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Lord Carter: It is not the judgment of Lord Carter about which the noble Baroness has to worry, but that of the judges if the provision is challenged.

Baroness Miller of Chilthorne Domer: In any case, I hope to come up with something that will more exactly achieve the purpose that I wish, if the amendment will not achieve that.

Without a kick-start, the directive is still likely to be implemented by the Government in a piecemeal, late and unco-ordinated way. I feel great sadness that we cannot scrutinise and debate it so as to give us much more influence over how it is transposed. The noble Lord, Lord Carter, says that the CLA, the NFU and the RICS have not mentioned the directive in their briefings, but they certainly mentioned it in their evidence to the committee. I suggest to him that they have not mentioned it in their briefings because they have become depressed by the Government's attitude and the fact that it will not be in the Bill. When they see that there is a will in the House to put it in, I am sure that they will brief us and the Government at length on it.

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The Minister said that consolidation was too difficult. I do not accept that we should be held back by that. Let us be a bit more ambitious. I found it refreshing to read the Scottish Bill—and with that, I should say that perhaps we should have fines whenever a bad pun about water is committed, and at the end we could give the funds to WaterAid. The Scottish Bill was in extremely plain English. I accept that Scotland does not have all the complications that England does, but nevertheless I feel that we should focus on a consolidated Bill.

Perhaps the provisions are a good place for the Government to start. They could put into practice a principle, which they should have, that the general public can understand what on earth legislation is about. It is difficult for Members of the Committee to understand. I too appreciated the Government's efforts in giving us amended copies of the previous Bills so that we could see what the effect was. My goodness, I should think that even the draftsmen have huge difficulty. It would be nice if we could start on that principle for something as important and basic as water.

The Minister mentioned that there would be delay if the amendment were agreed to. The directive has to be transposed in principle by the end of the year, so I do not accept that the delay would be likely to be very long.

I am not sure how the Environment Agency views the lack of transposition of the directive. I suspect that it will work one way or the other, whichever it is given, because it will have to. The noble Lord said that it had adequate resources. I would have thought that it would have welcomed the certainty of the directive being transposed. Many others have wanted to be sure in that way, notably the water industry, for which certainty was particularly important. That wish for certainty ran through many pieces of evidence, including from the Wildlife Trusts. If the Environment Agency were frank, it might welcome it too.

Scotland is different, apparently, but I do not believe that it is different in relation to the amendment. It has to transpose the legislation, as do we. As the Bill goes through Committee, I for one will watch out sharply for when we need primary legislation. We are certainly unlikely to see another water Bill within the next five years, so I suspect that we may even see some government amendments tabled, because the Government will recognise that pieces of the directive will need primary legislation. In the meantime, heartened by the support that I have had, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 2 not moved.]

Baroness Byford moved Amendment No. 3:

    Before Clause 1, insert the following new clause—

The Secretary of State shall take all necessary steps to encourage the efficient use of water by all users and consumers."

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The noble Baroness said: The amendment is tiny compared to the first two. I am very hopeful that the Minister might look sympathetically on it, because I would have thought that it was in the interests of all of us to wish to conserve water resources. We have all said clearly that we desire to use water carefully. Indeed, our subsequent amendments look specifically at that. However, to state that on the Bill would give greater encouragement not only to those in the industry or in business using water, but to us as individuals.

I well remember my noble friend Lady O'Cathain saying that when she turned the tap on and then put the toothpaste on the toothbrush, she realised that she had allowed the water to run. Ever since, I now do that in reverse. Such silly actions are hugely important. The amendment is only very small, but I hope that it will receive great support from the Committee. I want to speak to it more fully after that broad introduction.

The Water Industry Act 1991 lays a duty on water undertakers to encourage efficient use of water. The amendment would widen the responsibility and should result in a government campaign similar to the good campaigns currently under way on, for example, energy conservation. Government departments and agencies should be set targets for improved use of water. Private industry already does that. Rio Tinto, for example, is introducing a scheme throughout the company. It has wider aims of increasing water-use efficiency, especially by increasing its use of recycled water and reducing its need for fresh water.

There is also a need to inform the public—we touched on that in great detail on the previous amendment—about water usage. We must encourage them to use water sensibly and to conserve it. There was much information during the drought years, but since then our minds might have slipped away from the need to conserve water.

As Members of the Committee will know, the Bill has taken three years to come before us. In fact, it was originally a reaction to a drought. Since then we have had extensive flooding, often unfortunately at the wrong time of year. There has been a lot of water. However, that should not take our eye off the ball. There is a need to require people to conserve water, even when it is in abundance. The Select Committee report states on page 35 that,

    "the first—and perhaps over-riding—conclusion of our inquiry is that the Directive needs much greater public promotion".

That is hugely important.

I am trying to encourage the Minister that the amendment is only a few words—five—to accept. I hope that, with the support of others around the Committee, we can persuade him to accept it to the Bill. I beg to move.

Baroness O'Cathain: My noble friend says most disarmingly that the amendment is only five words, but those five words are fundamental to the whole future of water in this country. I will not go back to the toothbrush analogy, but people simply do not realise

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how valuable water is or how easy it is to conserve. They do not realise that it is in their interests to do so, not only as consumers now, but for following generations.

One big issue that came out at Second Reading was the stunning information given to us by the Environment Agency about the shortage of water per capita in parts of this country, by comparison with Sudan and Ethiopia. If those facts were brought home to the public in a greater way, I am sure that everyone would be prepared to act. It is not as though the Government are saying, "Don't drive your car". That would inconvenience people, but being sensible about conserving water would not. It merely means that they become slightly more responsible, and I support the amendment absolutely.

5 p.m.

Baroness Young of Old Scone: I was delighted to hear the noble Baroness talk about the water shortages that I pointed out at Second Reading, particularly those in the south and south-east of the country. A number of requirements are already laid on elements of the water industry to promote water efficiency. Ofwat requires water companies to undertake a basic minimum level of activity unless supplies are under pressure, when a more active approach is necessary. Such an approach is not defined. In practice, some water companies do the minimum that they think that they can get away with in the face of Ofwat's requirement.

It is not just the water companies that are involved. Households could save up to 40 per cent of water through efficiency measures, both in design of houses and low-water appliances. Industry could save 30 per cent with even the most simple and cost-effective measures. There has not been as much estimation of the water efficiency savings that could be achieved in agriculture, but the dairy industry could probably make savings of upwards of 20 per cent. More effective irrigation methods could have a major impact on water use. There is a long way to go if we are to have the water efficiency level necessary in view of pressures on the water system.

From all that, one might think that I would support the amendment, but I am afraid that I do not. It seems to be one of those nice, motherhood-and-apple-pie amendments that admonishes the Secretary of State to admonish the rest of the world. A number of amendments on water efficiency take a more targeted approach, including Amendment No. 74, whenever we get to it. The noble Baroness has raised an important issue, but the amendment may not be the one to deliver the right action in practice.

Lord Livsey of Talgarth: I certainly support the amendment. Contrary to what the noble Baroness said, I believe that it lays out some very important principles relating to the conservation of one of our most precious commodities. We have to be responsible in that respect.

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In the Water Industry Act 1991, the industry itself had to ensure that wastage was minimised. There is still a lot of wastage in the industry, but it is better than it was in 1991. There are still tales of about 25 per cent wastage, but we have to look at the state of the infrastructure. It was probably put in place by our great-grandparents, and has done very well for the past 120 years or so.

We debated metering at Second Reading and how there were scarcities of water in different parts of the UK, as the noble Baroness, Lady O'Cathain, said. In the South East, metering could be very effective so far as consumers and users are concerned. In other parts of the country where population pressure is not so great, the infrastructure is often in quite a state. Indeed, the pressure for metering in such places may not be so great. That will have to be resolved, and it will no doubt be debated further in greater detail.

Sadly, we have heard recently of other problems to do with the supply of water in the Middle East and how scarce it is. We need to do everything that we can in terms of the efficient use of water, and ensure that conservation is right at the heart of the legislation.

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