The launch of Clean Rivers of West Dorset (CROWD) comes at a time of significant progress in terms of improving our nation’s waterways. Ofwat’s changes will mean shareholders of polluting companies will not receive big payouts – something I have long argued was wholly wrong. The Government has also recently announced bans on single use plastics and proposals to ban wet wipes containing plastic. Potential civil liability penalties for water companies has risen thousand-fold from £250,000 to £250 million and greater powers given to Ofwat and the Environment Agency to crack down on Water Companies not fully committing to slash their sewage discharges
One of the major environmental issues we have across the UK is water pollution. The reason why the problem has become so pronounced is that we were the first Government to properly expose the issue with mandatory monitoring. The Labour Government introduced self-regulation of water companies in the late 2000’s, giving water companies effective free reign. Only around 10% of outflows were ever monitored, and the situation became so bad along the River Thames that the Labour Government at the time were even taken to court by the EU in 2009 because of it!
We have increased monitoring drastically and expect to be at 100% by the end of the year. While this has greatly increased the profile of this issue, it means we can now see the scale of the problem and deal with it.
This came with the launch of the Environment Act 2021 which placed legal duties on water companies to monitor all outflows by end of 2023, monitor water quality near their sites, invest in their infrastructure to reduce discharges, report to the public real time information on discharge information and above all else, commit under law to reduce their spills, with increased fines on those companies who do not comply.
Since then, these moves have been strengthened time and time again Late last year, the Government announced that it would increase the civil liability penalties for water companies thousandfold, from £250,000 to £250 million. We have also cracked down on polluting companies giving away massive dividend payments to their shareholders. After my work lobbying my colleagues in Westminster to push for this to happen, OFWAT announced new powers to lock in dividends with environmental performance – another thing that the Lib-Dems say they would do, but that we have already done it.
The reality is that if the Lib-Dems are taking this issue seriously, why did they fail to vote for Government motions to cut sewage discharges? And why, if the Labour Party are so committed to this, did they fail so badly in their 13 years of Government, they were taken to court by the EU because of it?! While the opposition indulge in party politics, we are delivering on restoring our rivers and seas and I shall continue working hard as your MP to add even more to the growing list of improvements we have achieved to date.