Parliamentary Bill tabled to “rip up” Thames Water and begin industry reform 

28 Jun 2023

EMBARGO: Immediate release

  • Liberal Democrats call on the government to “rip up” the water industry with new Parliamentary Bill to reform company boards and priorities

  • Bill would reform company boards, make data transparent and clamp down on profiteering

  • Tim Farron slams the industry: “The water industry has become like the Wild West. It is a lawless and chaotic industry full of profiteering investors trying to make a quick buck”

The Liberal Democrats have tabled a new Parliamentary Bill to reform water companies amid a crisis in the industry. 

The new bill, tabled by the party’s Environment spokesperson Tim Farron, would transform the disgraced firms into “Public Good Companies”. Under the plans, water firms would no longer prioritise profit over the environment. The companies’ boards would be reformed, to include environment experts, and become far more open and transparent to the public. Currently, water firms are not obligated under law to provide information to the public, and can refuse to answer Environmental Requests for Information.

The Liberal Democrats have slammed water firms for handing out large amounts of profits to overseas investors and bonuses to their CEOs. These profits are often given to overseas investors, with England’s water firms now 70% owned by foreign companies. It has also been revealed by the media that some firms have borrowed to pay these dividends instead of investing in sewage infrastructure. 

A campaign by the Liberal Democrats has led to five water company CEOs giving up their bonus this year amid the sewage scandal. However, the party found average water company exec pay and bonuses rose by a fifth compared to last year, with some CEOs still being paid multi-millions of pounds whilst their firms miss leaks and sewage targets. 

After tabling the Bill, the Party is planning on putting pressure on Conservative MPs in ‘blue wall’ target seats in a bid to put pressure on the Government to back calls to reform the water companies. 

Liberal Democrat Environment spokesperson Tim Farron said:

“The potential collapse of Thames Water must be a wake up call for the government. Ministers have sat on their hands whilst the water industry falls apart and destroys our environment. 

“There is no time to waste in ripping up this scandal ridden industry. Thames Water is treating the country like fools, by forking out insulting payouts to overseas investors and senior executives, all whilst pipes leak and rivers becoming polluted with sewage. 

“It is time for change. The water industry has become like the Wild West. It is a lawless and chaotic industry full of profiteering investors trying to make a quick buck. 

“Water firms must stop putting profit before the environment. These firms need reforming from top to bottom. This law would be an important first step to finally turning around this sinking ship.”



Thames Water (Public Benefit Corporation) Bill

A Bill to establish Thames Water as a public benefit corporation; to require that corporation to consider public policy benefits, including reducing leaks and sewage dumping, as well as returns for shareholders; to limit the payment of dividends until a plan is in place to cut the corporation’s debt; and to require membership of the corporation’s board to include representatives of local environment groups.

Analysis of water company annual returns by the Liberal Democrats: 

Water & Sewage Company Executive Remuneration 2021/22


Number of Execs

Base Pay

Bonuses, Benefits and Incentives


Total Exec Remuneration per Company

Anglian Water






Northumbrian Water






Severn Trent Water






Southern Water






South West Water






Thames Water






United Utilities






Wessex Water












Dwr Cymru / Welsh Water






Total (England + Wales)






Scottish Water






N.B. This remuneration also includes former executives who quit during the year 2021/22





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