Clause 12 - Arrangements for water undertakers to take water from other persons

Part of Water Bill – in a Public Bill Committee am 3:15 pm ar 5 Rhagfyr 2013.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

Photo of Thomas Docherty Thomas Docherty Shadow Minister (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) 3:15, 5 Rhagfyr 2013

I do not intend to speak for long. I am conscious of the need to make progress, particularly given the weather conditions we are suffering today.

The Canal & River Trust is a relatively new charity. Members who served on the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Select Committee will recall that it took a close interest in the establishment of the trust. It is responsible for something like 2,000 miles of waterways and canals. I will work on the assumption that all hon. Members have seen the correspondence circulated by my hon. Friend the Member for Ellesmere Port and Neston (Andrew Miller) earlier today.

The trust is the largest private supplier of water to water undertakers. Water sales to the water companies provide something in the region of just shy of £3 million to the trust each year, as well as providing a public need. The trust believes that the Bill in its current form will have a detrimental effect on the its existing and future water sales agreements. I hope that when the Minister responds, he can set out the Government’s position on that.

To be specific, as I understand it, the Bill as currently drafted will have a retrospective impact on existing agreements, although I suspect that that issue may be dealt with when the Minister explains his amendments. However, the trust is also concerned about the potential for unfair interference in its future agreements with water suppliers.

The amendment is technical, and would make the trust a consultee to ensure that its voice is heard when the regulators and the Government are determining future supply arrangements. We think that that is crucial given the trust’s strategic nature. It would be ironic if the Government, having established the Canal & River Trust just 18 months ago, were to inadvertently damage its ability to operate. I would very much welcome the Minister’s thoughts on that.