Shropshire MP leads Commons calls for tougher rules on water quality

A Shropshire MP has led calls in parliament for the Government to set tougher rules on water companies to clean up rivers.

Ludlow MP Philip Dunne
Ludlow MP Philip Dunne

For more than two hours in the House of Commons, MPs debated the strategic priorities that the Government should set for regulator Ofwat, and how to protect consumers against rising water bills.

Ludlow MP Philip Dunne led the debate on Thursday, saying that the issue was a critical one for MPs if they are to "influence the economic regulator, Ofwat, to refocus the prioritisation of capital expenditure for the next five-year pricing period".

He added: "With the rising cost of living, none of us wishes to see bills rising sharply, but equally, if water rates are set so low as to preclude necessary capital investment in water quality, we will simply kick the can down the road for another five years and the problem will be harder to solve and more expensive to fix."

But he said that he believes a balance can be found "as regards Ofwat’s new priority for water companies to improve treatment in addition to the necessity to secure adequate drinking supply and have low bills".

Mr Dunne referred to a recent report from the Commons Environment Audit Committee, which he chairs.

"We called to make it unambiguously clear to Ofwat that a step change in regulatory action and water company investment is urgently required to upgrade the sewerage network, improve the parlous state of water quality in English rivers, and restore freshwater biodiversity.”

Mr Dunne welcomed Severn Trent Water's plans to invest £4.5 million to achieve bathing water quality status along some 15 miles of the River Teme, between Knighton and Ludlow, as part of its Get River Positive investment plan.

The company has set out its plan of action to reduce environmental problems.

Rebecca Pow MP, the parliamentary under-secretary of state for environment, food and rural affairs, said: "We are taking extremely strong action on that agenda and this Government will not stand still. I expect to see change and to see it happen very quickly.

"I honestly believe this is a turning point for water. We have all had enough, and water companies must put the environment first - that is what the policy statement to Ofwat says. The message has been clearly sent that Ofwat must reduce the harm from storm sewage overflows. We will no longer stand poor performance from the water companies."

Jamie Cook, chief executive of the Angling Trust, said: "This is a clear and direct example of the impact angling and the Angling Trust are having on this major national issue and shows just how much impact each and every one of our supporting members can have.

"It is thanks to the hard and persistent work of the Angling Trust’s campaign team that not only has Parliament held a debate on such an important issue, but that angling and the interests of anglers was so prominent in that debate. We will not rest in our fight to ensure anglers can enjoy their fishing in clean and healthy rivers.”

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