Environment, Food and Rural Affairs CommitteeWritten evidence submitted by the British Chambers of Commerce

1. The British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) welcomes the opportunity to respond to the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Select Committee inquiry into the Water White Paper.

2. The BCC is an influential network of 52 Accredited Chambers across the UK. No other business organisation has the geographic spread or multi-size, multi-sector membership that characterises the Chamber Network. Every Chamber sits at the heart of its local business community, providing representation, services, information and guidance to member businesses and the wider local business community.

3. From a business perspective, the publication of the December 2011 Water White Paper was very much welcomed. As the White Paper acknowledges, the current market regime has not worked well for businesses. For too many years, the lack of choice available to virtually all businesses in England and Wales when choosing a water supplier has contributed to the often poor-quality water retail service that businesses receive. This poor quality of service is even more pronounced when compared to the service Scottish businesses receive since a genuinely competitive water market was established there in 2008.

4. The commitment by the Government to implement in England many of the reforms set out in the 2009 independent review of the water industry by Professor Martin Cave should extend much- needed competition and choice in the water sector.

5. As the recent Policy Exchange Report ‘Water Retail Services Competition in England and Wales: Still Hobson’s choice?’ concluded, the deregulatory proposals contained in the Cave Review have the potential to achieve a wide range of benefits to water customers and to the wider economy.

6. Opening up the water retail services market would give substantial net benefits—between £600 million and £2.5 billion—even without taking into account customer service benefits and water saving.

7. It is important that the Government legislates to introduce the White Paper recommendations at the earliest possible opportunity. We hope to see a Water Bill included in the Queen’s Speech in spring 2012.

19 January 2012

Prepared 4th July 2012