A great deal of confusion has been created by the campaigners in the constituency who have asked for support for my colleague, Philip Dunne’s Private Members Bill, the Sewage (Inland Waters) Bill. This was introduced in February 2020. Unfortunately it ran out of time after the Parliamentary session was brought to a close. I was supportive of the Bill and am delighted that the hard work that Philip put in to get support for the bill has not been lost.
In March the government confirmed that it will legislate to bring in three measures at the heart of the Bill. This was publicly available information and should have been known. The measures are
- placing a duty on government to publish a plan by September 2022 to reduce sewage discharges from storm overflows;
- a duty to report regularly to Parliament on progress on implementing the plan;
- a duty on water companies to publish data annually on storm overflow operation.
However even before this work was already underway to address the key issue in September 2020, Minister for the Environment, Rebecca Pow MP, met with water company Chief Executive’s to set up the Storm Overflows Taskforce. This brings together government, the water industry, regulators and environmental NGOs to accelerate progress for reducing overflows. Water companies are already committed to a significant programme of improvements to the monitoring and management of storm overflows at a cost of around £1.2 billion. This includes over 700 schemes to provide environmental improvements by reducing spills from frequently spilling overflows.
As part of this investment, ‘Event Duration Monitoring’ is currently being installed on most storm overflows to trigger investigations and improvements by water companies when overflows operate too frequently.
Philip Dunne currently chairs the Environmental Audit Committee and is well placed to pursue this work. I know that Philip will continue to call for the Government to deliver on their responsibility to curb sewage pollution and am very happy to continue to offer him my support.