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  • by Karma Loveday

Environment committee chair defends privatised water

Neil Parish MP, chair of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee, last week warned re-nationalisation would see the infrastructure and supply benefits achieved since privatisation “go down the plughole”.

Writing in Parliament’s magazine The House, Parish called Labour’s plan to renationalise the industry “flawed policy based on ideology over evidence.” He cited the following points in support of his argument:

The track record of government-owned water infrastructure, which he summarised as “underinvestment, dire infrastructure and spiralling costs”.

£140bn invested since privatisation, resulting in service improvements such as customers being five times less likely to suffer from supply interruptions.

Higher bills since privatisation are a consequence of private companies having to invest to fix the “broken infrastructure they inherited”.

Ongoing investment and expertise needs, to cope with climate change and population growth.

Government failings as managers. Parish said: “Public ownership would mean 343,865km of pipes become the sole responsibility of government overnight. This includes upkeep, repair of leaks and resilience planning – all of which require investment. The question is: do you trust the government to run things smoothly? Anyone who has dealings with the Rural Payments Agency (RPA) over the years will tell you they want the government running fewer of their affairs, not more.”

Upfront cost – Parish cited the Social Market Foundation’s £90bn estimate, commenting “that would add 5% to our national debt, equal to 13% of all government spending. It is a titanic purchase – and will end the same way”.

Forecast bill falls under PR19 business plans.

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