Thank you for contacting me about environmental standards for after we leave the EU.
I am the Environment Minister and I am proud of our Conservative Government's ambition to make this the first generation that leaves the environment in a better state than we found it, as set out in our 2015 and 2017 manifestos.
The EU Withdrawal Bill will give the government powers to put into our laws any current EU legislation which isn't already in our law. The government is pulling together its 25 year environment plan which will provide a blueprint for taking forward improvements in our environment, including that of rivers.
I agree that our rivers are a vital part of our natural heritage. I share your concern about river pollution from sewage, but I am glad to say that action is being taken to prevent it.
Since privatisation, around £9 billion has been invested reduce pollution from sewage treatment. In England, between 2015 and 2020, water companies are investing over £3 billion to improve their sewerage infrastructure. When things have gone wrong, our regulator Ofwat has taken action, evidenced by the recent fine of over £20 million levied against Thames Water in March in response to six cases of avoidable sewage pollution, following an Environment Agency investigation.
The Environment Agency is also responsible for issuing licenses for water abstraction. In making these decisions the Agency is guided by regional river basin management plans, which set out how all interested parties work together to improve the water environment of the area. Collectively they set out how at least 680 waters will improve by 2022, benefitting from around £3 billion of investment.
Given our longstanding record on enhancing the environment, I am pleased to be in a role that continues to champion stewardship of our precious natural resources and habitats.