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Water Act 2003

139. .Section 43: General functions of the Council.

This section adds seven new sections (27C to 27G, 30ZA and 30ZB) to the WIA.

140.New section 27C requires the Council to have regard for the interests of individuals that are disabled, chronically sick, of pensionable age, with low incomes, residing in rural areas, or not eligible to be supplied by a licensed water supplier alongside other consumers.

141.New section 27D requires the Council to obtain and review information about consumer matters, including consumer views on such matters, in different areas of England and Wales.

142.New section 27E gives the Council the function of making proposals, providing advice and information about consumer matters and representing consumer views to public authorities, water companies, licensed water suppliers, and any other body whose activities may affect the interests of the consumers.

143.Subsections (2)-(4) in new section 27E provide that the Council shall not disclose any information relating to a particular individual or body, unless the individual or body involved has given consent, the information is already available from another source or if it is the Council’s opinion that the published information does not seriously and prejudicially affect the interests of the individual or body concerned.

144.In the last case the Council must consult the individual or body concerned and have regard to any opinion expressed by the Authority.

145.Subsections (5) and (6) in new section 27E put restrictions on the Council not to publish any information which relates to any matter which is or is likely to be the subject of criminal proceedings. The Council is also required in these circumstances to have regard of the opinion expressed by the Secretary of State, the Assembly or the Director of Public Prosecutions.

146.Subsection (7) in new section 27E states that the restrictions in subsections (2) to (5) do not apply to the disclosure of information to the Authority, the Secretary of State, the Assembly, the Competition Commission or any other public authority.

147.New section 27F gives the Council the function of providing information to consumers about consumer matters. This section only deals with information that is already available to the public. The intention is that the Council is able to bring together comparable information from different companies, or sources, and make it available (both on own initiative, and on request) in forms that are useful to consumers.

148.Subsection (4) in new section 27F requires the Council to maintain at least one office in both England and Wales, where the consumers can apply for information.

149.New section 27G gives the Council power to publish any information and advice about consumer matters, if it thinks it is in the interest of consumers. Subsection (3) in new section 27G restricts this power, so the Council cannot publish any information relating to a particular individual or body unless the person or body has given its consent to the publication or if the information is already available from another source or if it is the Council’s opinion that the published information will not seriously and prejudicially affect the interests of the individual or body concerned.

150.Subsection (4) in new section 27G requires the Council in this last case to consult the individuals concerned and the Authority before publishing such information.

151.Subsections (5) and (6) in new section 27G puts restrictions on the Council not to publish any information which relates to any matter which is or is likely to be subject of criminal proceedings. The Council is required in these circumstances to have regard to the opinion expressed by the Secretary of State, the Assembly or the Director of Public Prosecutions.

152.New section 30ZA places a general duty on the Authority to consult the Council in relation to the exercise of its functions, except where the Council has requested not to be consulted or the Authority considers it to be clearly inappropriate. This general duty is in addition to any specific duties to consult the Council that are already in the Act (e.g. the requirement for the Authority to consult the Council about its code of practice in Schedule 1).

153.New section 30ZB requires the Authority to send to the Council a copy of any document it is required to publish under the terms of the WIA.

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