ALL but one Wiltshire MP voted down an amendment which would stop water companies dumping raw sewage into rivers.

Only 22 Conservative MPs rebelled against the government to knock back an amendment to the Environment Bill which aimed to stop raw sewage from being pumped into British rivers.

In Wiltshire, all but the North Wiltshire MP, James Gray, voted against amendment 45.

James Gray did not vote on the amendment because he chaired the bill committee itself, but said he would have supported it.

"However had I not been precluded I would I think have supported the Duke of Wellington’s amendment to the bill," he said.

"I am glad that the Government are now considering further amendments. 

"As a member of the Environmental Audit Committee I supported my colleague, Philip Dunne’s private members bill on sewage in rivers, which sadly ran out of time."

MPs heard how the pollutant was discharged into waters more than 400,000 times in 2020 alone.

This comes as Glasgow is due to host the climate summit, COP26 in the coming week.

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Devizes MP, Danny Kruger said that no one wants raw sewage pumped into rivers but that the issue was how to stop it.

In a post on his website, he said: “The opposition amendment we voted down last week proposed to simply ban water companies from discharging sewage.

“In the real world, however, you have to think about what that would mean.

“The reason they discharge sewage is that our infrastructure of pipes and sewage treatment works is inadequate, so when a storm causes a surge in water through the system, the only alternative to a river discharge is to allow the sewage to back up into people’s homes.

“I’m not sure that’s what everyone posting about the vote actually wanted.”

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Salisbury MP, John Glen said that many residents contacted him in regards to his vote on amendment 45, last week.

“I am happy to address the misconceptions around the recent vote on sewage discharge.

“I voted in favour of the government’s bill, which legislates to massively reduce discharge into rivers and to place substantial new duties on water companies to behave in an environmentally responsible way.

“I voted against the 9th Duke of Wellington’s amendment banning all discharge outright, because of the environmentally catastrophic unintended real world consequences it would have.

“On rare occasions, heavy rain causes the sewer system to flood. On those occasions, without controlled discharge, sewage would rise up through the manhole covers in our roads and gardens and flow through our streets and homes – indirectly entering waterways, lakes and ground water from there.

“To completely rebuild and seal the sewage system to make flooding impossible, even in extreme conditions, would cost an estimated £150-£650 billion. To put this in context, £150 billion is more than the entire schools, policing and defence budgets put together, and £650 billion far exceeds the cost of the Coronavirus pandemic. 

“I support clean rivers but the government of the day can only pass legislation that is costed, deliverable, and which does not inadvertently do more harm to the environment than good.”

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South West Wiltshire MP, Dr Andrew Murrison said he has every confidence in the strength of the Environment Bill to reduce pollution in rivers but added that abuse aimed at MPs over the issue was not acceptable.

“The Bill will require water companies to monitor the water quality impacts of their sewage discharges and to publish this information, with the Secretary of State able to make regulations in response,” the MP continued.

“This will ensure water companies reduce sewage discharges that cause the most harm to the environment and public health.

“I understand that water companies will also need to publish near real-time information, within one hour, on when their storm overflows operate.

Michelle Donelan MP has been contacted for comment but has yet to respond.

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In the wake of the controversial amendments down vote the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) has said it has made it crystal clear to water companies that they must significantly reduce sewage discharges.

A DEFRA spokesman said: “We have every confidence that the provisions in this bill will absolutely deliver progressive reductions in the harm caused by storm overflows and any suggestion to the contrary is both disingenuous and untrue.”

This year alone, the Environment Agency has successfully prosecuted water companies five times with fines ranging from £90m to £540,000. The total fines handed to water companies since 2015 is in excess of £132m – from 47 prosecutions.