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Suffolk's Conservative MPs reject Lord amendments for sewage proposals in Environment Bill vote

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Suffolk's seven MPs were among the politicians who voted on amendments relating to storm overflows and tougher air pollution limits in the Environment Bill last week.

The Conservative MPs, Jo Churchill, Matt Hancock, James Cartlidge, Therese Coffey, Dan Poulter, Tom Hunt and Peter Aldous, all voted to reject eight Lords amendments and remove proposals – including protecting pollinators from pesticides, introduction of an independent environment watchdog and meeting targets on environmental protection – from the bill.

The sewage amendment would have placed a legal duty on water companies not to pump waste into rivers.

Jo Churchill
Jo Churchill

MPs did agree to an amendment proposing charges on single-use items made of any material, much like the charges now levied on plastic bags.

All of Suffolk's Conservative MPs have been approached for comment.

Following criticism from members of the public, Mr Hunt, MP for Ipswich, posted on his Facebook page yesterday to defend his stance.

Tom Hunt, MP for Ipswich. Picture: House of Commons
Tom Hunt, MP for Ipswich. Picture: House of Commons

"I've seen media reports over the weekend that I am in favour of pumping sewage into rivers and seas: this is not the case," he said.

"The environment is a priority, now – with the issue of climate change at the forefront of our minds – more than ever."

Mr Hunt said he, and many other Conservative MPs agreed with the amendment in principle, as they 'all want to see cleaner and healthier rivers, preserving wildlife and ensuring the survival of biodiversity'.

"However, the amendment includes a restructuring of the UK’s Victorian plumbing system," he added.

Matt Hancock
Matt Hancock

"The single-pipe network carries both sewage and rainwater.

"Currently, stormy weather causes overflow to spill out into rivers: the alternative would be overspill into our streets.

"It would clearly be unacceptable, and hazardous, to have raw sewage overflow into the streets, up to our front doors."

Mr Hunt added: "The government will be required, by law, to present a detailed plan by next September, showing exactly how we will eliminate sewage discharges.

"There will be a report on the precise mechanics and technicalities – and, importantly, a fully costed report."

The Environment Bill seeks to write environmental principles in UK law for the first time. Only 22 Conservatives rebelled against the Government last week.

The sewage measure, introduced in the Lords by the Duke of Wellington, is due to return to the Lords for further scrutiny, where it is expected to be sent back to the Commons for another vote by MPs.

There were 403,171 spills of sewage into England’s rivers and seas in 2020, according to the Environment Agency.

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