Tory MP calls for Welsh Government to act on sewage discharged into rivers, despite voting to allow it to continue
A Conservative MP has called on the Welsh Government to act on sewage discharged into rivers, despite voting last year to allow the practice to continue.
Speaking in the House of Commons, Ynys Mon MP Virginia Crosbie asked then Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs George Eustice to call out the Welsh Government on the practice by water companies of discharging waste into Welsh rivers.
There was a warning not to swim at six Welsh beaches yesterday – Newport North, Poppit West, Llangrannog, Traeth Gywn New Quay, Aberystwyth South and Aberdyfi – after sewage was discharged after heavy rain.
“River pollution and sewage discharge in Wales is the responsibility of the Welsh Labour Government and last year there were more than 3,000 discharge incidents in waters around Anglesey,” Virginia Crosbie said.
“I have received many letters from my constituents who are concerned about the pollution of beautiful beaches such as Benllech as a result of the actions of Welsh Water. Does my right hon. Friend agree that the Welsh Government need to take responsibility and urgently implement a plan?”
Responsibility for water quality in Wales rests with the Welsh Government and NRW. However the regulatory arrangements for discharges from storm overflows are governed by UK Government regulations, which allow Natural Resources Wales and the Environment Agency in England to permit discharges to the environment.
In October of last year an amendment to the environment bill that would have placed a legal duty on water companies not to pump waste into rivers was voted down by a majority of Conservative MPs – including Virginia Crosbie.
George Eustice, who was replaced in his post by Liz Truss a few hours later, responded to Virginia Crosbie that “my honourable friend is absolutely right to say that we need the Welsh Government and the devolved Administrations to play their part too”.
He later added in response to a question from Ceredigion MP Ben Lake on the same issue: “Obviously, the issue is devolved; the action we have taken is in respect of England and it is for the Welsh Government to tackle some of the challenges they have in their own area.”
In March, a report by a Senedd Committee called on the the Welsh Government to take urgent action to tackle sewage discharges made by water companies into Welsh rivers.
The report puts forward a series of recommendations to protect Welsh waterways, calling on the Minister for Climate Change, Julie James MS, to immediately begin working with water companies to reduce the amount of raw sewage being dumped into rivers.
Another Conservative MP, Fay Jones, said in the same debate that there was a need to “drag the Welsh Government to the table” to deal with problems of river pollution.
The MP for Brecon and Radnorshire said that the Welsh Government needed to work with the UK Government to tackle the problem of pollution in rivers that crossed the border between Wales and England.
Fay Jones said that the River Wye “flows from my constituency into England and back again” but that when she suggested a meeting between the Welsh and English environment ministers she was told by the Welsh Government that there was “no value in it”.
She asked George Eustice if he could “advise me on how we can drag the Welsh Government to the table and engage with them on this issue?”
George Eustice responded that “we are taking clear and assertive action in England to tackle the problem. We need the devolved Administrations, particularly Wales, to play their part as well”.
“I would advise her to work with Members of the Welsh Assembly to try to bring matters to a head and address the issue.”
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