Ofwat: Strategic Priorities

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 4:26 pm on 9th June 2022.

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Photo of Rebecca Pow Rebecca Pow The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs 4:26 pm, 9th June 2022

I thank my right hon. Friend for pointing out the opportunity to do a little canvassing.

The report from the Environmental Audit Committee is extremely comprehensive. As my right hon. Friend said, we took careful note of it and took on board a great many of the recommendations made, which shows what a role a Select Committee can play when it is working constructively and well, and we are singing from the same hymn sheet of wanting to improve the quality of our water. We are taking extremely strong action on that agenda and this Government will not stand still. I expect to see change and to see it happen very quickly, and judging by the consensus on both sides of the House today, I believe we all share that view. This Government will not hesitate to take action if the measures we put in place do not happen.

I made water quality a priority when I became an Environment Minister. As the Environment Bill went through, we really strengthened it, with lots of input from Members on both sides of the House. We now have some really strong measures to tackle the unacceptable situation that has come to light. I make absolutely no bones about that. It is this Government who have, for the first time, set out in the strategic policy statement to Ofwat, the regulator, that water quality is a priority and the regulator must hold water companies to account for delivering affordable, secure and resilient water services. This Government have also made it crystal clear that water companies must significantly reduce the frequency and volume of discharges from storm sewage overflows, to the point where the Environment Act 2022, which is an exceedingly weighty tome, now has six pages on tackling storm sewage overflows alone. If hon. Members and hon. Friends have not looked at it, they should do. We have set out a plan that will revolutionise how water companies tackle the number of discharges of untreated sewage.