Last month I was very fortunate to be drawn 7th in the ballot for Private Members Bills – a very rare opportunity and the first time I have had such luck.
I was doubly fortunate to be drawn seventh, since it is the lowest place on the ballot that is guaranteed an opportunity for the Bill to be discussed, with enough time remaining in the Parliamentary session to have a chance of becoming law.
I am keen to use this opportunity to make a difference on a health or environmental issue. I had several potential ideas, but was not fixed on any one, so I asked constituents to suggest potential changes they would like to see become law.
I am very grateful to the many people who got in touch to put forward proposals. Some were either too general or too substantial in terms of legislative complexity or scope to be suitable for a PMB. But there were several good suggestions.
Since joining the Environmental Audit Committee, I have taken a keen interest in water, air and soil quality. Since being drawn in the PMB ballot, I have also been elected Chairman of this Select Committee, so an environmental measure seems most fitting.
So on Wednesday I decided to introduced a Bill, put forward by a constituent, with the intention to help materially to clean up Britain’s rivers and watercourses. My Bill will seek to place a duty on water companies to ensure that untreated sewage is not discharged into rivers and other inland waters.
At present, treatment of waste water is required to different standards according to the area and population it serves. But given that an Environment Agency report found 86% of our rivers do not meet current environmental standards, it is clear the current system is not working. So my Bill aims to clamp down on raw sewage entering rivers from overflowing or poorly functioning sewage treatment works.
Work will now begin with the Parliamentary Clerks to find the best way of drafting this Bill to make it effective. I shall also be engaging with government to seek their support to have the best chance of becoming law. I intend to introduce it on the floor of the House on Friday 10th July, my first opportunity to do so in the Parliamentary calendar. I will update constituents from time to time about its progress.