Water Industry Bill — Provisions for Wales — 10 Feb 1999
Oliver Letwin MP, West Dorset voted with the majority (No).
Not amended (in the Standing Committee), considered.
I beg to move, That the clause be read a Second time.
The new clause would give the National Assembly for Wales maximum discretion on water policy in Wales. I spoke on Second Reading about the significance of water as a political, economic and ecological issue of major importance to Wales. I do not intend to rehearse the series of arguments that I made; I shall simply recall the main points.
Water is a priceless asset--we are only just beginning to realise just how priceless it is. As a resource, it will be in increasingly short supply over coming years and decades. Wales should be allowed to utilise that asset responsibly--of course--and in the interests of Wales and its people, in the context of sustainable development, which the National Assembly for Wales has a specific duty to promote.
The circumstances of water supply in Wales are very different from those in much, if not all, of England. Wales has a plentiful water supply. There is no prospect of Wales suffering a shortfall in water supply, even in the worst-case scenario of increasing demand and a diminution of supply as a result of climate change and other factors. There is, however, likely to be a significant shortfall of supply in parts of England, especially the south-east. Such different circumstances will result in different priorities, as on investment, as I spelt out on Second Reading. That could mean that Wales adopts a different charging system, because charges reflect such issues as the availability of supply.
I argued on Second Reading that it is unacceptable to bundle together legislation for Wales with that for England, when the Bill makes separate provision for Scotland. The new clause would allow decisions on the Bill's provisions to be delegated to the National Assembly, which would enable it to make different provision on matters such as disconnection, charging, and so on.
An example of the need for different provision is found in the recent Environment Agency proposals for limitations on angling in rivers in England and Wales. Angling is enormously important socially, culturally and, in large parts of Wales, economically, due to tourism, for example. The Environment Agency is proposing byelaws that impose uniform limitations on angling, such as on seasons, throughout England and Wales. That is a bad
10 Feb 1999 : Column 385
approach. Such limitations ought to be devised on the basis of river catchment areas. I believe that the proposals have more to do with the Environment Agency's administrative convenience than ecological or economic realities.
It speaks similarly about the Environment Agency.
Question put, That the clause be read a Second time:--
The House divided: Ayes 30, Noes 313.
Votes by party, red entries are votes against the majority for that party.
What is Tell? '+1 tell' means that in addition one member of that party was a teller for that division lobby.
What are Boths? An MP can vote both aye and no in the same division. The boths page explains this.
What is Turnout? This is measured against the total membership of the party at the time of the vote.
|Party||Majority (No)||Minority (Aye)||Both||Turnout|
|Lab||300 (+2 tell)||0||0||72.4%|
|LDem||0||24 (+1 tell)||0||54.3%|
|PC||0||2 (+1 tell)||0||75.0%|
|Peter Bottomley||Worthing West||Con (front bench)||aye|