Thank you to all those who contacted me about the way rivers are managed in England.
I am about the state of our waterways. We are in a dirty water emergency with sewage pollution affecting our rivers, lakes and beaches.
Cuts to the Environment Agency’s budget have led to drastic cuts in monitoring, enforcement and prosecution. This has given rise to a drastic increase in illegal discharges, damage to nature and tourism, and is putting people’s health at risk.
Initial reports from the Office for Environmental Protection (OEP) indicate its belief that the Government and water companies may have broken the law over sewage in waterways. This is unprecedented, and I want to see action to put an end to this appalling situation, to bring water companies in line, and to clean up our waterways. The Government has a two-month period in which to respond to the OEP, which comes to an end in November. I will follow developments on this matter closely.
The Government’s Storm Overflows Discharge Reduction Plan is insufficient for eliminating sewage dumping into our natural environment. The Government’s Plan for Water also does not do enough. It has been criticised by a House of Lords Committee as being inadequate for solving the problems facing consumers and the environment in terms of water.
We must see mandatory monitoring of all sewage outlets, the proper resourcing of the Environment Agency to properly enforce rules, and a legally binding target to end 90% of sewage discharges by 2030. I would also support automatic fines for discharges and a standing charge penalty for discharge points without monitoring in place.
Quite simply, the polluter should pay. Failures to improve should be paid for from company dividends, not through customer bills or lack of investment in the system. I believe water bosses who routinely and systematically break rules should be held professionally and personally accountable through the striking off of company directors and imprisonment for allowing serious leaks.