In response to the ‘Dirty Water’ protest, Newton Abbot MP Anne Marie Morris said: ‘Here in the South West our rivers and seas are especially precious natural resources, and I am determined to see them protected from sewage discharges.
‘I want to be clear that the Environment Act does not and never did allow raw sewage to be dumped, and it is simply wrong to say that any MP voted for this.
‘Instead, the Act recognises that raw sewage is already regrettably being dumped, and sets out a range of measures to tackle the problem.
‘The Duke of Wellington’s amendment (Lords Amendment 45) had commendable aims on sewage, but unfortunately did not set out the necessary detail of how to achieve them.
‘However, following lobbying from myself and other Parliamentary colleagues, the Government introduced its own amendment to the Act that places a new legal duty on water companies to progressively reduce the adverse impact of sewage discharges on the environment and public health.
‘These were the key aims of the Duke of Wellington’s amendment, which he later withdrew in order to support the Government amendment.
‘Sadly, with the capacity of the sewage network as it exists today, discharges cannot be eliminated overnight without the risk of sewage flooding people’s homes during very heavy rainfall.
‘What we need is rapid, large-scale investment in improving the capacity of the network, and I have made very clear in recent meetings with South West Water that this must be their top priority for urgent investment locally.
‘South West Water now have plans in place to cut sewage discharges by almost 60% by next year, which is a very significant first step.
‘Nevertheless, the goal must remain cutting discharges to zero as soon as the infrastructure allows, with significant fines being issued in the meantime – fines that the Environment Agency is increasing 1,000 times to up to £250 million for serious breaches.
‘It also means being smarter about the impact new development has on the sewage network, which is why I support new legal duties on developers to demonstrate that new housing will not put unmanageable pressure on the network.’