|Previous Section||Back to Table of Contents||Lords Hansard Home Page|
Lord Dixon-Smith: I do not believe that anyone would quarrel with the principle of the amendment but I am slightly puzzled about how the water industryI use those words with their widest meaningcould escape from the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act anyway. I simply do not see that. No doubt the Minister will put me right if I am wrong.
The issue of adding substances to the water supply is important. I recall that it became a matter of primary legislation in relation to adding fluoride as a preventive medicine for teeth. That would not be a question of the HSE being competent to deal with the matter; one would go to the relevant health people for that sort of information. The principle is absolutely right but I believe that in so far as the matter can be covered, that is done by existing legislation. The amendment is probably unnecessary but I stand to be corrected.
Lord Livsey of Talgarth: I rise to support my noble friend Lady Miller and to ask a fairly simple question. Subsection (3) of the amendment refers to the "treatment . . . of water". There was a serious case of pollution of a water supply in, I believe, north Cornwall about 10 years ago
Lord Livsey of Talgarth: At Camelford; I thank my noble friend. A very serious incident occurred there. Is existing health and safety legislation adequate to deal with an incident of that kind or would the amendment strengthen the legislation and allow us to deal more effectively with such an incident?
Lord Whitty: The first part of the amendment deals with the position of the Health and Safety Executive. Of course we agree that with the enforcement of health and safety legislation and regulations, there must be a good relationship between the authority and the HSE. That is already covered by the memorandum of understanding between Ofwat and the HSE.
The first part of the amendment would put the HSE in a rather different position in terms of the requirement to be consulted. As the noble Lord, Lord Dixon-Smith, said, in that respect the water industry is not different from any other employer who must abide by the rules of, and be subject to inspection by, the HSE.
As I understand the amendment, it is probably lifted from the provisions applying to gas in particular and electricity. The position of the HSE in relation to gas is different in this respect compared with water. Historically, under the Gas Acts, the HSE and its predecessor bodies had substantially greater powers over the supply, connection and installation of gas than with regard to the water supply side. With regard to water, that is the responsibility of the Environment Agency or the Drinking Water Inspectoratethat involves the Secretary of Stateor local authorities in relation to some reservoirs. The HSE does not have the same relationship with water as with gas; the read-across is not appropriate.
The second part of the amendmentsubsections (4) to (6)is about the disapplication of the authority's general duties where it is determining disputes or acting under its concurrent functions under competition legislation and the Secretary of State or the authority are performing duties under other legislation. Subsections (5) and (6) of the amendment are already covered by the Bill. That leaves the
Baroness Miller of Chilthorne Domer: I thank the Minister for his reply. I accept his comments on subsections (5) and (6) of the amendment not being necessary and subsection (4) being inappropriate. I shall read his comments again. I ask him to respond to my noble friend's comments on the Camelford incident and the addition of substances to water. I believe that his response was that that would be covered by the Drinking Water Inspectorate. Does the HSE not consider procedures that are followed differently? Would the incident have been less likely to have happened if it had been involved?
Lord Whitty: On the supply of water to consumers, the contamination of water or the damage to consumers would be covered by existing legislationI am not entirely familiar with the incident in Camelford. The enforcement agency would be involved at the point of delivery; the DWI, or, if a contamination occurred further upstream, the Environment Agency would be involved, not the HSE. The only role that the HSE would have in this respect would be the same as applies in relation to a factory and in terms of the danger to employees. It has a different role in relation to gas.
The noble Lord said: In moving this amendment, I shall speak also to Amendments Nos. 170ZB and 170ZC. The purpose of the first two amendments is to create an inspector of drinking water for Wales in the Drinking Water Inspectorate. The insertion of the
Most of the amendments that I have tabled are as a result of personal experiences as a Member of another place and the problems that I have encountered which need to be overcome. In one case, the drinking water in a community was of substantially low quality and totally unacceptable. It was very difficult to establish whether there was a drinking water inspector in being. I should have remembered that because it was after the original Act. In fact, what occurred was extremely unsatisfactory. I shall explain in more detail when I turn to Amendment No. 170ZC.
Eventually, the case was referred to Europe because we were unable to obtain any sense from the water company concerned. Ultimately, after 12 years of water problems in that community, the most effective person to deal with the matter was the drinking water inspector, who we tracked down to an office in London. Once the inspectorate was involved, it really got matters moving and I was very impressed with its ability to take action.
However, the residents of the community and I felt that the lines of communication were truncated and far away. If we had had our own drinking water inspector in Wales, we would have been able to refer to him or her immediately for action because we would have known of his existence. We were very concerned about that.
The problem related to old pipes, iron contamination, adults and children being ill, clothes being ruined and many other issues of that nature. The company said that it intended to deal with the problem, but it never did so satisfactorily. Ultimately, action by the drinking water inspector was required to overcome the problem.
The only way to overcome the problem was to go to a public analyst 50 miles away. As we suspected, his analysis was totally different. It was with that ammunition that eventually we were able to approach the drinking water inspector, who sorted the matter out. The community had to pay for that analysis, which we felt was very unfair. In fact, a number of members of the community were extremely poor and could not afford it. However, the analysis was done.
The purpose of Amendment No. 170ZC is to establish independent laboratory facilities so that consumers can refer to an analyst in their region who would supply analysis for comparison with other samples. We think that most desirable. I beg to move.
Back to Table of Contents
Lords Hansard Home Page