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Economic Growth: Regulators

Volume 744: debated on Thursday 25 January 2024

At the autumn statement, we announced the decision to extend the growth duty to Ofgem, Ofwat and Ofcom, alongside a series of reforms to the duty to hold regulators to account for delivering growth in the sectors they regulate. We are also currently consulting on proposals to strengthen the economic regulation of the energy, water and telecoms sectors.

I am grateful to the Secretary of State for that answer, but on retained EU law reform, in the June to December 2023 reporting period there were only two regulatory reforms of note, which were on wine marketing and working time calculations; the rest were technical corrections. What steps is she taking to speed up reform of retained EU law to ensure that regulation works for business and enables growth?

I am glad that my hon. Friend read the report that I sent out this week on what we have been doing. However, I disagree that only two reforms of note have been delivered. We have repealed or reformed more than 2,000 measures. The Port Services Regulations 2019, which were not designed with UK ports in mind, are an example. We have also passed the Financial Services and Markets Act 2023 and the Procurement Act 2023. I remind him that that list is what we are using the schedule for, and there are many other mechanisms in the retained EU law programme to deliver on that road map so that we improve our economy and make it more competitive by making sure that our laws are tailored to our economy.

In support of economic growth, the right hon. Member for South West Norfolk (Elizabeth Truss) cut £235 million from Environment Agency budgets when she was at the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. Rather than bringing economic growth, that served to bring sewage growth: sewage discharge doubled between 2016 and 2021. I was delighted to hear yesterday that the Government will adopt my Water Quality Monitoring Bill, but will they also restore some of the cut Environment Agency funding to bring back powers as well as duties?

A spending review, where we can look at these things, will be coming up shortly, but I really have to challenge much of what the hon. Gentleman said. It is a misrepresentation to say that the issues going on with sewage are to do with the actions of my right hon. Friend the Member for South West Norfolk (Elizabeth Truss). This Government have been taking reforms through the Environment Act 2021 to improve the situation throughout multiple Governments, including the one in which his party, the Liberal Democrats, participated during the coalition. So it is very wrong to make that case.