This is, again, clearly an issue that the Government should have put in the original Environment Bill. This is an old Bill in the sense that it was originally written in 2019. It was pathetic then and it is pathetic still.
The question, of course, is: where does the blame lie? Sewage spills happen and they are intensely damaging for humans and for ecosystems, yet we have heard some explanations that almost seem conflicting. We can argue that it is we who cause the problem because of the way that we dispose of our own waste, or that it is the fault of the water companies, which are clearly incompetent at times—I shall be supporting the Duke’s amendment.
As I argued in the debate on the office for environmental protection, we have to penalise the water companies for these spillages. In many cases it might be the developers’ fault for building on land they should not have built on, or it might the local authority’s fault for allowing developers to build on, for example, flood plains where they should not be building. At the moment, however, it is the water companies, and we really have to take this seriously.
I am supporting all the amendments as they all seem perfectly acceptable. The Green Party’s view is that all new developments should have a proper, sustainable drainage system so that the sorts of spillages that we are hearing about simply do not happen. However, this has clearly not been achieved and it is a big problem. I have signed the amendment in the name of Lord Chidgey, on chalk streams. I was going to eulogise about them, but I think I was given the same briefing, as other people have covered more or less the same territory.
I thank Feargal Sharkey, who was the lead singer in a punk band, the Undertones—I am afraid I have never heard of it. He is apparently a lifelong fly-fisherman, but is now dedicating his life to chalk streams and he sent an excellent briefing. Chalk streams are very precious and special, and we do not treat them very well. If not one of our chalk streams currently achieves a good overall environmental health status, that is quite shocking; we really need to do something about it.
I was incredibly impressed by the PR machine of the Duke of Wellington. I have had dozens of emails supporting his amendment. I admire that; perhaps he could share with me exactly how he got it to work.
This is, again, clearly an issue that the Government should have put in the original Environment Bill. This is an old Bill in the sense that it was originally written in 2019. It was pathetic then and it is pathetic still. Can the Government please do a little rethinking and include this issue in the Bill?