On Wednesday 20th October, Mary voted for a Lords Amendment to the Environment Bill that would have improved the protection of rivers and the sea from raw sewerage being dumped in them.
The amendment, tabled by the Duke of Wellington, would place new responsibilities on the Secretary of State, the Environment Agency and sewerage undertakers (water companies such as Northumbria Water) in England.
Firstly, this amendment would have required the Secretary of State to prepare a plan to reduce discharges of sewerage from storm overflows and reduce their adverse impact in England. It would have also required progress reports to be submitted to Parliament three years after the storm overflow discharge reduction plan is first published and every 5 years thereafter. Secondly, it would require sewerage undertakers in England to report annually on their storm overflow discharges. Thirdly, it would require the Environment Agency to report annually on storm overflow activity of sewerage undertakers in England.
The move to vote against this amendment has been widely criticised by members of the public, who have asked why the government would make their MPs vote against such an amendment. While 22 Conservative MPs voted for the amendment, County Durham Tory MPs, Richard Holden, Dehenna Davison, and Paul Howell all voted against the Lords Amendment.
Reacting to the defeat of this amendment Mary said:
“The River Wear flows throughout the communities of County Durham before reaching the heart of the City of Durham. Its picturesque meanders, and bridges straddling it, are as much an iconic part of Durham’s scenery and world heritage site as the cathedral or castle. Therefore, to see the government voting against measures to protect our rivers and seas is extremely disheartening and to see County Durham’s Conservative MPs vote against protecting the rivers of the county is frankly alarming. The geography of our county is special and forms a unique part of our history; as we move towards a greener future, it is incumbent on politicians to make decisions that protect our natural world and the habitats they provide, particularly at a time when the eyes of the world are on the UK to lead efforts to protect the environment at the upcoming COP26 conference in Glasgow.”
You can find out more about the level of pollution in your local rivers and waterways here: https://www.theriverstrust.org/key-issues/sewage-in-rivers