Compensation branded 'insult' after thousands left without water supply

Compensation for those left without their water supply following last week's cold weather has been labelled "an insult" as MPs called for those affected to receive a proper redress.

Labour's Chuka Umunna described the "derisory" compensation on offer to his Streatham constituents, who he said would receive £20 if they have been without water for 48 hours.

And Helen Hayes, Labour MP for Dulwich and West Norwood, criticised Thames Water as "not fit for purpose".

Mr Umunna said: "Under the water industry guaranteed services scheme, most of my constituents will only get compensation of £20 if they have been without water for 48 hours, and then they get a further £10 per 24 hours after that point.

"Frankly I think that is an insult.

"Does the Minister agree with me that we need to see proper compensation given to my constituents and that £20 is derisory as far as I am concerned?"

Environment Minister Therese Coffey, following her statement in the Commons, replied: "He'll recognise those are the minimum requirements and that's why I made it clear on my phone call today with the chief executives, particularly thinking of the areas where people have been severely affected, and that includes his constituents."

She added: "Absolutely I do expect Thames Water to go far beyond that in making sure that they redress the balance."

Ms Hayes earlier told MPs that there had been a Thames Water leak or bust "every single week of the winter", and said the pipe network was "crumbling".

"The unforgivable thing about this week's water supply problems has been the total lack of a robust emergency plan for a situation which anyone could have predicted would have occurred sooner or later."

She continued: "Thames Water made pre-tax profits of £638 million last year: There is simply no excuse for not having robust emergency plans in place.

"The failings this week have been appalling: They have exposed an organisation which is not fit for purpose.

"Will the Minister now commit to ensuring automatic compensation for all Thames Water customers who have been without water this week and to reform of our water industry to ensure its resilience for future emergencies?"

Ms Coffey said she was also "angry" with Thames Water, adding: "It's not in my power to compel the water companies to give compensation, however what I will say to her is that the 5,000 properties that are affected, Thames Water is proactively going door-to-door to those constituents today."