A controversial vote has strengthened controls on sewage rather than weakened them, Lichfield and Burntwood’s MP says.

Michael Fabricant. Picture: UK Parliament

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

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24 Comments

  1. Ah, well. So all those environmental scientists, marine biologists, fisherfolk, sea and river dwellers, know absolutely nothing compared to a government of incompetents represented locally by a ne’er-do-well only competent at photobombing events?

  2. Don’t expect Mr. Fabricant to vote against his Conservative masters, even if it is for the good of the country or his constituents. Do expect our rivers and seaside to be even filthier than they are but, if you are a shareholder of any water company, you will be smiling.

  3. The amendment that Mr Fabricant voted against was:

    “Duty on sewerage undertakers to take all reasonable steps to ensure untreated sewage is not discharged from storm overflows
    (1) A sewerage undertaker must demonstrate improvements in the sewerage systems and progressive reductions in the harm caused by untreated sewage discharges.
    (2) The Secretary of State, the Director and the Environment Agency must exercise their respective functions under this and any other Act to secure compliance with this duty.”

    “All reasonable steps” and “progressive reductions” doesn’t seem to correspond with the extreme black and white picture Mr Fabricant paints of the amendment. Mr Fabricant is Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group for the Waterways and will have heard from a number of waterway users pleading for better controls over combined waste overflows, yet his party loyalty prevailed. Time to resign!

  4. This is total gaslighting again, these are privatised companies paying millions in dividends to shareholders. They should be doing their jobs properly. Rather than moaning about the Victorian sewage systems they should be replacing them.
    I hope you apologised to F2F.

  5. Here are some figures which Mr fabricant keeps quiet about.

    Dividends worth £6.5 billion were paid out to shareholders in the past five years, with £1.4 billion paid out in 2017 alone.
    2.4 billion litres of water is wasted through leaks every single day in England.
    CEOs of the nine privatised water company trousered a whopping £58 million in salary, bonuses, pensions and other benefits over the past five years.
    While shareholders pocketed these eye-watering sums, consumer water bills in England and Wales have increased by 40% above inflation since privatisation in 1989 according to a report by the National Audit Office

    Since privatisation, water companies have paid £57 billion in dividends. They have money, but choose to put it into the wallets of their foreign owners.

    How will this affect our fishing industry?

    Deregulation, lower standards and higher profits, what reaslly matters to the Tories.

    The environment? Clean water? Public health? All secondary to the pursuit of profit. Profit paid for by us.

  6. @Agitator….. I was going to give a response but the article you have highlighted says it all.
    As for our MP, party parrot?

  7. Could this finally be the photo opportunity Mr Fabricant has been waiting for? Let’s see him put his money where his mouth is and show us how acceptable it is to discharge this waste into our seas and rivers. I can’t wait to see him in his wetsuit! Oh, yes, Mr Fabricant, you need to actually get in the water to see what this is like for the wildlife that your policies are destroying.

  8. There was a program on TV about year ago. Raw sewage was been discharged from a overflow into a river. The river was full of toilet paper. This is totally unacceptable these companies should be held responsible.

  9. Fabricant’s statement stinks more than the sewage that he has voted to allow to be dumped in our rivers and beaches.

  10. Scrap HS2 the money saved would easily pay for the upgraded sewer system needed. The benefits will help far more people and the planet than HS2 would ever do.

  11. @belleview…. Sadly government’s have been in denial about water pollution for decades. Back in the early 1950s Aldous Huxley was warning about sea pollution but no one believed such a large volume of water could be polluted. Now all seas and oceans have measureable pollution.
    It is patently obvious that the situation needs addressing. If people and government’s value the health of the country then it can be ignored no longer.
    If this means re-nationalizing the water companies then the profits they are generating will help in this process. It is clear they are unlikely to do it properly otherwise.

  12. The Tories have moved from figuratively pumping out effluent to literally pumping it.

    From the article, “To be clear, the Bill strengthens controls on sewage outfalls – not weakens it. ”

    Yes Michael, we have always been at war with Eurasia.

  13. When the U turn on cleaning up our waterways and beaches comes, will our very own Vicar of Bray manage to realise that the water companies were polluting too much all the time, and fall into line behind the Government?
    Hadn’t he realised this during his time as Chair of the Waterways All Party Parliamentary Group?

  14. If water companies were made to formally justify the reasons for each event of raw sewage discharge, the practice would quickly reduce to truly exceptional circumstances. As it is, the discharge is used as a cost controlling device that can only be prosecuted in the most egregious cases. The amendment would have put an end to it.

  15. Out of touch party parrot. Mr F once again trying to defend the indefensible. The fact that his party has done a partial U turn on this gives a lie to what he says. What a wonderful start to the COP 26 conference about to start in Glasgow. A bit of a credibility gap, methinks.

  16. More untreated bilge from Lichfield & District’s MP who uncritically recycles CCHQ’s briefing notes complete with dubious costings & statistics.

    Since the Conservatives broke up & privatised the publicly owned water industry in 1991, £57 BILLIONS have been handed to executives & shareholders and the water infrastructure left to rot as water tariffs for consumers have soared.

    The Tories are deeply reluctant to require their City backers to maintain & upgrade the security of our water supplies – which is why we saw them voting as they did last week.

    The EU does not allow discharge of untreated sewage into seas & rivers – another motivation for Brexiters? This is where deregulation takes us – to beautiful waterways befouled with excrement & a poisoned environment – all for money.

    I understand that, in addition to the Conservatives’ venal disregard for our safety & well being, there are brexit-related supply chain problems in obtaining the chemicals required to purify our drinking water.

    I don’t remember seeing ‘Raw sewage’, ‘Cholera’ & ‘Typhoid’ on the side of that Brexit bus – do you?

  17. How about this found on .gov.uk website? Water and sewerage company effluent discharges: supply chain failure RPS B2 You need a permit under the Environmental Permitting (England and Wales) Regulations 2016 to discharge treated effluent from a waste water treatment works (WwTW) to surface water or groundwater. Permits contain conditions that control the quality of the effluent you can discharge.

    You may not be able to comply with your permit if you cannot get the chemicals you use to treat the effluent, to reduce phosphorus, you discharge because of:

    the UK’s new relationship with the EU
    coronavirus (COVID-19)
    other unavoidable supply chain failures, for example the failure of a treatment chemical supplier

    This regulatory position statement (RPS) does not alter your legal obligations under your permit or relevant legislation. However, if you follow the conditions in this RPS the Environment Agency will not normally take enforcement action for discharging effluent in breach of the conditions in your permit.
    Carte blanche , because Brexit stops us getting the right chemicals?

  18. How can any government in the 21st century think it is acceptable for so called water treatment companies to discharge raw sewage into rivers and seas? As for blaming it on Victorian systems, what have these companies been doing for the last thirty plus years? And is it really impossible to buy chemicals? And to think, the privatisation that was foisted on us by the Tories was supposed to improve quality and efficiency. What a sick joke. I’m intrigued as to how Boris the buffoon is going to explain this at Glasgow in a few day’s time.

  19. I believe you’ll find, ProfessorPineapple, that we are in fact at war with Eastasia. We have always been at war with Eastasia. Eurasia is an ally.

    You’ve been too busy reading The Theory and Practice of Oligarchical Collectivism, no doubt.

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