Vote against sewage amendment prompts Chris Philp MP to defend decisions online

Chris Philp defended his vote against the sewage amendment on Twitter Pic: Houses of Parliament

The Croydon South MP has joined fellow Conservative in releasing practically identical statements on social media defending their votes in parliament against plans to take tougher action against water companies for pumping sewage into rivers and the sea.

Chris Philp joined other Tory MPs who posted the information on Twitter – defending their votes against an amendment- on 26 October following widespread condemnation of the government over the weekend.

In their posts the MPs said the proposed new measures and changes to the Environment bill would cost billions that the country does not have- after a proposal from the Lords to reduce discharge was rejected by 265 MPs. 

The amendment to the Bill from the Lords called for water companies and the government to actively demonstrate reductions in discharges of untreated sewage requiring them to urgently take ‘reasonable steps’ to avoid using the combined sewer overflow systems. 

Tory MPs were whipped to vote against the amendment. A government spokesperson said on Tuesday (October 26) the cost of forcing water companies to “take all reasonable steps to ensure untreated sewage is not discharged from storm overflows” had not been estimated – warning it could be up to £150bn.

He added: “That would mean that individuals, every one of us, taxpayers, paying potentially thousands of pounds each as a result so it’s not right to sign a blank check on behalf of customers without understanding the trade-offs and the bills that would be involved.”

The spokesman added that the amendment put forward by the Duke of Wellington “remains un-costed”, but “the initial assessments are over £150 billion and that would mean that individuals – every one of us as taxpayers – paying potentially thousands of pounds each as a result.”

Downing Street said that, as a result, “it’s not right to sign a blank cheque on behalf of customers without understanding the trade-offs and the bills that would be involved”, but “tougher legal duties” are being placed on water companies and “we will continue to listen to MPs who have legitimate concerns”.

Last year water companies discharged raw sewage into rivers over 400,000 times in England according to figures from the Environment Agency. They also released statistics showing how untreated effluent, including human waste, un-biodegradable wet wipes and condoms was released into various waterways for more than three million hours in 2020.

The Shadow Defra secretary, Luke Pollard, said: “People are right to be upset at the dreadful state of England’s rivers. Not one English river is in a healthy condition and there has been zero improvement since 2016.

“The Government is to blame for allowing water companies to vent raw sewage into our rivers and sea seemingly at will.”

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