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Public ownership Backbench Labour MP with interests in water industry says she backs privatised water

LABOUR MP Angela Smith, who has vested interests in the water industry, told a conference today that she backs private water suppliers over her party’s plans for renationalisation.

Ms Smith made a speech on the first day of the two-day Twenty65 conference in which she said that Labour’s commitment to renationalise the water monopolies is uncosted, undeveloped and should not be a priority policy.

Writing for the Times today, she states that Labour’s plan to nationalise the water industry would cost up to £90 billion.

However, this figure comes from a Social Market Foundation report that was commissioned by the water industry.

Ms Smith, a former shadow minister for water, is the chairwoman of the all-party water group — an MPs’ group funded almost entirely by the water industry, including suppliers such as Affinity Water, Northumbrian Water and Wessex Water.

In her speech and article, the MP for Penistone & Stocksbridge denounces the proposals promoted by shadow chancellor John McDonnell as ideological and an “expensive indulgence in the politics of the past.”

Ms Smith’s register of interests for 2016 show that she and her husband, whom she employs as her senior parliamentary researcher, were treated to football matches and dinner three times by Whitehouse Construction, a subcontractor to Anglian Water.

The subcontractor is also a member of the Future Water Association industry group led by private water companies that also fund the all party group for water that she chairs.

Last month, she spoke in the Commons on households’ lack of water supply during heavy snow.

She said that the “dreadful and unacceptable” situation of people going without water for days “would not be addressed by blunt tools such as nationalisation.”

Ms Smith called instead for “rigorous reform” of water regulator Ofwat to make it effective.

Ofwat has long been criticised by the Commons public accounts committee for allowing water monopolies to get away with overcharging customers who have no choice but to pay bills running into hundreds of pounds a year.

The water sector was privatised and split into 10 regional monopolies — and a small number of local suppliers — nearly 30 years ago in the wave of industrial and utility sell-offs ordered by Tory PM Margaret Thatcher.

 

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