Keighley and Ilkley MP Robbie Moore has explained his decision to vote against an amendment to the Environment Bill which would have legally compelled water companies to reduce their discharge of raw sewage into rivers and seas.
Instead, Mr Moore says he has backed 'realistic and achievable' government plans to clean up rivers.
He is supporting an amendment to the Bill from Lord Goldsmith, which will instead ensure 'unprecedented levels of transparency from water and sewage companies', requiring them to report in real-time on the location and duration of sewage spills instead of providing an annual summary as previously.
An opposition amendment to the Environment Bill which was put forward would have forced water companies to pay for major upgrades to Victorian-era water and sewer systems - the government says this could cost up to £650 billion, and would likely result in increased bills for consumers.
Robbie Moore MP said: “We need a realistic and achievable plan to clean up our rivers, and one which is practical to implement and can be enforced. You can’t govern by headlines.
"As a Member of the Environment Bill Committee in Parliament, I pushed the government hard to secure more protection for our rivers. I am pleased tough new measures are being brought in to direct the Water Services Regulatory Authority to ensure water companies take steps to significantly reduce storm sewage overflows, alongside publishing a plan to eliminate them all together. The Environment Bill will put significant pressure on water companies, like Yorkshire Water, to stop sewage discharge into our river systems altogether.
"The opposition amendment to the Bill which would have forced water companies to pay to upgrade storm systems which have operated since the Victorian era would have led to massively increased water bills for us all. That's not right, and that's why I supported the government's plans instead.
"I will continue to campaign hard to clean up our rivers, but this has to be done practically, with knowledge of the detail, and not just using ‘headline’ politics without consideration of how it will be done.”
Since his election to parliament in 2019, Mr Moore has backed efforts to clean up the River Wharfe at Ilkley, which last year was awarded 'bathing water status'
The Ilkley Clean River group says by voting against the amendment which would have compelled water companies to take action, the local MP has weakened the campaign to clean up the river at Ilkley from sewage pollution.
In a letter to Mr Moore the group said: "We have heard the argument that the cost of this legal obligation would be too high because of the nature of the Victorian sewage system, and the government cannot therefore require water companies to act. We note that the water companies have been making profit out of this system for years when they had a duty to maintain and innovate not to pollute our rivers. In addition, this issue has been the subject to national attention for years (for us for over 2 years of campaigning) and still they are not taking steps nor planning to clean up the rivers.
"The water companies could have been and should have been taking action on this The fact that they haven't is not a reason to water down the bill's requirements. It will only be when water companies are required to stop polluting our rivers that they will properly manage their infrastructure. Requiring a plan is not tantamount to requiring action."
"Given that you represent this community you should have canvassed our and our wider membership's views; and have shared with us those views which motivated to you vote against such a "legally enforceable obligation". You yourself were uniquely placed to vote against the Amendment, of all your Conservative colleagues, because (as was stated during the debate) you are the only MP in the country with a bathing site located on a river - a river that is routinely polluted without any legal redress under the current system. Yet 22 of your Party colleagues voted to place a statutory duty not to pollute on the water companies, and you yourself voted to prevent this."
"We now invite you to give us an insight into your reasons for voting in this way and therefore weakening our campaign to clean up the river at likley from sewage pollution; and to explain to us how you plan to support your llkley constituents on this important issue, going forward."