HC Deb 14 April 1999 vol 329 cc289-90W
Mr. Wigley

To ask the Secretary of State for Wales (1) if he will issue an order, under section 2 of the Water Industry Act 1991, to require water supply undertakers in Wales to review their charging policy towards single person households with unmetered billing; [80207]

(2) how many orders he has made under the provisions of section 2 of the Water Industry Act 1991 with regard to the services provided by water undertakers for elderly people; and if he will make a statement. [80212]

Mr. Jon Owen Jones

Section 2 of the Water Industry Act 1991 does not provide the Secretary of State with order making powers in respect of single person households or pensioners. The Water Industry Bill currently before Parliament provides for householders, including the elderly and single persons, to opt to be charged on a measured basis without paying any initial costs for the installation of a meter. This may help those using less water to pay less. If the arrangement did not suit their individual needs, customers would have the right, within the first 12 months of installation, to revert to unmeasured charging.

The Government believe that households on low incomes or with special needs should have available to them a range of payment options. The Water Industry Bill will enable the Secretary of State to give guidance to the Director General of Water Services on matters to be taken into account in approving water companies' charges schemes. Such guidance could cover payment arrangements. The Bill also gives powers to specify by regulation matters which must be included in charges schemes. This power will enable specially targeted protection to be offered to particular categories of vulnerable customers. It is proposed that these powers to give guidance and make regulations will transfer to the National Assembly for Wales in respect of Dwr Cymru and Dee Valley Water. Clause 14 of the Bill will provide for a transfer of functions order to be made under section 22 of the Government of Wales Act 1998, without the need for an affirmative resolution procedure.