Clean river campaigners have claimed the government is leaving publication to “the last minute” to avoid scrutiny from groups like theirs.
Ashley Smith, of clean river campaign group Windrush WASP, believes the government’s amendment will be weaker than the one tabled by the Lords. He told The Big Issue: “The attempt to keep the Environment Bill’s weakened law, first by frightening the customer with ridiculously inflated costs, and now by hiding the government response to the Lords latest amendment until the last minute smells of desperation and underhandedness.”
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A spokesperson for the Ilkley Clean River campaign group echoed these comments, saying: “The Environment Bill is muddying the waters. The last government amendment watered down current legislation.
“The Lords Clause (Duke of Wellington Clause) requiring water companies to stop using our rivers as open sewers is the only way to ensure that they do actually stop.”
A Defra spokesperson said the government planned to add “a range of new legally-binding obligations directly on water companies in the Environment Bill” and had “made our expectation that water companies reduce the frequency and volume of sewage discharges clear to Ofwat in the draft Strategic Policy Statement.”
They added: “The government has today [Friday] tabled an amendment to the Environment Bill to put that instruction on a legal footing”.
Defra did not say when the wording of the amendment would be publicly available, saying only that “parliamentary authorities will publish the amendment online in due course.”