UK: Water Bill Commences In UK Parliament

Last Updated: 12 July 2013
Article by Paul Thompson

It has been a long time a-coming but, at last, the Government's Water Bill was presented to the House of Commons last Thursday, 27 June 2013. It now has every chance of becoming law before the next election in May 2015.

Currently, a date for Second Reading has not been announced but it looks most likely to be in the final sitting week (15-18 July) before the parliamentary summer recess.

The Bill provides for the introduction, amongst other things, of long heralded market reforms which are intended to increase competition and revolutionise the regulation of the water supply and sewerage industry in England and Wales. It also includes a number of important water resources, environmental permitting and flood defence/land drainage reforms.

The Bill has grown from the 34 Clause, 7 Schedule, 157 pager number, presented for pre-legislative scrutiny a year ago, to a more meaty 57 clauses, 10 Schedules and 177 pages, and it will probably get longer as it makes its way through Parliament.

The Government highlights in particular the following new features of the Bill:

  • changes to make it easier for owners of small scale water storage to sell excess water into the water supply market;
  • powers for the Secretary of State to specify a level of service for which water companies must plan;
  • changes that will make funding of water company schemes to restore sustainable abstraction quicker and easier, in order to tackle unsustainable abstraction more effectively;
  • measures to make it easier for developers to connect new developments to water and sewerage systems;
  • clarification that the functions of a sewerage undertaker include building and maintenance of Sustainable Drainage Systems, so that these can then be funded through the Price Review mechanism;
  • and a new resilience duty for Ofwat.

In relation to the proposed market reforms, out have gone the proposed new "network infrastructure authorisation" (in response to concerns about stranding of assets and fragmentation of networks) and the proposed new "retail infrastructure authorisations" (the inset regime is to be maintained and improved instead), both of which featured in the draft Bill. In has come, amongst other things, a duty on ministers to produce charging guidance, a ministerial power of veto over changes proposed by Ofwat to undertakers' licences and a right of appeal to changes in market codes. Also of particular note in terms of the regulation of water and sewerage companies more generally are a new overarching resilience duty, changes to make it easier for owners of small scale water storage to sell excess water into the water supply market and powers for the Secretary of State to specify a level of service for which water companies must plan.

Additionally, the Bill now covers clarification that the functions of a sewerage undertaker include building and maintenance of Sustainable Drainage Systems, so that these can then be funded through the Price Review mechanism, removal of compensation rights for changes to abstraction licences and provision for flood insurance for high risk household premises.

Published simultaneously with the Bill is the Government's response to the EFRA committee's pre-legislative scrutiny of the draft Bill and also a consultation (till 8 August) concerning the headline agreement now reached by the Government with the Association of British Insurers as respects the new "Flood Re" scheme for insuring homes at flood risk and possible alternative options for regulation

In relation to the proposed water and sewerage market reforms, see also the helpful resume produced by "Open Water" (which is nothing to do with wild swimming but rather the name now given to the programme steered by the High Level Group to agree and deliver the new retail market arrangements).

As is so often the case with Government responses to departmental Select Committee's reports on draft legislation, the Government has rejected most recommendations of the EFRA Committee beyond responding positively to its requests for updates and further explanations. The introduction of the new "resilience duty" for Ofwat (in place of changes to the order of Ofwat's existing duties proposed by the Committee) can be seen however as an advance on that recommendation.

The EFRA Committee recommendations rejected include those asking for the Government to publish draft charging guidance alongside the Bill, the Government stating that this would be "premature". But it does promise that it will "set out clearly the high level principles that will govern the future guidance during the passage of the Bill"; and that these will:

  • represent a fair deal for all customers – charges should a stable, transparent and affordable;
  • better reflect the costs of supply, increasing the long-term resilience and sustainability of our water resources;
  • and facilitate a more competitive sector, providing space for both incumbent water and sewerage companies and new entrants to the market to innovate in order to deliver benefits for customers.

Other recommendations rejected include those asking for the Bill to enshrine protection for householders from subsidising the non-household sector, to provide for the functional separation of incumbent companies' wholesale and retail arms, to enable incumbent companies to voluntarily exit the retail market, to bring further forward upstream market reforms, to further encourage water meters, to advance the prospective new abstraction regime and the implementation of the existing provisions for sustainable drainage systems (SuDs).

As is to be expected, the Government strikes a robust and confident stance in rejecting Committee recommendations and in asserting that "we are convinced we have struck the right balance". It will now be for the markets to let it know if they agree and that onward investment in our water industry remains secure.

Those who like jargon and strange acronyms will love this Bill and the commentary surrounding it, others may find the new vocabulary a whole lot more challenging. As well as the technical stuff ("restricted retail authorisation" and the like) references will be found to such wonders as a "market strawman", "a placeholder clause", and "unbundling". Through this blog, we will seek to keep you in touch in plain English with the key points on the Bill and its potential implications as it makes what may be a bit of a roller coaster ride through Parliament. Enjoy!

To facilitate following the progress of the Bill and this blog, you will find in the following links:

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

Similar Articles
Relevancy Powered by MondaqAI
CMS Cameron McKenna Nabarro Olswang LLP
In association with
Related Topics
Similar Articles
Relevancy Powered by MondaqAI
CMS Cameron McKenna Nabarro Olswang LLP
Related Articles
Up-coming Events Search
Font Size:
Mondaq on Twitter
Mondaq Free Registration
Gain access to Mondaq global archive of over 375,000 articles covering 200 countries with a personalised News Alert and automatic login on this device.
Mondaq News Alert (some suggested topics and region)
Select Topics
Registration (please scroll down to set your data preferences)

Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including your content preferences, for three primary purposes (full details of Mondaq’s use of your personal data can be found in our Privacy and Cookies Notice):

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting to show content ("Content") relevant to your interests.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, news alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our content providers ("Contributors") who contribute Content for free for your use.

Mondaq hopes that our registered users will support us in maintaining our free to view business model by consenting to our use of your personal data as described below.

Mondaq has a "free to view" business model. Our services are paid for by Contributors in exchange for Mondaq providing them with access to information about who accesses their content. Once personal data is transferred to our Contributors they become a data controller of this personal data. They use it to measure the response that their articles are receiving, as a form of market research. They may also use it to provide Mondaq users with information about their products and services.

Details of each Contributor to which your personal data will be transferred is clearly stated within the Content that you access. For full details of how this Contributor will use your personal data, you should review the Contributor’s own Privacy Notice.

Please indicate your preference below:

Yes, I am happy to support Mondaq in maintaining its free to view business model by agreeing to allow Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors whose Content I access
No, I do not want Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors

Also please let us know whether you are happy to receive communications promoting products and services offered by Mondaq:

Yes, I am happy to received promotional communications from Mondaq
No, please do not send me promotional communications from Mondaq
Terms & Conditions (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd (Mondaq). Mondaq grants you a non-exclusive, revocable licence to access the Website and associated services, such as the Mondaq News Alerts (Services), subject to and in consideration of your compliance with the following terms and conditions of use (Terms). Your use of the Website and/or Services constitutes your agreement to the Terms. Mondaq may terminate your use of the Website and Services if you are in breach of these Terms or if Mondaq decides to terminate the licence granted hereunder for any reason whatsoever.

Use of

To Use you must be: eighteen (18) years old or over; legally capable of entering into binding contracts; and not in any way prohibited by the applicable law to enter into these Terms in the jurisdiction which you are currently located.

You may use the Website as an unregistered user, however, you are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the Content or to receive the Services.

You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these Terms or with the prior written consent of Mondaq. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information from the Content. Nor shall you extract information about users or Contributors in order to offer them any services or products.

In your use of the Website and/or Services you shall: comply with all applicable laws, regulations, directives and legislations which apply to your Use of the Website and/or Services in whatever country you are physically located including without limitation any and all consumer law, export control laws and regulations; provide to us true, correct and accurate information and promptly inform us in the event that any information that you have provided to us changes or becomes inaccurate; notify Mondaq immediately of any circumstances where you have reason to believe that any Intellectual Property Rights or any other rights of any third party may have been infringed; co-operate with reasonable security or other checks or requests for information made by Mondaq from time to time; and at all times be fully liable for the breach of any of these Terms by a third party using your login details to access the Website and/or Services

however, you shall not: do anything likely to impair, interfere with or damage or cause harm or distress to any persons, or the network; do anything that will infringe any Intellectual Property Rights or other rights of Mondaq or any third party; or use the Website, Services and/or Content otherwise than in accordance with these Terms; use any trade marks or service marks of Mondaq or the Contributors, or do anything which may be seen to take unfair advantage of the reputation and goodwill of Mondaq or the Contributors, or the Website, Services and/or Content.

Mondaq reserves the right, in its sole discretion, to take any action that it deems necessary and appropriate in the event it considers that there is a breach or threatened breach of the Terms.

Mondaq’s Rights and Obligations

Unless otherwise expressly set out to the contrary, nothing in these Terms shall serve to transfer from Mondaq to you, any Intellectual Property Rights owned by and/or licensed to Mondaq and all rights, title and interest in and to such Intellectual Property Rights will remain exclusively with Mondaq and/or its licensors.

Mondaq shall use its reasonable endeavours to make the Website and Services available to you at all times, but we cannot guarantee an uninterrupted and fault free service.

Mondaq reserves the right to make changes to the services and/or the Website or part thereof, from time to time, and we may add, remove, modify and/or vary any elements of features and functionalities of the Website or the services.

Mondaq also reserves the right from time to time to monitor your Use of the Website and/or services.


The Content is general information only. It is not intended to constitute legal advice or seek to be the complete and comprehensive statement of the law, nor is it intended to address your specific requirements or provide advice on which reliance should be placed. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the Content for any purpose. All Content provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers hereby exclude and disclaim all representations, warranties or guarantees with regard to the Content, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. To the maximum extent permitted by law, Mondaq expressly excludes all representations, warranties, obligations, and liabilities arising out of or in connection with all Content. In no event shall Mondaq and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use of the Content or performance of Mondaq’s Services.


Mondaq may alter or amend these Terms by amending them on the Website. By continuing to Use the Services and/or the Website after such amendment, you will be deemed to have accepted any amendment to these Terms.

These Terms shall be governed by and construed in accordance with the laws of England and Wales and you irrevocably submit to the exclusive jurisdiction of the courts of England and Wales to settle any dispute which may arise out of or in connection with these Terms. If you live outside the United Kingdom, English law shall apply only to the extent that English law shall not deprive you of any legal protection accorded in accordance with the law of the place where you are habitually resident ("Local Law"). In the event English law deprives you of any legal protection which is accorded to you under Local Law, then these terms shall be governed by Local Law and any dispute or claim arising out of or in connection with these Terms shall be subject to the non-exclusive jurisdiction of the courts where you are habitually resident.

You may print and keep a copy of these Terms, which form the entire agreement between you and Mondaq and supersede any other communications or advertising in respect of the Service and/or the Website.

No delay in exercising or non-exercise by you and/or Mondaq of any of its rights under or in connection with these Terms shall operate as a waiver or release of each of your or Mondaq’s right. Rather, any such waiver or release must be specifically granted in writing signed by the party granting it.

If any part of these Terms is held unenforceable, that part shall be enforced to the maximum extent permissible so as to give effect to the intent of the parties, and the Terms shall continue in full force and effect.

Mondaq shall not incur any liability to you on account of any loss or damage resulting from any delay or failure to perform all or any part of these Terms if such delay or failure is caused, in whole or in part, by events, occurrences, or causes beyond the control of Mondaq. Such events, occurrences or causes will include, without limitation, acts of God, strikes, lockouts, server and network failure, riots, acts of war, earthquakes, fire and explosions.

By clicking Register you state you have read and agree to our Terms and Conditions