From unbelievable to disappointing.
About three weeks after we wrote to MP Robert Courts, it seems unlikely that the group of 8 anti-sewage pollution campaigners who signed the letter with WASP will get a reply.
We sent the letter asking him to make it clear to his readers that we did not endorse the misleading government messaging he was promoting as the self-proclaimed leader of the anti-sewage pollution campaign but it seems he has ignored our request.
However, WASP received a message from his assistant on19 April and finally drew out a reply on 25 April albeit addressed solely to WASP which ignores the other parties and our joint requests.
That letter is attached to allow Mr Courts a direct unedited voice to our audience - a courtesy we would like to see extended to us in respect of his readership.
However, on the potentially constructive side, he has agreed to try to arrange a meeting with the Housing Minister. We will let you know if that happens and how it works out.
The letter covers mainly old ground and, unfortunately, Mr Courts has again ignored our questions - the ones that matter, about the raft of new housing joining the broken system, which were:
'What can you do as Witney MP to prevent and/or reduce the otherwise inevitable increase in the risks to public health and environmental damage that will be caused by so much extra sewage flowing to already failing sewage works and thereby into Oxfordshire’s rivers and streams?
What can be done to protect communities or and compensate them for the damage being knowingly done to them including new homeowners who did not expect to be part of this problem?'
The housing boom affecting many towns and villages has created blatantly foreseeable problems where infrastructure shortfalls and damage to quality of life have been deliberately ignored.
Our letter was never focused on him claiming the credit for other people's achievements, it was, and is, about him inferring that the misleading claims made by Defra and repeated by Mr Courts are endorsed by the environmental campaigners who have roundly rejected and criticised the weak proposals for so-called improvement that appear in a halfhearted government consultation of the public promoted by Mr Courts.
It is a fact that our government is a plainly stated deregulatory one (some people believe that is good and some don't) but with the failure of regulation so clearly established as the cause of so much of the failure of the privatised industry, it is easy to see how Mr Courts is caught in a hard place between being obliged to support a government he is very much part of as a Minister, and his duties to his constituency and future generations.
Admitting a dreadful and predictable failure of governance and regulation is clearly something that the government is struggling with but without recognising what went wrong, how can the scandal possibly be put right?
MP Philip Dunne, who one might say really did shift political attitudes with his Private Members Bill and River Pollution Inquiry, is clearly becoming frustrated about the failure of the government to respond to the Environmental Audit Committee's report into River Pollution - something that it surely should have done before coming up with the hopeless plan which threatens to repeat the failure and drag it out until 2050. It was due after 60 days and we are now at over 110 days. Mr Dunne has publicly asked the Environment Minister when it will be dealt with and received a vague promise of 'soon'. He is still pushing hard for a response.
Note - An incisive dissection of the reality surrounding the recent government statements has been written by co-signatory The Salmon and Trout Conservations Trust's Solicitor, Guy Linley Adams and is soon to be published. It is a superb piece of work - coming soon.
In any event, we expect as a bare minimum, for Ministers to deliver the facts about serious issues. Misleading people who are about to make decisions that will affect the rest of their lives and those of their children and grandchildren is unforgivable. WASP will post a blog soon to help inform anyone who wants to respond to the consultation which closes on 12 May.
Mr Courts now says that he was talking about having led the political response. There may be other politicians who disagree but if that is the case, all we can say is please go back and lead it to somewhere that puts people and the environment ahead of the interests of profit-hungry water companies that are being allowed to continue breaking the law and are still making huge profits.
We sincerely hope that Mr Courts can react to this criticism professionally, step back, take a hard look at the evidence and the truth, not the propaganda, take advantage of the efforts of the local campaign groups and the energy of a supportive public, and rejoin us in the fight to protect our waters.
To continue down the dismal route that our government is pursuing is to sacrifice our future health, prosperity, well-being and environment to maintain the profits of the water industry's shareholders and its corrosive bonus culture.
It doesn't have to be like this.