Andrew Jones MP hits back over sewage vote
Last updated Aug 26, 2022
Andrew Jones MP and the River Nidd at Knaresborough
Andrew Jones MP and the River Nidd (photos: UK Parliament, Chapman Chow/Unsplash)

Harrogate and Knaresborough MP Andrew Jones has strongly criticised claims that he voted in favour of pumping raw sewage into rivers and the sea.

Mr Jones said in the Conservative run Community News website that the environment was “being weaponised, deliberately, cynically, falsely” and that the claims were “simply a lie.”

Images of raw sewage being pumped into waterways reignited a debate around whether MPs had voted to allow it.

265 Conservative MPs, including Mr Jones, voted to stop Amendment 45 to the Environment Bill in October last year.

The amendment would have forced water companies to reduce the amount of sewage they discharged and pay for its environmental damage.

At the time, he said it had been “poorly planned and drafted”.

He subsequently supported a government amendment to make water companies provide a “costed plan” for how to reduce the amount of sewage.

People boating on the River Nidd at Knaresborough

Nidd concerns

Local criticism has concerned the safety of the River Nidd.

The Stray Ferret reported back in 2020 that it had failed chemical tests and that the water contained unsafe levels of chemical sewage.

More recent data revealed that there were around 1,000 sewage incidents in the river in 2021.

The local Liberal Democrats launched a petition on the issue earlier this year calling for a sewage tax to raise money to clean rivers.

The party’s county councillor for Knaresborough West, Matt Walker, said:

“My colleagues and I have spoken to dozens of parents whose children have become violently ill after swimming in our river, something that should be safe for them to do.

“The Nidd is huge draw for locals and tourists, we need to invest and protect what we have and that means tough action.”

However, Mr Jones argued that the practice of using sewage storm overflow drains had been done for a hundred years.

That, he noted, included when the Lib Dems were in government with the Conservatives.

Knaresborough Liberal Democrat councillors Hannah Gostlow and Matt Walker

To that, cllr Walker responded:

“New figures… show a dramatic increase in the amount of sewage released since 2016 – an increase of 2,553%. An increase under a Conservative Government.”

Shan Oakes, a Green town councillor in Knaresborough, said the town council was planning to apply for designated bathing status for a stretch of the Nidd.

She hoped that it would mean that something had to be done about its poor water quality.

Cllr Oakes blamed the government for the current situation:

“With the current situation where water is privatised, the government does not hold [water companies] to account as it should. The government has decimated the Environment Agency.”

What Yorkshire Water says

Yorkshire Water said sewage is not the only issue which affects river quality and that agriculture, businesses and plastics also have an effect.

The Environment Agency regulates discharges and companies must have permits in place.

In a statement, Yorkshire Water said:

“We know that our storm overflows operate more often than our customers, or we, would like and we’re working hard to make improvements across the region. We’re investing £790m to improve rivers across the region, including £137 million by 2025 to enhance, investigate and increase monitoring on storm overflows.”

The water company made an operating profit of £242 million in 2022.