Page last updated at 11:55 GMT, Tuesday, 27 November 2012

Water and Sewerage Services (Amendment) Bill

Regional Development Minister Danny Kennedy explained that the Water and Sewerage Services (Amendment) Bill was intended to extend the subsidy for water charges paid to NI Water (NIW) up to March 2016, on 27 November 2012.

Mr Kennedy said the bill was supported by all parties in the Executive, and it did not place any constraints on further debate on the future governance of water services.

"I think the rationale is understood by all," the minister said.

The deputy chairman of the Regional Development Committee, Sean Lynch of Sinn Fein, said the committee welcomed the bill but noted its concern over the governance of NIW.

Alex Easton of the DUP said he had been contacted by many people in his North Down constituency who were concerned about the possible introduction of water charges.

Ulster Unionist Danny Kinahan congratulated his party colleague, Danny Kennedy, on introducing the bill.

Mr Kinahan said the UUP recognised that this was the wrong time to introduce universal water charges.

John Dallat of the SDLP said that anyone attempting to introduce water charges at the moment would be "like turkeys voting for Christmas".

Stewart Dickson of Alliance took a slightly different approach.

He said his party supported the bill, but questioned the wisdom of extending the subsidy beyond 2015.

Mr Dickson said there was "a strong argument for the introduction of water charges" and called for discussion about "a system of fair charging".

David McNarry, the sole UKIP MLA, questioned the sustainability of the subsidy, describing it as an "inefficient subsidy for an inefficient company".

The bill passed its second stage.

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