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Environment Bill

The story of the stripping out of the strongest environmental protection from the Environment Bill has been all over the media and shocking facts are reaching a public that has been kept in the dark for way too long.

Last week, the House of Commons voted out an amendment from the House of Lords to force water companies to bring an end to untreated sewage pollution. Disappointingly. Witney MP Robert Courts and a majority of MPs voted to remove the extra protection of the environment and Cotswolds MP, Sir Geoffrey Clifton Brown abstained despite government instructions to vote against the Lords amendment.

Mr Courts published this 'explainer' which it transpired was based on a document apparently provided by Number 10 and seen in many other MPs explanations across the country.

I don't intend to go through this in detail but would challenge a great deal of it for accuracy. We have dealt with it in general in the message we sent to Mr Courts today before the news of what some people call a U-turn by the government, but we see more like driving around an obstruction, as the amendment is not as good as it looks.

Communities all around the UK have been horrified by MPs voting out solid protection of our waters and the reaction seems to have surprised the government which had been largely ignoring environmental groups for a long time.

As we have said before, it is public knowledge of the true facts and public support that will solve this crisis and today, Secretary of State, George Eustice announced a measure to try to deal with the huge public response calling for tougher measures.

It's a step generally in the right direction and may look good at first glance but the small print is as always vitally important and by only aiming for reducing harm from storm overflows it will easily be thwarted by a water industry that has learned how to manipulate such requirements. We need unambiguous regulation to control monopoly companies focused, understandably, only on profit.

Witney untreated sewage outfall dumped untreated sewage for 1563 hours in 2020 and more sewage from more housing is on the way

We already have good laws in place to stop pollution but government policy renders it effective only in a small fraction of cases so the water industry gets away with most criminal pollution so has no incentive to stop. That policy could be changed right away but instead, we are seeing worrying changes to the law looming in the Bill that will favour the polluter.

WASP is pushing for effective control and we think that Thames Water under new leadership would welcome real incentive to lead the water industry out of the dark ages and into a business model where environmental excellence matters and is rewarded.

Thank you for your support - it really is vital.

A message to Sir Geoffrey Clifton Brown will follow if it looks like the Bill will come back again from the House of Lords after the latest news is digested.



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