Part Ii - Regulatory Authorities and Their General Duties
17.This Part imposes duties on the new regulatory bodies and sets out their general duties.
18.The powers of the body established under the Energy (NI) Order 2003 to regulate the energy industry in Northern Ireland, the Northern Ireland Authority for Energy Regulation (NIAER), are extended to the water industry by Article 3. This body will become known as the Northern Ireland Authority for Utility Regulation (NIAUR) and for the purpose of this memorandum is referred to as the Authority. Articles 4 and 5 require the Authority to publish a forward work programme and make an annual report.
19.Articles 6 to 12 set out the general duties of the Authority and the Department. In exercising their functions the Authority and the Department are primarily required to protect consumer interests (wherever appropriate by facilitating effective competition); ensure that the undertaker operates properly in all areas of Northern Ireland; and is able to finance such activity.
In doing so the regulatory bodies must have regard to the interests of the disabled, pensioners, low-income groups, and rural dwellers, and, if appropriate, the interests of gas, electricity and telecommunications customers (Article 6). The regulatory bodies must carry out their primary duties so as to contribute to the achievement of sustainable development, encourage the undertaker to maximise economy and efficiency, ensure no undue discrimination in the setting of charges across the customer base, act in the consumer’s interests on land sale matters and ensure probity in the company’s dealings.
20.Article 7 enables the Department to issue guidance to the Authority on social and environmental matters after consultation and with Assembly approval. Article 8 obliges the undertaker, the Authority and Northern Ireland Departments, when developing proposals in relation to water and sewerage functions, to promote conservation and public access. Article 9 requires DOE to notify an undertaker of any area which it considers to be of special environmental interest and liable to be affected by the undertaker’s activities. Once notified, the undertaker must consult DOE before carrying out any works except in an emergency. Article 10 enables the Department to approve, by order, codes of practice prepared for the purpose of providing the undertaker with guidance in relation to the environmental or recreational matters dealt with by Articles 8 and 9.
21.Article 11 requires regulatory bodies, including DOE, to make arrangements with each other to promote co-operation and ensure a consistent approach on the regulatory matters set out in this Order and, in the case of DOE, in connection with water resources and water pollution as they relate to the undertaker. Co-operation arrangements will be set out in memoranda of understanding between parties. Relevant Departments are required, in exercising any of their powers under any statutory provision, to have particular regard to the statutory water supply duties imposed on the undertaker by this Order (Article 12).