The Bill please!
Good luck with that one! The excellent piece of work done by MP Philip Dunne and the team, which included WASP, was kicked into touch by government postponing it indefinitely. The Environment Minister then consoled the public with the 'landmark Environment Bill' which was kicked down the road a few days later!
For those of you who recall the comedy 'Yes Minister' this will all look familiar .
The Bill is out of play but don't despair! The reality is that we have plenty of laws and regulation already and as in so many cases the problem merely lies in the failure of the regulating bodies to investigate and prosecute - and ultimately either adjust or deal with the offender's behaviour. There is no reason that cannot be addressed right now.
At the start of Philip Dunne's journey which collected over 100 MPs support and pushed the issue under the nose of senior government and civil servants, everyone involved knew it was unlikely to succeed. However, we all gave it 100% knowing that the the value of the journey would be almost as good as the arrival, and so it was and is.
The recent launch of the Environmental Audit Committee inquiry into pollution focusing on the water industry and diffuse urban pollution is one of the best opportunities there has been to examine the reality of the regulation failures since water industry privatisation in 1989.
WASP and many others are presenting written evidence by 5th February and some representatives will also present oral evidence to the Committee.
The coalition that formed initially around the Surfers Against Sewage petition and then Philip Dunne's team remains active and continues to develop the best ideas to make progress not only in the long term but also right now
WASP has always been impatient for change and that is why it engages directly with Thames Water and Ofwat, having found the Environment Agency's leadership to be rather too keen to maintain the status quo. However, recent changes in the language of the Environment Minister and the Chair of the Agency have shifted from the parrot like repetition of phrases like the comically false claim
' Water quality in our rivers is now better than at any time since the start of the Industrial Revolution' (to the Times in August 2019) to the statements that even the larger fines dished out to the water industry have failed to make it adjust its behaviour and under resourcing investigation - the sort of information you have heard from WASP since around 2016.
At least they are catching up now and that may bring support to the desperately under funded and under supported investigating and prosecuting arm of the Agency which has been unable to even look at most offences reported, let alone go looking for them.
Some other good news; now it is all over, one of the Windrush MPs Robert Courts, can now support the idea of the Bill. His status as a transport Minister meant he was unfortunately not allowed to whilst the Bill was active - strange but true. WASP will meet with Robert in early February and we will update you on what we talk about.
So what comes next? We met with Thames Water's Sustainability director and his team in January and have started to discuss how to deliver ambitious outcomes quickly.
The new CEO Sarah Bentley has suggested to meet with WASP on the Limestone Rivers - the Windrush being one of those - around Easter.
We are looking for ways to cut through the often quoted restrictions to find ways to save our rivers now. To do that we are looking at all of the ways that industry, business, councils, WASP, all of the other organisations and the public can make bits of it happen, and together, all of it happen.
5 year plans are all well and good but 2021 is our target date to start work.