Bill seeks to prevent cuts in water supply: Disconnection for non-payment attacked

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Indy Politics
A BILL to ban water disconnections for non-payment of bills is to be introduced in the Commons today under the 10-minute rule procedure. It follows a campaign supported by 200 MPs from all parties and 70 voluntary bodies and local authorities.

The Bill is to be introduced by Helen Jackson, Labour MP for Sheffield Hillsborough. It has virtually no chance of becoming law, but coincides with the release by Ofwat, the industry regulatory body, of new figures expected to show a slight decline in disconnections last year.

Mrs Jackson said a 'rapid and urgent' reduction was needed in the number of disconnections. 'Even one disconnection is one too many and cannot be condoned.' Campaigners have blamed a hard-nosed approach by the privatised water companies for a rise in disconnections from more than 7,673 in 1990-91 to more than 21,282 in 1991-92. The figure is now thought to have dropped below 20,000.

Mrs Jackson said that the 1991- 92 figures meant 60 homes were losing their supply every day in England and Wales. Under existing law, each house automatically became unfit for human habitation and an unsafe and unfit place to work or look after children and old people. The rise in the number of cases of dysentery has also been linked with disconnections.

Disconnection of domestic properties is illegal in Scotland. The Bill, which could be taken up as a Private Members' Bill, would amend the 1991 Water Industry Act to extend this to England and Wales, and would also limit installation of pre-payment water meters, which are viewed by many consumer groups as a device for 'self-disconnection'. Both the Government and Ofwat want the sanction of disconnections to remain.

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