1. ITV Report

Queen's Speech: Wales and England could share more water

The Queen delivered the speech at the state opening of the new session of Parliament. Photo: Reuters

Today was the first Queen's Speech since the National Assembly obtained full law-making powers as a result of last year's referendum, so it's no surprise that the was nothing in the UK Government's programme specifically for Wales.

However, almost all the proposed legislation will have a Welsh impact. One example is how Wales will be represented in a reformed House of Lords. But one draft bill will probably cause more debate and controversy in Wales than anywhere else in the United Kingdom.

A draft bill will be published to reform the water industry in England and Wales.

– Queen's Speech announcement

The bill will aim to encourage water companies to transfer water from areas with plentiful supplies to those where there is a shortage. That will inevitably raise the issue of whether Wales should charge for water supplied to England.

The Welsh Secretary, Cheryl Gillan, has signalled that she is aware of this political sensitivity and today stressed that the Government will want to learn from Welsh Water 'as an example of good practice'.

Welsh Water returns its profits to its customers and it's likely that the bill will propose a way in which those profits could be increased. It's expected to make it much easier for businesses and other organisations to switch suppliers. That would open the possibility of direct sales to major consumers in England.