Five of the six Cornish MPs have voted in favour of removing a requirement for water companies to reduce sewage discharge.

Derek Thomas was the only Cornish MP to vote against the removal of a House of Lords amendment to the Environment Bill, which would have required water companies to reduce sewage discharge.

The vote took place last Wednesday (Oct 20) and resulted in the government rejecting the amendment from the House of Lords which would have placed a duty on water companies to take all reasonable steps to reduce sewage outfalls, arguing that it was uncosted and unnecessary.

The counter-argument put forward by a number of MPs for not voting for the amendment is that it would have been the public that would have had to shoulder the bill as well as claiming that a comprehensive report, due in September 2022, would give a much better picture on the scale of the task and how sewage discharges may be reduced.

The full statements released by MPs are as follows:

Falmouth Packet: Derek Thomas MPDerek Thomas MP

Derek Thomas MP, who is also Secretary of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Ocean Conservation, said: "The Environment Bill is a fantastic piece of legislation, and it’s a shame the government hasn’t taken on board everything we were asking for.

"West Cornwall is surrounded by the sea, and no one here wants to see it polluted.

"Stopping raw sewage entering our rivers is a priority for many of my constituents, and I receive many emails and letters about it.

"I am disappointed we haven’t got legal obligations on water companies, but I’m pleased that the government has recognised that we need to clean up our rivers, and I shall be keeping the pressure on them to reduce the raw sewage being discharged."

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Falmouth Packet: Scott Mann MPScott Mann MP

In a statement posted on his website, Scott Mann MP said: "There have been an enormous number of half-truths and misconceptions spread about over the weekend.

"I want to take this opportunity to outline my efforts to secure changes to this Bill that better protect our oceans and waterways.

"Thanks to the efforts of a number of MPs and campaign groups, the Government has moved considerably on the issue of storm overflows – probably more than on any other part of the Bill. "Sewerage undertakers will now be required to produce comprehensive statutory Drainage and Sewerage Management Plans setting out how the company will manage and develop its drainage and sewerage system over a minimum 25-year planning horizon and how storm overflows will be addressed through these plans.

"I also supported amendments to the Bill that will require the government to produce a statutory plan to reduce discharges from overflows and the harm they cause, and to report regularly to Parliament on progress.

"I also backed further amendments at Report stage that will place new duties on water companies to require them to report overflows in near real time, and to monitor the water quality upstream and downstream of an overflow and of sewage disposal works.

"The Government have now also agreed to publish a report before September 1 2022 explaining the actions needed to eliminate storm overflows including their costs and benefits.

"This report will provide Parliament, the public and the water industry with up-front, clear, and comprehensive information on the feasibility and cost of elimination.

"These are good steps in the right direction that will have direct benefits for our local environment in North Cornwall and are the result of the efforts of MPs working with campaign groups like Surfers Against Sewage and others.

"The facts are that we have a combined sewer system in this country, meaning rainwater and sewage both flow into it.

"This means that heavy rain and storms can lead to additional pressure on the system that needs to be released.

"It is not a coincidence that discharges happen most often during or after a storm (hence the name, storm overflows).

"If this pressure is not discharged the wastewater – including sewage – will back up into the streets and into people’s homes.

"This is not hyperbolic; it is a fact.

"The age of this Victorian sewerage system means that the complete elimination of storm overflows would be extremely challenging.

"Unfortunately, they have always been a part of our wastewater infrastructure and until now little action has been taken by any government or party.

"One of the recent amendments in the Lords would have required work to be done to eliminate sewage discharges, and I was one of several hundred MPs who voted against it.

"Initial estimates of the work necessary to achieve this are in the region of £150 billion to £600 billion.

"To put that in perspective, the smaller figure is more than the entire budget of the NHS.

"These costs would probably bankrupt water firms and then be passed onto taxpayers or be passed directly on to water bill payers.

"No sensible legislator could have backed this.

"I appreciate some will be frustrated with that vote, but I am especially pleased by the progress we have made because some of what the Government has now promised to do in the Environment Bill was suggested in my bill, the Bathing Waters Bill, that I presented to the House back in 2018.

"This includes ensuring that overflows are monitored all year round and reported in near real-time.

"Similarly, many of the recommendations made by my colleague Phillip Dunne in his Sewage (Inland Waters) Bill that aim to protect our inland waterways have been adopted by the Government. "I was also proud to back the Storm Overflows Taskforce, which led to water companies committing to invest £3.1 billion in storm overflow improvements between 2020 and 2025 to reduce sewage discharges to our waters.

"Politics is about delivering positive change by focusing on what it’s realistically possible to achieve and compromising where necessary.

"That’s why I think the measures in the Environment Bill are now an acceptable compromise that have the potential to be built on in future, and I am proud to give the amended Bill my wholehearted support.

"I want to thank the organisations and campaign groups that have worked with MPs throughout this process, and the Government for being receptive to so many policy suggestions.

"It is important that we use these changes to monitor incidents and the behaviour of water companies, and I am confident that the Government and community groups around the country will be doing so.

"Going forward, I think there is more work to be done on household and commercial rainwater recycling.

"For example, fitting an average size 250-litre water butt to every one of the approximately 25 million dwellings in England would prevent many billions of litres of rainwater flowing into our sewage system, reducing overflows during heavy rain, and providing households with free water to use in gardening or cleaning.

"These types of measures might seem small, but when scaled up across the entire country they can make a difference.

"With this in mind, I plan to push for better regulations around rainwater recycling in the upcoming Planning Bill."

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Falmouth Packet: Cherilyn Mackrory MPCherilyn Mackrory MP

In a statement issued this afternoon (Oct 26), Cherilyn Mackrory MP said: "I wanted to put out a statement on last week’s vote on the Environment Bill and the amendment on sewage overflow. It is lengthy, but on this occasion, I do feel it is warranted.

"I would like to thank everyone who has written to me, specifically asking for an explanation as to why I voted against S141A of amendment 45 of the Bill.

"I will be replying to every email personally and with a detailed response. My position, my responses and my statement will have all been written by me, not the Conservative Party.

"Firstly, I am incredibly proud to have supported the Environment Bill so far, being an active part of its progress through both Houses and seeing its improvement throughout that journey.

"This is a landmark Bill, which we very much hope will receive Royal Assent before or during COP26.

"It sets into law extensive targets, plans and policies for improving the natural environment, makes provision for statements and reports about environmental protection, and creates the Office for Environmental Protection.

"It also includes vast plans and policies relating to waste and resource efficiency, air quality; for the recall of products that fail to meet environmental standards, water quality and about nature and biodiversity, including conservation covenants and about the regulation of chemicals.

"On water quality specifically, I share the passion and drive of the people of Cornwall regarding the stopping of dumping sewage into our waterways.

"I sit on the Environmental Audit Select Committee and we have conducted detailed enquiries in this this very complex issue.

"This is an issue that has been dodged by successive governments since the 1960s, resulting in combined sewage overflows continuing to be built, resulting in them becoming overwhelmed by our growing population.

"What should be an ‘exceptional’ occurrence, has become routine and this is completely unacceptable.

"Unfortunately, and as usual, there are a minority who use social media to spread simplistic misrepresentations of my vote, without any real understanding of the Bill or the amendment, nor sadly wanting to.

"Many are quick off the mark to jump to conclusions without even asking me for my view on this issue.

"I have seen many social media posts about this.

"I work closely with cross-party colleagues to make a difference - the Lib Dems, Labour and Greens.

"This is the only way we can make positive change. Democracy in action, working together on an issue to bring about positive change.

"Just last week the Select Committee held a session with many of the top water company CEOs, including the CEO of South West Water, to answer questions on this very issue.

"In addition to my work with the Select Committee, I am also the Vice Chair of the Ocean Conservation Parliamentary Group, working with Surfers Against Sewage.

"I am also a paid up member of Surfers Against Sewage.

"Locally, in the constituency, I am working with various local stakeholders to clean up the River Fal and improve the water quality for our swimmers, shell fishermen and marine life.

"In Parliament, amendments often get put through just to score political points and to get headlines.

"These, in my opinion, does damage to the positive work that Parliament accomplishes.

"The Lords amendment that came forward by the Duke of Wellington, a hereditary peer in the House of Lords.

"While I have no doubt that the amendment was well intentioned, it was poorly drafted, uncosted, with no plan or impact assessment whatsoever.

"This would have resulted in either the taxpayer and/or water bill payers footing the astronomical bill.

"We genuinely do not yet know how much this work is going to cost, although there are initial estimates of between £150 billion and £600 billion.

"To put those figures in perspective, £150 billion is more than the entire schools, policing and defence budgets put together, and £600 billion is well above what has been spent combatting the Coronavirus pandemic.

"What happened to Parliament being able to scrutinise, looking at the long, detailed and practical work required to understand just how we can deliver on these ambitions and ensure that taxpayers’ money is spent wisely?

"The Duke of Wellington’s amendment would have made the taxpayer culpable for this money.

"We must be pragmatic when we look at this issue.

"If the amendment was carried, it would mean the complete separation of our sewerage systems, leading to significant disruption for homes, businesses, and infrastructure across the country.

"What the opposition and pressure groups fail to tell you is that the Government has moved considerably on this issue.

"It tabled a number of its own amendments – which were successful.

"One of these amendments places a legal duty on government to publish a plan by 1 September next year to reduce sewage discharges from storm overflows.

"A separate amendment will also place a duty on government to publish a report on the ‘mechanics’ of eliminating overflows entirely (also due before 1 September next year).

"Outside of the Environment Bill, the government has directed Ofwat (the industry’s financial regulator) that it expects water companies to take steps to 'significantly reduce storm overflows,' and that we expect funding to be approved for them to do so.

"Collaborative work, with stakeholders, has transformed bathing water quality in this country.

"Because of this hard work, we now have some of the best bathing waters in Europe, where over 97% are rated good or excellent, compared to 29% in 1991.

"This was achieved through all parties working together: clear policy and direction from government; effective regulation, strong partnership working, targeted investment, data and monitoring. "This is despite the extra demands on the catchment.

"In the last 15 years we have seen a 20% increase in population, and 50% increase in tourism.

"This has increased flows into the sewage system by 25%.

"There is much more work to be done to stop overflows and improve bathing water quality and I am committed to doing all that I can to play my part as a parliamentarian to achieve this.

"This process is still ongoing and negotiations on how to best proceed are not yet at an end.

"I met again with the Minister and the Secretary of State this morning (Tuesday 26th October) to discuss ways that a compromise on the wording can be reached to satisfy all parties.

"I take these matters incredibly seriously.

"I always want to pass quality well drafted laws that actually can be enacted rather than ones that are simply headlines but fail to deliver on any of the realistic practicalities.

"For the first time ever, the Government will be telling the industry’s regulator that it expects water companies to take steps to 'significantly reduce storm overflows,' and that it expects funding to be approved for them to do so.

"Ministers will also undertake a review of legislation which would require Sustainable Drainage Systems to be constructed to ministerial standards on new developments, reducing the pressure on the sewage system.

"All of these measures are informed by the work of the Storm Overflows Task Force, which Defra established in August 2020 to bring together key stakeholders from the water industry, environmental NGOs, regulators, and Government in order to drive progress in reducing sewage discharges.

"I hope this information is helpful and reassures you that any suggestion that I am not taking firm action on storm overflows is false.

A majority of MPs including myself voted in favour of taking a range of immediate steps to address storm overflows, together with a legal duty on government to produce detailed and costed plans for reducing and eliminating storm overflows entirely.

"I want to end on this note - to be crystal clear, my vote was not to dump more sewage into our waters.

"The amendment that came forward was not the right vehicle to effect the change we all want to see.

"I want to reassure you all that I am completely committed eliminating harm from storm overflows.

"I want clean bathing waters for people to swim in, clean rivers for our local fishermen to fish in and clean waters for marine life to live in.

"I will continue to do my bit to make this happen."

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Falmouth Packet: Steve Double MPSteve Double MP

In a statement posted on his social media account: Steve Double MP said: "Over the last weekend there was quite a furore stirred up in the media, and particularly on Social Media, claiming that Conservative MPs had voted to allow water companies to discharge sewage into our rivers and seas.

"Quite frankly this is nonsense and most definitely fitted into the category of misinformation and fake news.

"On Wednesday the Commons considered a number of amendments tabled in the House of Lords to the Government’s flagship Environment Bill to reduce sewage discharges into our rivers.

"This is an issue I have long taken an interest in, having chaired the cross-party Ocean Conservation APPG from 2015 to 2021 and championed local and national campaigns to tackle this issue in Parliament.

"Indeed, far from voting against any action being taken, I was pleased to support a number of amendments to the Bill, which took significant steps to reduce sewage discharges, including introducing a statutory duty on the Government to put together a plan to reduce sewage discharges from storm overflows and their adverse impact and report back to Parliament by September 2021 setting out the actions that would be needed to eliminate discharges from overflows in England, and the costs and benefits of those actions.

"Water companies will also be legally required to produce comprehensive statutory Drainage and Sewerage Management Plans, setting out how they will manage and develop their drainage and sewerage system.

"Additionally, they will be asked to monitor the water quality upstream and downstream of storm overflows and sewage disposal works and publish real time information (within 1 hour) of the commencement of an overflow, its location and when it ceases.

"Water companies are already committed to investing £3.1 billion on overflow improvements between 2020-25.

"But the proposals I voted for will go further by giving new powers to the Government to direct water companies in relation to the actions in these Drainage and Sewerage Management Plans and Ministers have gone on record to stress that they 'will not hesitate to use this power of direction if their plans are not good enough.'

"However, I have been surprised by the reaction from some to my support for a progressive and managed plan to deal with sewage discharges.

"Sadly, this reaction has been based on many people only having partial information and only hearing one side of the debate.

"Some have expressed their disappointment that I could not support a clause that sought to impose further steps to eliminate sewage discharges.

"While it may seem hard to disagree with the stated aims of section 141A at first, having examined its implications carefully it was clear to me that it did not present a credible, costed plan such as the one that the Government has put forward.

"Instead, it was a poorly worded amendment.

"It set out no detailed plan as to how it would achieve its aims or how they would be paid for.

"It carried no impact assessment to measure its consequences.

"Its vagueness and width of scope would place an incredible cost burden on all parties involved, which would ultimately fall on water bill payers.

"This is because the age of our sewerage systems means that the complete elimination of discharges from storm overflows would be extremely challenging.

"One estimate puts the cost of transforming our entire sewage system, which dates back to the Victorian era, at somewhere between £150 and £650 billion.

"To put these figures into perspective: £650 billion is 1.5 times more than the entire sum of money that the Government has spent on the Covid-19 pandemic response.

"We could also see significant disruptions for our homes, businesses, and key infrastructures across the country, with water companies having to close down sewage systems during heavy rains and other extreme weather occurrences, leading to sewage discharges being diverted onto their streets instead of waterways, potentially undermining the huge amount of work that we are already doing on flood prevention.

"It has been estimated that every household in Cornwall would have to pay an additional £20,000, if customers were to foot the bill of this monumental undertaking.

"An effectively unrestricted increase to the water bills of constituents is not something I can support, not least at a time when customers in the South West face some of the most expensive water bills anywhere in the country.

"One of the measures I did vote for will ensure that the Government presents a fully assessed and properly costed plan, by September next year, on how our actions to reduce sewage discharges can be paid for and delivered, and I will be monitoring the progress of this work very closely going forward.

"I remain as committed as any to see us take concrete steps towards reducing sewage discharges, but any wholesale revamping of our sewage systems has to be done in a way that is sensible and fair to taxpayers and customers.

"I know Ministers share my ambition, which is why in August 2020 the Storm Overflows Task Force was established, bringing together key stakeholders from the water industry, environmental NGOs, regulators, and Government in order to drive progress in reducing sewage discharges.

"The Task Force has now agreed to long-term goals to eliminate harm from storm overflows.

"Furthermore, for the first time, the Government’s Strategic Policy Statement to Ofwat (the water and sewage industry’s regulatory body) will set out a clear expectation for water companies to do more to significantly reduce storm overflows."

A spokesperson for George Eustice said: "I did not vote to allow water companies to pump sewage into our waters.

"On the contrary, I voted in favour of a package of measures to reduce harms from storm overflows.

"Earlier this year I issued a new policy direction to Ofwat requiring water companies to significantly reduce the use of these overflows and we have now confirmed that we will bring forward a further amendment underlining our position in statute.”

Sheryll Murray's representatives were contacted several times for comment but were not able to provide a statement before publication.