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Explanatory Memorandum to Water and Sewerage Services (Northern Ireland) Order 2006

Part Ix – Information

130.This Part deals generally with the provision or restriction of information under the Order.

131.Articles 253 to 258 place duties on the Authority (Article 253) and the undertaker (Articles 255-258) to provide certain information to be made available for public inspection.  This includes details of the undertaker’s appointment and any other specified documents (Article 253), trade effluent and works discharge registers (Articles 255 and 256), waterworks and sewer maps (Articles 257-258).

132.Articles 259-263 provide for general matters relating to the power to publish or obtain information or the duty to provide it. Article 259 makes it clear that the Department or the Authority may publish information and advice about an undertaker’s functions, subject to the need for confidentiality in respect of individuals or businesses. The Department may also carry out research. DOE may also arrange for the publication of information, and undertake research and investigations, in relation to its private water supply functions. Article 260 allows the Department to require the undertaker to provide it with any information it reasonably requests. Article 261 enables the Department or the Authority to issue a notice requiring anyone to provide it with information for the purposes of enforcing an undertaker’s duties. Article 262 requires the owner or occupier of land on which are situated any pipes for discharging trade effluent to make maps or plans available to the undertaker when requested to do so.  It is an offence to fail to provide the information. Article 263 provides for the sharing of metering information between undertakers.

133.Article 264 provides for information sharing between the undertaker and the Department of Finance and Personnel (DFP) and the Housing Executive for the purpose of establishing the entitlement of individuals to the affordability tariff. Under Article 202 the Department can make regulations to assist those on low incomes with their water and sewerage charges (the “affordability tariff”).  Eligibility for the tariff will be based on whether someone is in receipt of a passport benefit.  The passport benefits will be housing benefit, rate rebate or other rates relief schemes to be introduced by the Rates (Amendment) (NI) Order 2006.  These schemes are administered by DFP and the Housing Executive who hold information on who is entitled to those benefits. Article 264 allows an authorised representative of the undertaker to request the details of those in receipt of the passport benefits and, thereby, give automatic entitlement to the affordability tariff.  The Article enables the Department, by Order, to amend the list of bodies with whom information sharing may take place should new or altered criteria for access to the affordability tariff be introduced in the future.  Article 266 creates an offence of unauthorised disclosure of information obtained about an individual under the information sharing arrangements.

134.Article 265 provides a general restriction on the disclosure of information about particular businesses obtained under the Order or existing water and sewerage legislation.  The Article goes on to set out a number of exceptions to the restriction, on disclosure for the purposes of appeals, health and safety, companies and competition law, criminal proceedings and so on.  The Article also provides a specific restriction on the disclosure of information obtained regarding trade effluent.  Article 265 makes it an offence to disclose information in contravention of the restrictions it sets out.

135.Article 267 makes it an offence to provide false information under any provision of the Order.

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