RECENTLY, Extinction Rebellion have displayed misleading signs around the Forest. In light of this, I would like to make clear that I have consistently voted for new laws that will protect our waterways and have campaigned to make sure it is water companies who have to clean up their own mess, not my constituents.
The signs reference an amendment MPs voted against in October 2021 – it would have brought in a system without a detailed plan and that was estimated to cost consumers between £150 billion and £600 billion, with no cost to the water companies at all. If you pay a water bill, that’s money out of your pocket.
For context, £150 billion is more than the entire schools, policing and defence budgets put together. I voted against this amendment because it would have been irresponsible to write a blank cheque for the water companies on behalf of billpayers.
I think it is important that water companies are made to pay to clean up their own mess. That’s why, along with my fellow Wye MPs, I wrote to the Treasury 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 Treasury followed our recommendation. Fines are now invested directly back into environmental and water quality improvement projects, and the fines that can be handed out are being increased 1,000 fold – from £250,000 to £250 million.
Further, the measures that I did vote for in the Environment Act make tangible strides towards eradicating pollution from our rivers. These include new duties on water companies to produce plans to address storm overflow discharges, monitor them and publish real time information (within the hour).
And finally, going further still, last year the Government announced that water companies must conform to new strict targets on sewage pollution and will be required to deliver the largest environmental infrastructure programme in their history to tackle storm sewage discharges – £56 billion over 25 years, including £3.1 billion to deliver 800 storm overflow improvements across England by 2025.
These are concrete, costed and deliverable plans that will tackle pollution in our waterways.