HC Deb 19 April 2000 vol 348 cc490-1W
Mr. Robertson

To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions what criteria water authorities may use when calculating water charges; and if he will make a statement. [119772]

Mr. Mullin

Except as provided otherwise, a water company, under section 142 of the Water Industry Act 1991, may fix charges by reference to such matters and may adopt such methods and principles for the calculation and imposition of the charges as appear to them to be appropriate. This discretion is governed by specific conditions set by the Director General of Water Services in companies' instruments of appointment, notably the price limits and a prohibition on undue discrimination and undue preference in charging.

Provisions of the Water Industry Act 1999 now in force introduce additional restrictions on water companies' powers to set charges. All household charges must now be set out in charges schemes approved by the Director General, who must have regard to guidance issued by the Secretary of State. The 1999 Act also introduced new rights of choice for household customers in their method of charging and regulations protecting vulnerable groups against high measured charges. The Secretary of State's guidance, the texts of regulations made under the 1999 Act and other background on water charging policy is set out in "Water Industry Act 1999—Delivering the Government's Objectives" published on 3 February, a copy of which is in the Library of the House.