My Lords, in response to the public outcry at the Government’s opposition to the noble Duke’s original amendments, the Government promised us that they would deliver the wishes of the public in a new amendment, in keeping with the intentions of the Duke. That is something that we really should bear in mind today when we consider the intricacies of the back-and-forth of the various comments that have been made.
It would have been better if, yesterday evening, our MPs had stood firm and insisted on clarity and action by Ministers. That is what is needed to stop our rivers and seas being treated like an open sewer by the water companies. It is the case that the public must never again be faced with an annual figure of 400,000 releases of raw sewage into our rivers and seas.
In that regard, I have three quick points to make. Will the Government confirm that they will, in due course, do three things? First, will they work with the Environment Agency to immediately start setting tougher permits for sewage works and CSOs, and on the monitoring, inspection and enforcement regimes, by way of ministerial direction? Secondly, will they tell Ofwat that it has a central role to play in cleaning up sewage using existing regulations, and will they make Ofwat accountable to Parliament on an annual basis for progress in reducing sewage discharges? Finally, will they strengthen current schemes to generate clear investment plans, backed by resources, to begin eliminating the worst and most damaging sewage pollution?
I think we all understand that the public will be watching, particularly in the towns and villages represented by those MPs who supported the Government so robustly in the other place last night.