There has been some confusion about a vote in the House of Commons on the Environment Bill, leading some to reach the conclusion that MPs ‘voted to allow water companies to pollute our waterways with no consequences’. This is not correct.
Some may have reached this conclusion through a genuine misunderstanding after reading something misleading on the internet, while others may have wilfully misunderstood what happened because of a particular political view they have.
Nonetheless, I will now bust some myths about what this Bill is all about.
The amendment we voted against last week would have brought in a system estimated to cost consumers between £150-600 billion with no cost to the water companies at all. If you pay a water bill and you’re reading this, that’s out of your pocket.
I voted against that amendment because I want the water companies to be responsible for their actions, not you.
That’s why I recently wrote to the Treasury with my fellow Wye MPs to suggest cleaning up the Wye using fines handed out to water companies for unpermitted pollution discharges, rather than funding it out of your pockets.
The measures I voted for in the Environment Bill deliver duties to tackle pollution.
There will be a new duty on water companies to produce comprehensive statutory Drainage and Sewerage Management Plans setting out how the company will manage and develop its networks, and how storm overflows will be addressed.
There will be a new duty on water companies and the Environment Agency to publish data on storm overflow operation on an annual basis.
There will be a new duty on water companies to publish near real time information (within 1 hour) of the commencement of an overflow, its location and when it ceases.
There will be a new duty on water companies to continuously monitor the water quality upstream and downstream of a storm overflow and of sewage disposal works.
These are concrete, costed and realistic duties to tackle pollution in our waterways. They will put the duty on the water companies to clean their mess up, not you.