Robert has welcomed Defra's publication of its Strategic Policy Statement (SPS) which sets out the Government’s priorities for Ofwat’s regulation of the water industry in England.
The SPS, which has been formally laid to Parliament this week, states that Ofwat must ensure that water companies do more to protect the environment. In particular, it confirms the Government's expectations of water companies to significantly reduce the frequency and volume of sewage discharges from storm overflows. It also urges Ofwat, the body responsible for regulating the industry, to challenge water companies to show how they will be more ambitious in protecting the environment.
The statement also puts a new emphasis on long-term thinking, ensuring the water industry invests to achieve zero serious pollution incidents by 2030. The SPS builds on the recommendations of the Environmental Audit Committee, which Robert and other MPs have been working with Ministers to implement.
This statement builds on the measures included in the Environment Act, which puts in place more protections against water pollution than ever before, including a new duty to reduce harm from storm overflows, improve monitoring and a requirement on water companies to publish comprehensive statutory Drainage and Sewerage Management Plans setting out how they will develop their drainage and sewerage system to reduce storm overflows.
Speaking after the publication of the SPS, Robert said: "This new statement to Ofwat is a significant step forward in our campaign to end sewage pollution. For the first time, the Government has set a clear expectation that Ofwat should prioritise action by water companies to significantly reduce sewage discharges and do more to protect the environment. Thank you to Ministers for working with myself and colleagues to deliver the strong action required to protect and enhance the health of our rivers."