change of system shall take effect.

The Minister for Housing and Planning (Mr. Michael Howard)

It is for each water service company to decide how to charge domestic customers for its services, subject to the limits placed on each company's charges by the Secretary of State and the director general, and the other conditions of their appointment. The use of rateable values as a basis of water charges will not be permitted beyond the year 2000.

Mr. Michael

Will the Minister therefore confirm three principles to the House now․first, that compulsory metering will not be introduced; secondly, that the new system, whatever it is, will have to relate the charge to the ability to pay; and thirdly, that nothing will be introduced that could be regarded as any sort of water poll tax?

Mr. Howard

There are provisions in the licence of appointment against any kind of unfair discrimination against different categories of customer. That is more than sufficient protection for water consumers.

Mr. Paice

Does my hon. and learned Friend agree that metering means that people will pay more for the water they use and that a household containing a bigger family will pay more than a household containing one person, and, what is more important, the more water that they use, the more they will pollute, and that will conform to our policy that the polluter pays?

Mr. Howard

There is a great deal in what my hon. Friend says. Metering is used almost universally in other countries, but will not necessarily be adopted by the water service companies. It is for them to choose the most appropriate method of charging.

Mr. Beith

What will the Minister do about the impact of charges upon the customers of long-established private water companies, such as the Newcastle and Gateshead water company? Customers of those companies have already faced increases of more than 18 per cent., which is partly due to the demands of privatisation legislation. They will face greater increases, because those companies do not get the green dowry that is being given to the newly privatised companies.

Mr. Howard

We are engaged in discussions with those companies to decide the appropriate level for the limit on charges during the next 10 years, and those discussions are continuing.

Mr. Dover

Is the Minister able to confirm whether arrangements have been made for housing developers, with regard to the charges that they have to pay for the provision of water services to housing developments?

Mr. Howard

Infrastructure payments have to be made under the legislation by developers so that the costs that their developments impose on the water infrastructure are fully met.

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