Water firm lobbyists treated Environment Agency chair to £100 dinner days before hiking water bills

6 Apr 2024

EMBARGO: Immediate Release 

  • Liberal Democrats accuse government and regulators of “chummy relationship” with water companies

  • EA Chair treated to dinners and hotel stays by water companies

  • Ofwat found last year to attend water company funded dinners at London private members club

A Freedom of Information Request by the Liberal Democrats has revealed the Chair of the Environment Agency accepted an expensive dinner on behalf of water company lobbyists, days before water bills were hiked by 40%. 

On 20th June, Chair of the Environment Agency Alan Lovell, accepted a £96 dinner from Water UK, the industry body representing the country’s water firms. The following week, Water UK announced their members would be increasing water bills by 40%.

Within the same Freedom of Information Request, it has also been revealed the chair of the Environment Agency also accepted a £200 dinner and hotel stay from Yorkshire Water, as well as a £60 dinner from Severn Trent Water. 

The Environment Agency’s role is to investigate and punish water companies found to have illegally polluted waterways. The Liberal Democrats are calling for a ban on the water industry treating government and regulators to expensive hospitality. The party has also called for a tough new regulator, and for water firms to be reformed to ensure profit is no longer put above the environmental goals. 

Last year, the Liberal Democrats also uncovered the regulator Ofwat had accepted numerous expensive dinners and hospitality gifts from water firms. It followed the Guardian revealing Ofwat officials being treated to dinners at a high-end London private members club, funded by water companies. 

Liberal Democrat Environment spokesperson Tim Farron MP said: 

“This will rightly stink to the public. Government officials shouldn’t be accepting a penny from a disgraced industry which pollutes our rivers whilst hiking bills. 

“This is a complete mess and further proof of a chummy relationship between water firms and the government. Under this Conservative government, sewage dumping and water bills have both skyrocketed, hand in hand. 

“The water industry is getting away scot free whilst treating officials and regulators to swanky dinners. It is an absolute scandal. 

“This industry is rotten to its core and needs to start from scratch, starting with a new regulator, a ban on bonuses and hospitality gifts, and above all else a complete reform of water companies so profit is no longer put ahead of the environment.” 


Notes to Editors

First reported in The Express.

Previous Liberal Democrat FOI on Ofwat hospitality reported by the Guardian

Full FOI response from the Environment Agency to the Liberal Democrats 

Enclosed below is a list of hospitality accepted by Environment Agency Chair Alan Lovell over the past 24 months, this has been broken down by each company/organisation which provided the hospitality. Alan Lovell has not accepted any gifts in the last 24 months.

Please refer to the Open Government Licence which explains the permitted use of this information.

Environment Agency Board members are required to comply with gift/hospitality principles set out in the Code of Conduct for Board Members of Public Bodies. 

Environment Agency Board members are required to report any gifts/hospitality received over the value of £50, which are recorded in a register of Board gifts/hospitality. Anything below the value of £50 is not recorded. Board members must only accept hospitality from third parties if there is a clear and demonstrable business link, such as a working meeting. The Chair of the Environment Agency attends working meetings with various companies/organisations to challenge performance and drive forward improvements that the Environment Agency, as a regulator, expects to see.





Company who paid






Resilience First dinner - guest speaker was James Heath, CEO, National Infrastructure Commission.


Organised by Resilience First and sponsored by Pinsent Masons






Dinner with Water UK. £96 per head.


Water UK






Severn Trent Water Board Dinner and  overnight stay at the same accommodation as the Severn Trent Water Board, before attending a site visit the following day.


Severn Trent Water






Recycling and waste industry dinner. Cost shown is split between food, beverages, and room hire, between the attendees.


Environmental Services Association (ESA)






Yorkshire Water Board dinner including accommodation and breakfast the next morning. £140.00 bed and breakfast, £64.96 dinner.


Yorkshire Water








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