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Water e-briefing: UK Water Bill included in the Queen’s speech

  • United Kingdom
  • Energy and infrastructure - Water


The Queen’s speech delivered on 8 May 2013 has confirmed that a Water Bill will be introduced to Parliament.

The speech tells us very little – simply that “My Government will continue with improve the water industry.”

This will come as welcome news to most water sector players, removing any uncertainty over whether the draft Water Bill published in July 2012 would feature in the next Parliament. Please click here to access our earlier e-briefing on the draft Bill.

Undoubtedly there will be concerns that the Bill does not go far enough in some areas. However, the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (Defra) previously confirmed that the draft Bill remained a work in progress, and that when it is introduced to Parliament, it would not be the same as the original draft Bill. By way of example, we have recently seen Defra’s consultation paper on introducing a new overarching duty to focus on long-term resilience, adding to Ofwat’s (UK Water Utilities Regulation Authority) statutory obligations.

Pending the publication of the Bill, and any Defra papers before then, it is unknown what information the Bill will contain. Reform of the business retail market is predictable (although the interface between England and Wales and Scotland is yet to be defined); this links with the repeal of the in-area trading ban, which moved closer when the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Bill received Royal Assent on 25 April 2013. The upstream reforms set out in the draft Bill are less predictable. Also uncertain at this stage is whether further steps towards abstraction licensing reform will be taken in the Bill.

Major new legislation for the water sector is infrequent, with it tending to happen around every 10 years. This Bill will contain measures to implement significant reforms. For these reasons, all water sector stakeholders will be awaiting the Bill with great anticipation.

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