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Water and Sewerage Industry

Volume 554: debated on Thursday 6 December 2012

The Government’s water White Paper set out our vision for a resilient and sustainable water industry that is able to attract long-term investment. We are committed to measured reform to protect the strengths of the current system. Our draft Water Bill includes proposals to deliver evolutionary reform of the water sector. This will benefit customers and enable new players and new ways of thinking to enter the market.

The UK regulated asset base has been a great driver of inward investment into the UK for infrastructure projects. Will the Minister confirm that there is nothing in the draft Bill that will undermine the size of that asset base, and will he consider using the regulated asset model to bring in money for badly needed flood defences?

I can confirm that the golden thread running through our water White Paper, all our policies since then and, in particular, the Water Bill underpins our commitment to continued investment in this sector. It has benefited from £108 billion of low-cost investment over the past 22 years, and we want to see that outstanding success continue. I note what my hon. Friend says about the plans to extend the model to flood defences. That proposal has been put by one or two water companies. We do not propose to bring it forward at this time, but we are always open to considering such matters.

If the Minister is doing something about the structure of the water industry, I hope he will be influenced by the fact that, as it has been revealed, three companies do not pay any tax.

On a specific problem with sewage and water, is he aware that most hospitals discharge all their food waste straight down into the sewerage system? Is it not about time we did something about that 19th-century practice?

One of the reforms that we are seeking to introduce in the draft Water Bill is about bringing innovation into the sector. There are fantastic new technologies that can tackle precisely the sort of things the hon. Gentleman talks about, and the Bill will allow such schemes to be introduced in a cost-effective way.