Thank you for contacting me about environmental standards for after we leave the EU.
I was 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 last three manifestos.
The government is implementing its 25-year environment plan which will provide a blueprint for taking forward improvements in our environment, including that of rivers. Having left the EU, existing legislation is now in UK law. We are now taking the Environmental Bill through Parliament which covers more areas like air quality and recycling.
You can read more about the Environmental Bill and its status here: https://services.parliament.uk/bills/2019-21/environment.html
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 to 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 political party that continues to champion stewardship of our precious natural resources and habitats.