Bognor MP defends vote against sewage bill

Nick Gibb, the MP for Bognor Regis and Littlehampton, has defended his decision to vote against as bill which would have prevented water companies from discharging sewage into the sea.

Thursday, 28th October 2021, 11:42 am
Updated Thursday, 28th October 2021, 11:44 am

The MP for Bognor Regis and Littlehampton voted against an amendment which would have cracked down on water companies like Southern Water releasing sewage into the sea during a Commons meeting last week.

Nick Gibb, a Conservative, joined the majority of his party in voting against the amendment, which was suggested by the House of Lords and would have placed new legal requirements on utility companies.

The government argued its own legislation would deliver a ‘resilient sewage system’ but that eliminating storm sewage overflows – from which much of the sewage pumped into the sea originates – would cost up to £660 billion.

Minister for school standards, Nick Gibb MP, is visiting Gatcombe Park Primary School on Thursday 2nd September 2021 Pictured: Nick Gibb talking to Gatcombe pupils. Picture: Habibur Rahman PPP-210209-141238003

The Conservative’s decision has garnered criticism from a variety of corners. A spokesperson for Save Our South Coast Alliance (SOSCA) said: “Waiting years for Southern Water to resolve the situation is not viable. Our environment and economy will be irreparably damaged. MPS need to take action now to stop this situation deteriorating. They need to reduce the unsustainable housing quotas in the area to enable the planning authorities to refuse new housing where the drainage system cannot cope.”

Mr Gibb has criticised sewage releases by companies like Southern Water in the past.

Speaking to the Bognor Regis Observer earlier this year, he said “It is important that local residents and visitors can enjoy our tranquil coastline and be able to swim and surf in water that is uncontaminated by illegal discharges.”

Despite the vote, Mr Gibb maintains that ‘It is unacceptable for water companies to allow the discharge of sewage into the waterways,’ explaining that the Environment Bill currently going through parliament should be enough to tackle the issue directly.

The Lords amendment, he said, would have required a ‘complete overhaul’ of the UK’s sewage system, ‘but had no plan for how this could be delivered.’

On Tuesday, the government announced that the Environment Bill will be strengthened with an amendment designed to ensure water companies deliver a ‘progressive reduction in the adverse impacts of discharges from storm overflows’.

This is alongside a host of measures already included in the bill, such as forcing sewage companies to publish the impact of discharges on water quality. Mr Gibb said he ‘welcomes’ the change.