§ Mr. Jim Cunningham
To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions what action the Government plans to take to assist pensioners with the payment of water charges, with particular reference to those who cannot have water meters installed for technical reasons. 
§ Mr. Meale
Under proposals in the Water Industry Bill, currently before Parliament, household water customers would have a new entitlement to be charged on a measured basis without paying any initial costs for the installation of a meter. Customers using water only for basic domestic purposes who opted for a measured basis of charging and found that this did not suit their needs would have the opportunity within the first 12 months to revert to unmeasured charging. These proposals will benefit households using little water including many pensioners.
In a small minority of cases it may not be possible to fit a meter because it would be not reasonably practicable or would involve unreasonable expense to do so. In such cases the Government would expect a water company to make an alternative charging arrangement for customers who asked to pay on a measured basis.
The Government propose to consult later this year on what guidance should be issued and regulations made governing the provisions of companies' charges schemes.