It is important to be clear and accurate about votes that took place on amendments to the Environment Bill.
My colleagues and I did not vote to allow water companies to pump sewage into our rivers. I voted in favour of a package of measures to reduce harms from storm overflows. This includes a new duty directly on water companies to produce comprehensive statutory Drainage and Sewerage Management Plans, setting out how they will manage and develop their drainage and sewerage system, including how storm overflows will be addressed.
The Bill will also create a new duty on Government to produce a statutory plan to reduce discharges from storm overflows, and produce a report setting out the actions that would be needed to eliminate discharges from storm overflows in England, and the costs and benefits of those actions. Both publications are required before 1 September 2022. The package of measures I voted for will also create three new duties on water companies to publish data on storm overflow operation, publish near real time information on the operation of storm overflows and to monitor the water quality upstream and downstream of storm overflows and sewage disposal works.
Ministers have also announced that they will bolster the measures they are already taking. In July of this year, this Government set out, for the first time ever, its expectation that Ofwat should incentivise water companies to invest to significantly reduce the use of storm overflows in the forthcoming pricing review period. The Government’s amendment will place this policy position in an additional clause in the Environment Bill to underline the action the Government is taking.
The Lords amendment in question would have required work estimated to cost between £150 billion and £600 billion, a cost which would have a significant impact on water bills and which is simply not realistic at the moment. We all want to see cleaner water, but as a legislator I have a responsibility to pass laws that can be implemented.