Labour has requested that the government take action against the rising cost of water, by including an affordability scheme in the 2nd reading of the Water Bill on Monday.
Shadow environment secretary Maria Eagle spoke at Environment Questions at the House of Commons on Thursday, challenging the environment secretary Owen Paterson to place a duty on water companies to keep their prices down.
Paterson recently wrote to water company heads to urge them to use high profits to allow tangible benefits to customers. Eagle argued that customers wanted action, not a weak request.
She called on the environment secretary to require all water companies sign up to an affordability scheme but Paterson argued the reform would amount to a “universal tax across all water bill payers”, which he would not endorse.
Paterson said that during the last Labour government water bills rose by 20% rising to an average of £389 annually, with today’s being just below that at £388.
He added that Ofwat is a ‘robust and rigorous regulator for the water industry with chairman Jonson Cox’s leadership.
“It is very clear from his statements and negotiations that he expects water companies to hold or reduce bills while also continuing the enormous investment this privatisation has brought.
“Do not underestimate the £116 billion brought into the industry which will make it efficient and keep bills down,” he said
Paterson also noted Ofwat’s estimates that from 2015, pressure on bills could be reduced by £120 million to £750 million annually.
He said he thought Eagles would be “pleasantly surprised that when the new price review comes through, prices will be held and some may fall.”