A lot has been written about my vote on Amendment 45 of the Environment Bill. There is a lot of misinformation floating about, so I want to address a few of the matters raised.
When these sorts of matters come up, it is seldom the case that I disagree with the objective of the bill or amendment at hand, but rather that I have issues with the way it seeks to address the problem.
Clearly, I do not want companies dumping raw sewage in our rivers. Who does?
Amendment 45 sought to place a new duty on sewerage undertakers in England and Wales to demonstrate progressive reductions in the harm caused by discharges of untreated sewage. While this is a sound proposal, it did have one fundamental flaw: the amendment had no plan as to how this can be delivered and no impact assessment whatsoever.
The preliminary cost of the required infrastructure change was estimated to be between £150 billion and £650 billion. Unless we asked taxpayers to contribute, most of the water companies who would be carrying out this work would go bankrupt, meaning the work could not be completed anyway. The cost works out at between about £5,000 and £20,000 per household.
I felt it would be unfair to sting local people with a bill of this size.
Furthermore, it is my view that the Environment Bill already contains many measures designed to eliminate the discharge of untreated sewerage into rivers. For example, once law, a new duty will require water companies to continuously monitor the water quality upstream and downstream of a storm overflow and of sewage disposal works.
This all shows how claims that I want to allow companies to dump raw sewage in our rivers are misleading and are, therefore, examples of misinformation.