Nationalising Thames Water would be “inconsistent” with Labour’s fiscal policies, according to the Prime Minister’s spokesman.

July 8, 2024

The financially troubled water company has come under fire for sewage spills and informed regulator Ofwat that its £19bn in assets could “pose a risk to public safety”.

When questioned about Keir Starmer’s stance on business secretary Jonathan Reynolds’ comments at a pre-election Bloomberg business debate, where he said he “wouldn’t want to see a nationalisation” of Thames Water, the Prime Minister’s spokesman affirmed, “The Prime Minister agrees.”

He elaborated, “The cost of nationalisation to taxpayers is not aligned with our fiscal policies, and we believe it’s the wrong path. Our focus is on holding these companies accountable, ensuring they invest in and improve their systems rather than rewarding themselves.”

During the Bloomberg debate, Reynolds also expressed that “a solution that falls short of nationalisation” should be sought and warned that “investment can involve losing as well as gaining money,” emphasizing that “the state should not be expected to bail out poor investments.”

When pressed about potential government intervention if a water company like Thames Water were to fail, the Prime Minister’s spokesman responded, “The government’s manifesto states that we will put failing water companies into special measures. They will have no choice but to rectify their issues,” adding that regulators would have the authority to block bonuses for executives who pollute waterways and impose stringent fines for ongoing violations.

He added, “I cannot comment on the financial status of specific water companies.”

In a video detailing his priorities as the new secretary of state for environment, food and rural affairs, Steve Reed declared, “We are at a crisis point with record levels of sewage in our rivers, lakes, and seas. Reversing the damage will take years, but the work of change has now begun.” Reed has instructed officials to prioritize “cleaning up Britain’s rivers, lakes, and seas.”

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) has been asked whether Reed has met with or plans to meet with Thames Water executives.

A Thames Water spokesperson previously claimed, “Our water is among the highest quality drinking water in the world – and since 2010, over 99.95 per cent of tests from customers’ taps have met the standards required by UK legislation.”

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