South West Water: Brixham Contamination

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons am ar 20 Mai 2024.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

Photo of Steve Barclay Steve Barclay The Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

Members on the Labour Front Bench like to claim that their party wants to be taken seriously as a potential party of Government, yet once again we see shadow Ministers pre-empting the investigation and trying to shift the issue to that of raw sewage. Obviously, it is for the Drinking Water Inspectorate to fully investigate this incident and the water company, but the initial information shared with me suggests that the concern is about farm contamination, not raw sewage. Of course, we need to wait for the results of that investigation, but the Labour party is just jumping to a conclusion that fits a narrative; it is not interested in what the facts suggest.

If the hon. Lady had actually listened to my statement, as opposed to pre-empting it with a question that she did not then change, she would have heard that 85% of those who were subject to the boil notice were upstream of this incident. From the information I currently have, they were not subject to any issue with their water. Because of the seriousness with which we take these issues, a precautionary notice was quite rightly issued to those residents, but the evidence presented so far suggests that there was no issue for those residents because the contamination happened downstream.

As for the wider point-scoring and political narrative, in this House there is usually a distinction between serious issues such as this one and the usual party knockabout. What the community want to hear is reassurance that all the investigations have been done, that we are getting the compensation right, and that we are getting the remaining 15% onstream—all of which, incidentally, the hon. Lady did not even ask about. She did not seem interested in those things, as opposed to the natural knockabout that she was trying to do.

However, let me divert to the topic she wanted to talk about. We have a fourfold increase in the number of investigators, so the water companies cannot mark their own homework. In this instance, the Drinking Water Inspectorate is conducting a full investigation; phase 1 has been completed, and it is now on phase 2. I have quite a list, Mr Speaker, but since you are signalling to me, I will close with the fact that the largest criminal investigation launched by the Environment Agency and Ofwat is currently ongoing.