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Water Bill 2013-14
Type of Bill:
The government published the water white paper 'Water for Life' in December 2011. In January 2012, the Prime Minister announced that a draft Water Bill would be published for pre-legislative scrutiny "in the coming months". The draft Bill was confirmed in the Queen's speech of 9 May 2012, and was published on 10 July 2012. It will be scrutinised by the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Select Committee. The Bill was presented to Parliament by Owen Paterson MP on 27 June 2013.
The proposals introduce a new approach to water management, with the aim of stabilising consumer bills, protecting water resources, and ensuring water companies are as efficient as possible.
The white paper constitutes the government's response to a number of reviews:
- Martin Cave's Review of Competition and Innovation in Water Markets;
- Anna Walker's Review of Charging for Household Water and Sewerage Services;
- Defra's consultation on water affordability, established in response to Anna Walker's review; and
- the Review of Ofwat and consumer representation in the water sector.
The Bill aims to:
- Create new provisions which will provide the Government with legal powers to regulate the water industry and ensure that flood insurance is affordable.
- Introduces measures to improve the condition of rivers by encouraging local organisations to improve water quality and make sure water is extracted from the environment in the least harmful way;
- Reform the water industry and deregulate water markets to drive economic growth;
- Enable business and public sector customers to negotiate better services from suppliers and cut their costs;
- Removes barriers that have discouraged new entrants from competing in the water market;
- Asks water companies to consider where water trading and inter-connecting pipelines could help ensure secure water supplies at a price customers can afford;
- Introduce new laws to increase drought resilience.
- Enable water companies to introduce new social tariffs for people struggling to pay their bills and seeks to tackle bad debt which ordinary householders have to bear the cost of to the tune of £15 per year; and
- Tackle the historic unfairness of water infrastructure in the South West.
The House of Commons second reading of the Bill took place on 25 November 2013. After a short debate, the Bill was passed to a Public Bill Committee. The first day of committee was on 3 December 2013. The committee heard evidence from witnesses including National Flood Forum, British Insurance Brokers' Association, RSPB, The Chartered Institution of Water and Environmental Management, Association of British Insurers (ABI) and Sustainability First.
On the second day of committee, clauses 1-15 and schedules 1-5 were considered. Clauses 2-5, 13-15, schedules 1 and 3 were agreed to. Clauses 1, 6-12 and schedules 2, 4 and 5 were agreed to, as amended.