A controversial vote has strengthened controls on sewage rather than weakened them, Lichfield and Burntwood’s MP says.
Michael Fabricant was one of a number of Conservative MPs who voted against the proposed amendment to the Environment Bill.
It led to a wave of criticism amid claims it would give the green light for waste to be pumped directly into rivers and seas across the country.
But Mr Fabricant said that the implications of the proposed amendment had not been fully thought through.
“There has been much misunderstanding and controversy concerning the Environment Bill as it passes through Parliament.
“To be clear, the Bill strengthens controls on sewage outfalls – not weakens it. But had the amendment stopping all sewage outfalls been passed, it would have resulted in the dangerous discharge of sewage into our streets at times of high rainfall and would have landed customers with unsustainably high water bills.
“The amendment proposed by a back bench hereditary peer had just not been thought through.”
The Conservative MP said that in the five year period up until 2025 water companies will have invested £7.1billion in environmental improvements in England – with £3.1billion specifically invested in storm overflow improvements.
“The age of our Victorian sewerage systems means that the complete elimination of discharges from storm overflows would be extremely difficult – this process would involve the complete separation of sewerage systems, leading to potentially significant disruption for homes, businesses and infrastructure across the country.
“Initial assessments suggest total elimination would cost anywhere from £150billion to £600billion. With such amounts, huge customer bill increases and trade-offs against other water industry priorities would be unavoidable.
“Governments – as opposed to opposition parties – do need to take all these factors into account.”Michael Fabricant MP
Mr Fabricant said he expected the Bill to undergo further changes as it passes through Parliament – and insisted he would support “sensible improvements”.
“Addressing storm overflows is only one part of the picture when it comes to improving water quality.
“The Environment Bill requires the Government to set and achieve at least one new target to drive progress when it comes to water.
“In the policy paper published in August 2020, the Government set out the objectives for targets currently under consideration. For water, these include reducing pollution from agriculture, wastewater, and abandoned metal mines, and reducing water demand.
“Further changes to strengthen the Environment Bill will be added as the legislation passes through Parliament and sensible improvements will have my support.Michael Fabricant MP