Tory MP claims sewage vote was ‘a left wing myth’
The MP for Ynys Môn has denied that that Conservative MPs ‘voted to pump sewage into our rivers’ last week, describing the accusation as a ‘left wing myth.’
Tory MPs came under fire after voting against an amendment to the Environment Bill that would have forced water companies to reduce their discharge of effluent into rivers and seas.
Virginia Crosbie was defending the fact that ten Welsh MPs, all from the Conservative Party, voted against the amendment which failed by 268 votes to 204.
Just 22 Conservatives rebelled against the UK Government in Westminster, but none of them were from Wales.
However, following public outrage at the vote, on Tuesday the UK government announced a partial U-turn over the sewage amendment after Tory rebels threatened to scupper an upcoming vote in the Commons.
Earlier this week, in response to the U-turn former Welsh Government minister Alun Davies said: “Prayers for all those dutiful Tory MPs who took to social media to defend a policy yesterday only to see the govt about turn today.
“Looking forward to learning how a policy which was impossible a few hours ago is now the only way forward. Bless them.”
Left wing myth
According to the North Wales Chronicle Mrs Crosbie said: “I think everyone needs to understand that no Conservative MP voted to pump sewage into our rivers – that is just a left-wing myth.
“The Government, of which I am part, took the view that imposing a legal obligation on water companies that was uncosted would be unwise.
“Various calculations on how much it would cost to revamp the entire sewage network to avoid storm overflow is estimated at the lower end at £150 billion, so ministers’ hesitation was well founded.
“No government in its right mind would wave such an amendment through that could lead to water companies going bankrupt and either the tax payer or water bill payers forking out thousands each to sort out the sewage system.
“If that happened, no improvement is going to be made to the sewage system.
“Instead, the Government has taken a proportionate view. It will now bring into the bill ‘a duty enshrined in law to ensure water companies secure a progressive reduction in the adverse impacts of discharges from storm overflows’.
“This is robust action that will allow water companies time to sort this problem out but with a legal obligation.
“No-one wants a drop of sewage in our rivers and seas and water companies have much to do. But we have to be practical and work with the industry and regulators to achieve it.
“The amendment was brought from the Lords as part of the Environment Bill’s progress through parliament – it’s not law yet – nothing is set in stone. As bills progress, amendments are incorporated or rejected and wordings change – that’s how the process works.”
In Wales, sewage management and discharge is carried out by Dŵr Cymru Welsh Water, which answers to the Welsh Government and the Westminster Government has no say on these matters.
Under new rules, there will be a legal duty on water companies to reduce the impact of sewage discharges from storm overflows over the next five years.
Liz Saville Roberts MP Plaid Cymru for Dwyfor Meirionnydd, voted in favour of the amendment and has hit out at the UK government saying: “The Tories have yet again proven that Wales cannot trust Westminster to protect our natural resources.”
She said: “Wales is home to 45 Blue Flag status beaches like Nefyn and Morfa Bychan, and a whole range of unique biodiversity along our rivers and waterways.
“Plaid Cymru have long called for serious action to protect habitats, clean air and clean water. We fully support the introduction of legally binding nature recovery targets too.
“The WWF (World Wide Fund for Nature) states that there are 17,684 licensed sewer overflows across Wales and England which discharge untreated sewage directly into the environment. Of these, 89 per cent discharge into rivers.
According to the Environment Agency, water companies discharged raw sewage into rivers in England more than 400,000 times and for more than three million hours last year.
A pollution alert has also been issued for Traeth Benllech on Anglesey in a Surfers Against Sewage map which tracks combined sewer overflows and pollution risk forecasts, having reportedly been contaminated by human waste due to a sewage discharge.
The legislative process for this bill continues and further consideration of it is due by the Commons on Monday, November 8.
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