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Water Act 2003

Sections 39 to 42 Objectives of regulation of water industry

120.Provisions in sections 39 to 42 are devolved to the Assembly.

121. .Section 39: objectives and duties under WIA

This section amends section 2 of the WIA. New subsections (2A), (2B) and (2C) amend the general duties which affect the manner in which the Secretary of State and Authority exercise their specified functions under the WIA. They are given a new consumer objective to protect the interests of consumers of regulated water and sewerage services, wherever appropriate through promoting effective competition. They are under a duty to further that objective, to secure that the functions of water undertakers and sewerage undertakers are properly carried out throughout England and Wales, to secure that companies holding appointments are able (in particular, by securing reasonable returns on their capital) to finance the proper carrying out of the functions specified in the conditions of their appointments, and to secure that the activities and functions of licensed water suppliers are properly carried out.

122.In determining the “interest of consumers” for the purpose of the consumer objective, the regulator should take into account the interests of all customers. However, the regulator should also have for consumers who are disabled or chronically sick, are of pensionable age, have low incomes or reside in rural areas. In addition, the regulator should have regard for customers of undertakers whose premises are not eligible for supply by licensed water suppliers. This is intended to enable the regulator to balance the interests of these and eligible customers.

123.New subsection (2E) empowers the Authority and Secretary of State, in exercising any function in relation to water, to have regard to any interests of consumers of gas, electricity and telecommunications services, which are affected by the carrying out of that function.

124.New subsection (3) provides that, subject to the primary duties in new section (2A), the Authority or the Secretary of State should carry out their duties in such a manner as to

  • promote efficiency and economy on the part of companies appointed as water and sewerage undertakers;

  • ensure that there is no undue discrimination in the fixing of water and drainage charges;

  • secure that the interests of customers and potential customers of such companies are protected as regards the sale of land;

  • ensure that the interests of customers and potential customers are also protected in relation to any activities undertaken by their water or sewerage undertaker that are unrelated to their functions as statutory undertakers, or in relation to the activities of any person who appears to be connected with the undertaker, including through the presentation of accounts in a suitable form; and

  • contribute to the achievement of sustainable development.

125.New subsection (4) provides that in exercising their powers and performing their duties set out in subsection (1), the Secretary of State and the Authority shall have regard to the principles of best regulatory practice, including transparency, accountability, proportionality, consistency and targeting.

126.Subsection (9) provides for the provisions of this section not to detract from other duties imposed on the Authority or Secretary of State.

127. .Section 40: Guidance to the Authority on social and environmental matters.

This section adds a new section 2A to the WIA. Similar provision was made in the Utilities Act 2000 for the gas and electricity industries.

128.The section allows the Secretary of State, or for water and sewerage undertakers whose areas are wholly or mainly in Wales, the Assembly, to issue statutory guidance to the Authority. The subject of the guidance is how the Authority might contribute to social and environmental policies.

129.Subsection (2) in new section 2A requires the Secretary of State and the Assembly, where practicable, to have regard to the costs and benefits which may be expected to result from the guidance.

130.Subsection (3) in new section 2A requires the Authority to have regard to any such guidance when discharging its statutory functions.

131.Subsections (4) to (8) in new section 2A set out the conditions under which the Secretary of State or the Assembly may issue guidance.

132.Subsection (9) in new section 2A requires the Secretary of State and the Assembly to publish any guidance.

133. .Sections 41 and 42: Standards of performance in relation to water supply and sewerage services.

Section 41 amends section 39 of the WIA. It extends the existing arrangement whereby the Secretary of State can make regulations in response to proposals for new or amended standards of performance only in response to a specific proposal from the Authority. The amendments made by this section will allow the Secretary of State to initiate such proposals as long as a number of criteria specified in the amended section are met.

134.A new subsection (A1) is inserted into section 39 of the WIA to allow the Secretary of State to make regulations either on application by the Authority, or otherwise under certain conditions.

135.Subsection (3) amends the list of bodies that must be served notice of an application by the Authority to include the Council and any other persons or bodies the Secretary of State may consider appropriate.

136.Subsection (6) inserts new subsections (4) – (8). These subsections allow the Secretary of State to make regulations under section 38 if no application has been made by the Authority, as long as he considers that the regulations will contribute to the attainment of policies relating to public health and the environment, or if not, that there are exceptional reasons why it is otherwise in the public interest that the regulations should be made. The subsections govern the procedure.

137.Similar amendments are made to section 96 of the WIA in relation to sewerage service, by section 42.

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