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

That is a horrible, graphic description, and we also need to make people aware that they should not pour fat down the drain; that causes huge disruption and cost. We have consulted on wet wipes: we put out a call for evidence and are now looking at what further action might be taken. Also, water companies are indeed raising the issue of illegally discharged fat.

It was great that my hon. Friend Danny Kruger talked about how wetlands and nature-based solutions are critical to cleaning up our water. We are increasingly using those solutions; the Government are encouraging that.

My hon. Friend Sir Charles Walker was as ever the angler extraordinaire—the canary in the coalmine as he calls himself—and I always listen when he speaks. Along with many others, he mentioned supporting a river recovery fund. My right hon. Friend Jesse Norman, who has left his seat, also mentioned that, as did my right hon. Friend the Member for Ludlow, who raised as well the idea of pollution fines going to solving problems relating to water. We are working on a holistic plan for water; it is an interesting concept, and I hear what he says on that. He also talked about development consents and local authorities having no power to include infrastructure relating to water. Again I hear those comments; that is another valid point which I am happy to discuss further with him. In short, he has raised some important points in addition to the inquiry’s recommendations and, as ever, the door is open for us to consider them.

I thank all Members who have participated in the debate. I honestly believe this is a turning point for water. We have all had enough, and water companies must put the environment first—that is what the policy statement to Ofwat says. The message has been clearly sent that Ofwat must reduce the harm from storm sewage overflows. We will no longer stand poor performance from the water companies.

Almost everybody raised the issue of the enormous salaries and the dividends taken. It has been made very clear to Ofwat that that is no longer acceptable, and it has already started measures which came through in 2019 to make information on salaries and what they are based on more transparent. I think many colleagues commented that, actually, it is great to take a dividend or a big salary, but something must be shown for it. Our water is a precious thing and, without a shadow of a doubt, we should not be abusing it. We should be cleaning it up, and that is what the Government intend to do. I thank all colleagues for taking part in this extremely constructive debate.