In recent weeks a number of constituents have been writing to me about EDM1761. I do not by convention, sign any Early Day Motions, as doing so is likely to breach the Ministerial Code's rules on collective responsibility.
However, understand that there are heated arguments on whether water should be publically owned.
I strongly believe that properly regulated private markets are the best way to meet the ongoing needs of water customers and the environment. I do not support re-nationalising the water industry and I am glad that the Government has no intention of doing so.
Since privatisation we have seen £140 billion of investment in water supply, thanks to which consumers are 5 times less likely to suffer from interruptions to their supply. Ministers have, however, been putting pressure on the water companies to do more to enhance the environment and provide customers with the reliable and resilient service they expect. As a result, water companies now plan to invest £50 billion on improving services, while reducing customer bills on average by 4 per cent in real terms by 2025.
In our area Severn Trent manages much of the water, over the past few years they have invested in maintenance of the Elan Valley Aqueduct in Birmingham, installed more new and reliable water pipes across Staffordshire and the company has been working closely with areas prone to flooding to help them prepare should any incidents occur over winter and spring. The company also provide a community dividend, whereby they send some of their profits towards community developments across the region.
The industry regulator, Ofwat, will scrutinise the water companies' plans to ensure they go far enough, and my ministerial colleagues will hold them to their promises. They submitted draft business plans for the 2019 Price Review in September, and these give an early indication that water companies are responding positively to the Secretary of State's challenge. The industry is raising its game on several fronts, such as cutting prices, investing more and paying lower dividends to shareholders. Water companies have also committed to closing all offshore financing structures.
I agree that reforming industry governance and empowering the regulator is the best way to secure a water industry that works for everyone, including both customers and the environment.