DEFRA offered no response to this paper. This is a matter for Ofwat as part of its independent economic regulation of the water industry in the interests of consumers. I note that Ofwat was able to approve proposals put forward by Thames and that the interests of consumers were furthered by the introduction of a ring-fencing condition in line with best practice in other sectors.
Customer Service Committees were replaced by the Consumer Council for Water (CCWater) on 1 October 2005. Under the new arrangements, Ofwat is no longer involved in the appointment of consumer representatives. I regularly meet with the National Chair of CCWater to discuss matters of interest to consumers, including matters of particular interest to consumers in the Thames Water area.
Each year companies provide, in their June return submissions to Ofwat, a range of financial information including levels of investment to meet agreed outputs. This information is published in Ofwat’s “Financial performance and expenditure of the water companies in England and Wales” 2005-06 report. A copy of this report has been placed in the Library of the House.
The choice of capital structures is for the management of the companies, not the regulator. Ofwat has no powers to approve or reject individual company proposals. In each case it considers whether the ring-fence around the regulated company should be strengthened as a means to protect customers from any undue risk.