Ofwat: Strategic Priorities

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 3:18 pm on 9th June 2022.

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Photo of Charles Walker Charles Walker Chair, Administration Committee, Chair, Administration Committee 3:18 pm, 9th June 2022

My right hon. Friend demonstrates huge knowledge because the Tweed does indeed have commissioners and that works. The Tweed has its own problems but they are not on the same scale as those of the Wye and our right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Wales is currently talking to the Angling Trust and will be working with the Welsh Government to try to find a way forward.

You might not know this, Mr Deputy Speaker, but anglers are the canaries in the coalmine; they are the first to raise the alarm when there is a pollution incident. In 1948 the Anglers’ Cooperative Association was established, by a visionary called John Eastwood, to take legal action against polluters. In 2009 it became Fish Legal, and it has some fantastic lawyers who go after the polluters, and that is what we need, because I am fed up as an angler. I am going to say something that might be out of order, and you might demand that I retract it, Mr Deputy Speaker: if any high net-worth individuals want to make a contribution to cleaning up our rivers and streams, they should visit the Fish Legal website and see how they can make a donation to fund its legal work, because it does go after the polluters and it does win judgments, and those judgments go back to the angling clubs and watercourses that have been polluted.

Of course we should have a rivers restoration fund; that is what we need. It is outrageous that when a water company is fined £120 million an almost meaningless reduction is made to people’s bills—one that they would not notice—with the balance of the money invariably going back to the Treasury, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Hereford and South Herefordshire pointed out. We should use that money to clean up the rivers and watercourses that have been damaged by the pollution.

I have little more to add to this debate. I just want to say that the patience of colleagues here and of the constituents we represent has been stretched to breaking point. The Government have made progress but something needs to happen. We must go after the polluters, be they farmers or water companies; Ofwat has to get with the programme and we have to persuade them, by law through the courts through fines, to change their practices.