As part of the State Opening of Parliament on 8 May 2013, the Queen’s Speech included the announcement that the “Government will continue with legislation… to improve the water industry.”
The Queen's Speech outlines the Government’s main priorities for the coming year. The Water Bill which applies predominantly to England and Wales has been included in the list of bills along with other energy and infrastructure measures such as around the High Speed Two rail project and the much awaited Energy Bill covering the Government’s proposals on the Electricity Market Reform which, though introduced in the previous session, is still making its way through Parliament.
Since its publication in July 2012, the draft Water Bill has been subject to pre-legislative scrutiny by the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee (the“Committee”) which published its report on 1 February 2013. In its report, the Committee cautiously welcomed the proposed retail market reforms to be introduced in England but raised concerns about a lack of proposals to reduce the risk of flooding, absence of reforms to the abstraction regime and lack of details in the primary legislation. The Committee had also recommended that “pursuit of sustainable development” be made a primary duty of Ofwat, a proposal on which Ofwat is currently consulting (please click here to see our previous law-now)
Whether the Government has decided to address these concerns will become clearer once the Water Bill is introduced to Parliament. In its briefing notes to the Queen’s Speech, the Government has stated that the Water Bill “would allow businesses and public sector bodies to obtain more competitive prices and improve their efficiency” and has also highlighted increased opportunities for new entrants, greater focus on customers’ needs, and reducing the impacts of future droughts as the main benefits to be expected from the Water Bill. The Bill is also identified as the "best vehicle for taking measures to address the availability and affordability of flood insurance", in respect of which progress is awaited.
For more information about the Queen’s Speech including the transcript and briefing notes please click here