Water Bill [Lords]

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Mr. Morley: Well, we are being invited to go back to the future in the amendment, but time has moved on. In 1965, the Government announced to Parliament their intention for metric units to become the primary system of measurement in the United Kingdom. I know that it takes Conservative Members a bit of time to get their minds round new things, but 1965 was long enough ago to allow plenty of time to adjust to the

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metric system. It has been the primary system of measurement in schools since 1974. I must confess that I cannot relate to Fahrenheit; I think in centigrade. I can predict the temperature of this Room in centigrade. It is about 14 to 15° C, which is not particularly warm. I have no idea what the temperature is in Fahrenheit.

Ms Candy Atherton (Falmouth and Camborne): It is colder by the window.

Mr. Morley: That is because of the movement of the air.

The hon. Member for Leominster had the teeniest bit of an argument in asking for both measurements. We often see measurements in both Fahrenheit and centigrade on the news and in weather forecasts, but there are two reasons why the Bill refers only to centigrade and why it would not be appropriate to have both.

First, the provisions contain criminal sanctions relating to temperatures. The temperatures are specified in centigrade to prevent people from putting hot liquids down drains, which can cause all sorts of problems. That is what this is about. It is a fundamental principle that there should be a single clear and unambiguous test for criminal liability. The difficulty is that the figures on the Fahrenheit and Celsius scales are not precisely the same. By referring to Fahrenheit, the amendments would have the unintended consequence of creating two different tests for criminal liability. Clearly, that is not acceptable, because there would always be someone who seized on whether it was Fahrenheit or centigrade and what exactly the temperature was.

The second reason is more practical than technical. It is important that there is no risk of confusion in matters of public health and safety. It is better to have one clear measure than two measures with the risk that the wrong figure may be used. It is time that some Conservative Members came into the modern world.

Mr. Wiggin: I came into the world in 1966, after that legislation.

Mr. Morley: There we are; it should be ingrained upon the hon. Gentleman.

Mr. Wiggin: Some things are ingrained upon me; clarity, freedom of choice and the fact that more information is better than less. The Minister says that the purpose of the provision is to prevent people from pouring hot liquid down drains. Perhaps he would like to tell us which is hotter; the temperature in Fahrenheit or in Celsius.

Norman Baker: I apologise for interrupting the hon. Gentleman's contribution, but does he share my surprise that the Minister is not expanding choice by saying that there will be a gradual change from Fahrenheit to centigrade? That could evolve over time, and people could choose to follow the system, rather than having measures forced on them in this way.

Mr. Wiggin: I am as astonished as the hon. Gentleman. This is a light-hearted series of amendments, but there is quite an important point behind it, which is that if we are trying to prevent people from doing something wrong, we should not

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deny them a measurement. Some people will understand centigrade; some would be happier dealing with Fahrenheit.

Mr. Key: It is Celsius. Where did my hon. Friend go to school?

Mr. Wiggin: I was at school in 1974, when the system was being brought in.

The Chairman: Order. I ask hon. Members to return to the amendment.

Mr. Wiggin: I am grateful to you, Mr. O'Brien. I was just trying to explain that my upbringing was deeply confusing, because we were taught both metres and miles.

Mr. Key: To clear up the confusion, could my hon. Friend say where he went to school?

The Chairman: There is no confusion. As far as I am concerned, we are sticking to the amendment. I appeal to the hon. Gentleman to stick to the amendment.

Mr. Wiggin: I will. I accept the point that the Minister made about criminality. If there is a difference between the two temperatures, I should be grateful if he told us whether he is moving towards hotter or colder. If our aim is the worthy one of trying to stop people pouring hot liquids down drains, we should make it as widely known as possible. I shall not veer for one second away from the amendment, but I should like the Minister to reply.

Mr. Morley: That is precisely the point that I made. As this is a regulation, and has criminal sanctions, it is important that people should be clear about it. It is also important that we have a temperature of which people are aware, and that that temperature is specified according to the Celsius system, because that is the legal system in the UK.

Mr. Lansley: I understand the point that the Minister makes. However, the Minister, in converting, has rounded down in one case and up in another, although the circumstances are similar. I am not sure why that is so. Could he remind us why he has rounded in different directions?

Mr. Morley: I always thought that I was a rounded sort of person. I am not sure what point the hon. Gentleman is making. The Bill will have only one temperature range—the Celsius range—but the amendment would change that. I am saying that there is potential confusion in doing that.

Mr. Lansley: My point is that the Minister has rounded down in the case of paragraph (b) of subsection (1) and has rounded up in the case of subsection (5).

Mr. Morley: It is simply rounded to the nearest number; that is the only reason.

Mr. Wiggin: I still have not had an answer from the Minister. Are things getting hotter or colder—[Interruption.] We appear to have exhausted this one. It is a shame, because there is an inconsistency, but we have done our duty in pointing it out.

Norman Baker: The hon. Gentleman has not entirely exhausted the point, because the system currently in place is, presumably, understood by

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everyone, and is applied throughout the industry. Someone will have to write round and tell everyone about the change, at some cost. The unnecessary change has imposed extra costs on the taxpayer.

Mr. Wiggin: The hon. Gentleman is right. We in the Opposition have tried to point out the inadequacy, by means of our amendment. However, I do not think that the Government are listening, and there is not much more that we can do about it at this stage. There are some important matters to discuss before the knife falls, and I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Amendment made: No. 273, in

    schedule 7, page 197, line 20, at end insert—

    'Environment Act 1995 (c.25)

    In section 101 of the Environment Act 1995 (grants in connection with drainage works), subsection (1) is omitted.'.—[Mr. Morley.]

Schedule 7, as amended, agreed to.

Schedule 9

Repeals

Amendments made: No. 274, in

    schedule 9, page 223, line 30, column 2, at end insert—

    'In Schedule 1, the entry for ''Local authority''.'.

No. 316, in

    schedule 9, page 223, line 41, column 2, at end insert—

    ''In Schedule 3, paragraphs 6 and 7.

    'In Schedule 4, paragraph 6.

    'In Schedule 25, paragraphs 68(2)(a) and 76(a).'.

No. 317, in

    schedule 9, page 224, line 37, at end insert—

    'Water Consolidation (Consequential Provisions) Act 1991 (c.60)

    In Schedule 1, paragraphs 10, 28(a) and 29(a).'.

No. 275, in

    schedule 9, page 224, line 39, column 2, at beginning insert—

    'Section 101(1).'.

No. 318, in

    schedule 9, page 224, line 42, column 2, at end insert—

    'In Schedule 22, paragraph 181.'.

No. 276, in

    schedule 9, page 224, line 43, column 2, at end insert—

    'In Schedule 10, paragraphs 5(3) and 13(2) and (3).'.

    —[Mr. Morley.]

Schedule 9, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 103

Specific transitional and transitory provisions

Amendment made: No. 263, in

    clause 103, page 129, line 11, leave out second '(6)' and insert '(5)'.—[Mr. Morley.]

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    Clause 103, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.

    Clauses 104 and 105 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

    Clause 106

    Interpretation, commencement, short title, and extent

Amendment proposed: No. 264, in

    clause 106, page 132, line 3, at end insert—

    '( ) section 87(3).'.—[Mr. Morley.]

Mr. Wiggin: What exactly does the wording of the amendment mean?

4.15 pm

Mr. Morley: It is not our policy intention to seek to extend to Scotland the environmental powers that clause 87, and schedules 5 and 6, will provide to the Coal Authority. Only by introducing this amendment, which is purely technical, can we ensure that the authority's founding legislation—the Coal Industry Act 1994—will successfully limit the extent of the powers to England and Wales only.

Amendment agreed to.

Amendment proposed: No. 171, in

    clause 106, page 132, line 6, leave out subsection (8).—[Mr. Morley.]

Mr. Wiggin: Subsection (8) states:

    ''Nothing in this Act shall impose any charge on the people or on public funds, or vary the amount or incidence of or otherwise alter any such charge in any manner, or affect the assessment, levying, administration or application of any money raised by any such charge.''

What exactly is the Minister up to in removing that?

Mr. Morley: Nothing sinister is the answer to that. The amendment covers an interesting point that I learned only in preparing for the Bill. The Bill started in the other place, and there are restrictions on what the House of Lords can do on the levying of taxes and charges. When the Bill was originally drafted, that clause was consistent with the powers of the Houses of Lords and Commons. Now that the Bill is in the House of Commons and being scrutinised in Committee, we have the power to add measures of charges and aspects relating to financial matters. This is a procedural amendment to remove what is known as a privilege amendment—the privilege being ours—which is added by the Lords to every Bill originating there. That is an interesting procedural lesson that I learned only recently.

 
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