§ Mr. Patrick Thompson
To ask the President of the Board of Trade when he proposes to implement the Competition and Service (Utilities) Act 1992.
§ Mr. Neil Hamilton
I am pleased to announce that I made a commencement order on 29 May which will bring into force the substantive sections of the Act. Section 37 was brought into force on 30 May. This is an enabling power for the Secretary of State to reduce—by order—the gas monopoly threshold.
On 1 July, the sections of the Act will come into force to provide the utility regulators with statutory powers to set and monitor standards for the utility companies, and to facilitate greater competition in the provision of water and sewerage services. Changes to the water mergers regime will ensure that the Monopolies and Mergers Commission can take into account the number of companies in separate ownership in their consideration of all mergers of water enterprises referred to them.
At the same time, there will come into force the sections granting the Secretary of State powers to make orders designating the telecommunication operators to which the Act will apply, and to make regulations to enable the Director General of Telecommunications to resolve telecoms billing disputes.
The sections of the Act giving the utility regulators power to resolve disputes between customers and the utilities will come into force on 1 September. The regulators will use the period before then to set up the necessary procedures.
Copies of the order have been placed in the Library of the House.