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Firsts for the water industry in Parliament

By Peter Jenkins

There has been a number of firsts this week: the first time, the All Party Parliamentary Water Group has met this Parliament; the first under their new Chair Alex Davies-Jones, the Labour MP for Pontypridd and, the first time the group has met virtually via Zoom technology. Despite all these firsts, what hasn’t changed is the fact that the group remains an important conduit for MPs and Peers to discover, explore and question what is happening throughout the UK water industry. And the meeting that took place this week was no different.

This group heard first-hand from the water industry on their response to COVID-19. Over 90 individuals joined the group meeting (which is a record!) including MPs, Peers, water company representatives and other stakeholders. Head of policy Rob Wesley and COVID-19 operations lead Dr Jim Marshall from Water UK presented an overview of the industry’s response to, and the, impact of COVID-19 on our water and wastewater services.

Their presentation looked at a range of impacts from the protection of vulnerable customers, and those who need help paying their bills, to how we have worked with government and regulators to ensure the sector remains resilient to the enduring impacts. This was followed by Guy Thompson, Group Director at Wessex Water, who spoke about his own company’s response to the pandemic, but also looked ahead to the expected green recovery and how they are defining a new social purpose.

These presentations provoked a fascinating debate from participants on a wide-range of questions (protection of key workers; water usage at home and so on) and I’m sure we could have continued for another hour at least! Looking ahead, we will continue our dialogue with Parliamentarians at future group meetings as the industry and Parliament navigate our way through COVID-19.