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Mr. Tim Boswell (Daventry) : I appreciate that the debate on this point is going on a little bit, but may I ask my hon. Friend whether it is not the case that, from now, if any employee is at any time dissatisfied with his pension arrangements, it will be open to him, as a result of recent legislation, to take out a personal pension as an alternative? That is an important safeguard, and a further measure of what might be called comparative competition in this respect.
Mr. Moynihan : What my hon. Friend has said about comparative competition is an imaginative and accurate reflection. The possibility of opting out and joining a water plc scheme is very definitely there. What we are looking at today is the alternative for the employees who do not wish to opt out.
In Committee and on the Floor of the House, hon. Members have argued very strongly that mirror image schemes must provide employees with the same benefits. When the money resolution was being debated on the Floor of the House, we said that a substantial amount of money--a figure of up to £800 million was mentioned--may be necessary in order to meet the commitment that I have given today.
Amendment No. 91, to clause 183, is consequential. The clause provides the transfer date as the commencement date for schedule 23 generally. The amendment makes an exception of subordinate legislation, permitting it to be made in advance of the transfer date.
I very much hope that the clarification of what are detailed and technical amendments, and my responses to hon. Members who have intervened, have assisted the House. What we are debating are effectively peripheral pension arrangements, and I hope that the House will welcome the additional assurances that have been given.
Ms. Joan Walley (Stoke-on-Trent, North) : Opposition Members believe that no pensioner should be disadvantaged as a result of this legislation. Taking at face value the particular changes that the Minister has outlined, we should not wish to quibble at all. I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Burnley (Mr. Pike) that the certainties for pensioners should be applied equally to those people who are currently employed by water authorities.
What I want to know, specifically, is whether those people who have been transferred from the water authorities to the NRA will get exactly the same kind of treatment as other employees, given that, in respect of the
Column 33sale of shares in particular, they did not get the same treatment. I should welcome some clarification from the Minister on particular points concerning those people.
Mr. Pike : The amendments in this group are obviously very important. They affect the rights of existing pensioners, some of whom used to work for local authorities when those bodies were responsible for water services prior to reorganisation in 1974. Of course, there are pensioners who have retired since then, and there are people who have earned a lot of pension. We understand exactly what the Minister's amendments seek to do. They go some way towards clarifying the Bill as it was debated in Committee.
The Minister was absolutely right about the key part of my intervention a few moments ago. The crucial difference, of course, is the statutory protection for those people who currently work in the industry and for those who may come into it in the future. Certainly, the amendments do not go as far in that direction as we should like. It may be that the fall of the guillotine at 5.30 pm will make it impossible for us to reach an amendment in the next group. I hope that the Minister recognises that both Opposition Members and some Conservative Members are genuinely concerned about this matter, as are the employees in the industry.
Ministers have referred to the mirror image pension scheme. They are confident that the trustees will be able to protect employees, but many of us doubt whether that will happen. If the Ministers were right there would be no argument, but people who have worked for many years in the industry fear that, when the Bill becomes law, the agreements will be changed, that the documents that provide for future pension provision will not be so good as they are now and that there will be no mirror image pension scheme. If the Secretary of State and the other Ministers really wanted a mirror image pension scheme to put in place, they could easily amend the Bill and introduce a statutory requirement that there should be such a scheme. The Government ought to be prepared to move in that direction because it would meet the fears of those who work in the industry. The Government need to go further than they have already gone if they are to gain the confidence of the workers in the industry.
The private water companies may prove to be the biggest cause for concern. There is no guarantee that employees will be able to become trustees of the pension schemes, although the trustees ultimately decide these matters. After privatisation, pensions and conditions of service will have to be negotiated between employers and trade unions on behalf of the employees. Ministers have given us many assurances during our debates. I was assured in Committee that the Government would not approve any scheme that did not meet our fears. Unless the Bill is amended to meet those fears, our predictions will be fulfilled. I hope, therefore, that the Government will be prepared to meet the genuine fears of the employees in the industry.
Mr. Richard Livsey (Brecon and Radnor) : I welcome the amendments, particularly on behalf of former employees of the water authorities. In my constituency there are former employees of Severn-Trent and Welsh Water. I understand that the pension arrangements of
Column 34employees of Severn-Trent are different from those of other authorities. I hope that the Minister will take them into account.
Mr. Moynihan : I am happy to give the confirmation that the hon. Member for Brecon and Radnor (Mr. Livsey) has sought. Those differences will be taken fully into account and will be mirrored--hence the phrase "mirror image". I was passed a number of pieces of paper during the speech of the hon. Member for Burnley (Mr. Pike). I am slightly concerned that the collective age of the admirable experts who have assisted us throughout the passage of the Bill may be closer to retirement age than the collective age of the Opposition Front Bench spokesman and myself. With a bit of luck, our collective ages are still short of retirement age. That, however, has not denied us the opportunity to study this subject in great depth and to be able to respond without notes to the important points that have been raised.
It is appropriate to place on record a little more detail about the mirror image scheme. I understand the concerns of the hon. Member for Burnley. That is why we have sought new provisions to give the hon. Gentleman and others who are concerned about the scheme not being enshrined in legislation further reassurance.
It has been suggested that the Government's commitment to the preservation of existing pension rights and the adoption of future changes in the local government superannuation scheme in the mirror image scheme would be best ensured, as the hon. Member for Burnley said, by statutory provision. I mentioned earlier that that view does not accord with the principles of privatisation and has not been part of privatisation legislation.
It is customary in the private sector for pension schemes to be safeguarded under trust deed by trustees. This, therefore, is the way in which the mirror image scheme will operate. It would be anomalous to require a small number of companies in the private sector to be subject to legislative requirements for the running of a pension scheme for only some of their employees. We have repeatedly given assurances that the mirror image scheme will not be approved by the Secretary of State unless it gives proper effect to the Government's commitment that it will provide employees with the same benefits, including full index-linking, with the same level of employees' contributions at the transfer date.
It has always been our intention that water authority employees' pension rights should be safeguarded. We now propose that further security for future rights will be provided by the terms of the trust deed. We have agreed with all the chairmen of the water authorities to provisions which will give particular reassurance. These are, first, that the trustees of the mirror image scheme should include at least two representatives of members ; and secondly, that while there remain potential beneficiaries of the mirror image scheme, it should not be wound up or its benefits altered if any trustee objects. Representatives of members are more appropriate than representatives of employees, because there will come a time when there are no employees in the scheme. They will all have retired but they will still be members of the scheme drawing their benefits from it. I am specifically not requiring trustees to be representatives of trade union members, but I am not excluding that possibility if they happen to be appropriate
Column 35representatives of members. I am sure that hon. Members will agree that a pension scheme operated in this way will provide satisfactory assurance to employees who have chosen to transfer to the mirror image scheme.
NRA employees will continue in the local government superannuation scheme as if nothing had happened. In other words, there will be complete continuity.
I hope I have answered the two major points that have been raised. Amendment agreed to.
Amendments made : No. 90, in page 162, line 21,, at end insert or
(b) have ceased to be officers or employees of any person designated for the purposes of this paragraph by order made by the Secretary of State.
(1A) The Secretary of State shall not make an order designating a person for the purposes of subsection (1)(b) above unless that person appears to him to be a person whose activities at any time before the transfer date consisted in, or were connected with, the carrying out of any function which is transferred by this Act or which corresponds to any such function or to any other function under this Act ; and the power to make such an order shall be exercisable by statutory instrument subject to annulment in pursuance of a resolution of either House of Parliament.'.-- [Mr. Moynihan].
Amendments made : No. 36, in page 164, line 15 at end insert or to any information exclusively of a statistical nature'.-- No. 41, in page 164, line 21, at end insert--
(6) Subject to subsection (7) below, nothing in this section shall preclude the disclosure of information--
(a) if the disclosure is of information relating to a matter connected with the carrying out of the functions of a water undertaker or sewage undertaker and is made by one Minister of the Crown or government department to another ; or
(b) if the disclosure is for the purpose of enabling or assisting any public or other authority for the time being designated for the purposes of this section by an order made by the Secretary of State to discharge any functions which are specified in the order. (7) The power to make an order under subsection (6) above shall be exercisable by statutory instrument subject to annulment in pursuance of a resolution of either House of Parliament ; and where such an order designates an authority for the purposes of paragraph (b) of that subsection, the order may--
(a) impose conditions subject to which the disclosure of information is permitted by virtue of that paragraph ; and (
(b) otherwise restrict the circumstances in which disclosure is so permitted.'-- [Mr. Moynihan.]
in the close vicinity of'.
Column 36and Horncastle (Mr. Leigh) in Committee on 7 March. They make it clear that telecommunications apparatus for use solely in connection with the operation of undertakers' pipes may be laid not just alongside but generally in the close vicinity of pipes. Hon. Members who served on the Committee will no doubt recall our important debate there. I promised to look carefully at the point that my hon. Friend raised, not least because, as he pointed out, the water undertakers do not necessarily lay the equipment at the same time as the water main, and it is not necessarily very close. It may be as close as 2 m to the water main, but it may be as far away as five. As my hon. Friend mentioned, the problem with the original drafting of the Bill was that clause 178 made it clear that the equipment had to be placed alongside. We recognise that that is not necessarily in the interests of those who are placing the new telephone apparatus and who might want it to be above or underneath the main.
Amendment agreed to.
Amendment made : No. 59, in page 171, line 30, leave out alongside' and insert
in the close vicinity of'.-- [Mr. Moynihan.]
Amendment made : No. 57, in page 177, line 14, at end insert-- (3A) Nothing in any order under this section may abrogate or curtail the effect of so much of any local statutory provision as confers any right of way or confers on or preserves for the public--
(a) any right of enjoyment of air, exercise or recreation on land ; or
(b) any right of access to land for the purposes of exercise or recreation.'.-- [Mr. Moynihan.]
Amendment made : No. 91, in page 179, line 1, after 23', insert except so far as relating to the making of subordinate legislation'.-- [Mr Moynihan.]
Amendment made : No. 11--new schedule--
Water Quality in Scotland-- 1. In the Water (Scotland) Act 1980, after section 76, there shall be inserted the following Part-- "Part Via Quality of Water-- Duties of water authorities with respect to water quality.
76A.--(1) It shall be the duty of a water authority--
(a) when supplying water to any premises for domestic purposes to supply only water which is wholesome at the time of supply ; and (
(b) so far as reasonably practicable, to ensure, in relation to each source or combination of sources from which that authority supplies water to premises for domestic purposes, that there is, in general, no deterioration in the quality of the water which is supplied from time to time from that source or combination of sources.
(2) For the purposes of this section and section 76B below and subject to subsection (3) below, water supplied by a water authority to any premises shall not be regarded as unwholesome at the time of supply where it has ceased to be wholesome only after leaving the authority's pipes.
Column 37(3) For the purposes of this section where water supplied by a water authority to any premises would not otherwise be regarded as unwholesome at the time of supply, that water shall be regarded as unwholesome at that time if--
(a) it has ceased to be wholesome after leaving the authority's pipes but while in a pipe which is subject to water pressure from a main or which would be so subject but for the closing of some valve ; and
(b) it has so ceased in consequence of the failure of the authority, before supplying the water, to take such steps as may be prescribed for the purpose of securing the elimination or reduction to a minimum of any prescribed risk that the water would cease to be wholesome after leaving the authority's pipes.
(4) The provisions of this section shall apply in relation to water which is supplied by a water authority whether or not the water is water which the authority is required to supply by virtue of any provision of this Act.
Regulations for preserving water quality 76B.--(1) The Secretary of State may by regulations require a water authority to take all steps as may be prescribed for the purpose of securing compliance with section 76A above ; and, without prejudice to the generality of that power, regulations under this subsection may impose an obligation on a water authority--
(a) to take all such steps as may be prescribed for monitoring and recording whether the water which that authority supplies to premises for domestic purposes is wholesome at the time of supply ; (
(b) to take all such steps as may be prescribed for monitoring and recording the quality of the water from any source, or combination of sources, which that authority uses or is proposing to use for supplying water to any premises for domestic purposes ; (
(c) to ensure that a source which that authority is using or proposing to use for supplying water for domestic purposes is not so used until prescribed requirements for establishing the quality of water which may be supplied from that source have been complied with ;
(d) to keep records of the localities within which all the premises supplied with water for domestic purposes by that authority are normally supplied from the same source or combination of sources ; (
(e) to comply with prescribed requirements with respect to the analysis of water samples or with respect to internal reporting or organisational arrangements.
(2) Without prejudice to subsection (1) above, the Secretary of State may by regulations make provision with respect to the use by water authorities, for the purposes of or in connection with the carrying out of their functions, of such processes and substances, and of products that contain or are made with such substances or materials, as he considers might affect the quality of any water ; and, without prejudice to the generality of that power, regulations under this subsection may
(a) forbid the use by water authorities of processes, substances and products which have not been approved under the regulations or which contravene the regulations ;
(b) for the purpose of provision made by virtue of paragraph (a) above, require processes, substances and products used by water authorities to conform to such standards as may be prescribed by or approved under the regulations ;
(c) impose such other requirements as may be prescribed with respect to the use by water authorities of prescribed processes, substances and products ;
(d) provide for the giving, refusal and revocation, by prescribed persons, of approvals required for the purposes of the regulations, for such approvals to be capable of being made subject to such conditions as may be prescribed and for the modification and revocation of any such condition ;
(e) impose obligations to furnish prescribed persons with information reasonably required by those persons for the purpose of carrying out functions under the regulations ; and
Column 38(f) require prescribed charges to be paid to persons carrying out functions under the regulations.
(3) The Secretary of State may by regulations require a water authority--
(a) to publish information about the quality of water supplied for domestic purposes to any premises by that authority ; and (
(b) to provide information to prescribed persons about the quality of water so supplied.
(4) Regulations under subsection (3) above--
((a) shall prescribe both the information which is to be published or provided in pursuance of the regulations and the manner and circumstances in which it is to be published or provided ; (
(b) may require the provision of information by a water authority to any person to be free of charge or may authorise it to be subject to the payment by that person to the authority of a prescribed charge ; and
(c) may impose such other conditions on the provision of information by a water authority to any person as may be prescribed. Provision of water where piped supplies insufficient or unwholesome 76C.--(1) Where--
(a) it is not practicable at reasonable cost for a water authority, by supplying water in pipes, to provide or maintain such a supply of wholesome water to any particular premises in its limits of supply as (so far as those premises are concerned) is sufficient for domestic purposes ;
(b) it is practicable at reasonable cost for the authority to provide such a supply to those premises otherwise than in pipes ; (
(c) the insufficiency or unwholesomeness of the supply of water for domestic purposes to those premises is such as to cause a danger to life or health ; and
(d) the local authority in whose area those premises are situated notify the water authority of that danger and require the water authority to provide a supply otherwise than in pipes,
it shall be the duty of the water authority, for such period as may be required by that local authority, to provide any supply to those premises which it is practicable at reasonable cost to provide otherwise than in pipes and which it is required to provide by that local authority.
(2) Where under subsection (1) above a local authority require the provision by a water authority of a supply of water to any premises, that local authority--
(a) shall be liable to the water authority for any charges payable in respect of the provision of that supply ; but
(b) shall have power to recover the whole or any part of any charges paid by virtue of this subsection from the owner or occupier of the premises to which the supply is provided.
(3) In this section references to the provision of a supply of water to any premises otherwise than in pipes shall have effect, in a case in which it is practicable at reasonable cost to provide a supply (whether or not in pipes) to a place within a reasonable distance of those premises, as including references to the provision of a supply to that place.
Enforcement of sections 76A to 76C 76D.--(1) This section applies to enforcement of the duties of water authorities under sections 76A and 76C(1) and under regulations made under section 76B.
(2) Without prejudice to its generality, section 11 above (power of Secretary of State to make a default order) shall have effect, subject to the following provisions of this section, for the enforcement by the Secretary of State of the duties referred to in subsection (1) above.
(3) The Secretary of State may make an order under subsection (2) of section 11 without having caused a local inquiry to be held into the matter.
(4) The Secretary of State shall not make an order under subsection (2) of section 11 if he is satisfied--
(a) that the failures complained of were of a trivial nature ; or (
(b) that the water authority have agreed to take and are taking all such steps as it appears to the Secretary of
Column 39State to be appropriate, for the time being, for them to take for the purpose of securing or facilitating compliance with these duties.
General functions of local authorities in relation to water quality 76E.-- (1) It shall be the duty of every local authority to take all such steps as they consider appropriate for keeping themselves informed about the wholesomeness and sufficiency of water supplies provided to premises in their area, including every private supply to any such premises.
(2) It shall be the duty of a local authority to notify any water authority of anything appearing to the local authority to suggest-- )
that any supply by that water authority of water for domestic purposes to any premises in the area of that local authority is, has been, or is likely to become unwholesome or (so far as any such premises are concerned) insufficient for those purposes ; ()
that the unwholesomeness or insufficiency of any such supply is, was or is likely to be such as to cause a danger to life or health ; or
that the duty imposed on that undertaker by virtue of section 76A(1)(b) above is being, has been or is likely to be so contravened as to affect any supply of water to premises in that area ; (
and it shall be the duty of a local authority to require the provision of a supply in pursuance of section 76C above whenever, in a case falling within paragraph (a) of subsection (1) of that section, it is satisfied, in relation to any premises in their area, as to the matters specified in paragraphs (b) and (c) of that subsection. (3) Where a local authority have notified a water authority of any such matter as is mentioned in subsection (2) above, it shall be the duty of that local authority, if they are not satisfied that all such remedical action as is appropriate will be taken by the water authority, to inform the Secretary of State about the contents of the notification.
(4) It shall be the duty of a local authority to comply with any direction given by the Secretary of State to that local authority or to local authorities generally as to--
(a) the cases and circumstances in which they are or are not to exercise any of the powers conferred on them by this Part in relation to private supplies ; and
(b) the manner in which those powers are to be exercised. (5) The Secretary of State may by regulations make such provision, supplementing the provisions of this section, as he considers appropriate for--