I do not think the hon. Gentleman is really listening to what I am saying. What I said is that the water companies have taken some action now to start to invest in some of the facilities that they need. I did not say that they were doing everything that they needed to do, but my point was that they are not waiting until the next price review.
I mentioned the strategic policy statement to Ofwat, the regulator, which is crucial. Just last week, we set out on a legal footing in the Environment Act a statutory requirement for water companies to progressively reduce the harm from sewage from these overflows. The Act refers to harm not just to the environment, but to “public health.” That is something new that we added that was not even in the Duke of Wellington’s amendment, and that I think all hon. Members here will welcome, especially those who have bathing areas in their constituencies. All credit to my hon. Friend the Member for Keighley, who mentioned the bathing area in Keighley being the first inland bathing area.
The hon. Member for Bristol East (Kerry McCarthy) talked about Warleigh Weir, which I know because lots of my school friends used to go swimming there when I was at school in Bath. I am horrified at the data she gave and I would be interested in hearing more about that. If she wants to apply for a bathing water quality safety test, it is clear how to do that. Indeed, we write to local authorities every year to ask if they have an area they would like to put forward. I am happy to help progress that, if it is at all possible.
In the Environment Act, of which I am very proud, there are so many things, including a whole page of duties, plans and monitoring. The hon. Member for Gower mentioned the important need for data, which she is absolutely right about. To really tackle these issues, we have to know what is going on. We do not need to wait for ages. We can start, but we still need the data. There are timelines for monitoring and reporting, and a system that holds water companies to account if they do not do the right thing. I thank my right hon. Friend the Member for Ludlow (Philip Dunne) for all the work that he has done. He fully understands the data issue, which is so important. Crucially, every water company now has to produce a sewage management plan—they did not have to do so before—and that will help.
Water companies have been mentioned so much that last week I called them in—I mentioned this on the Floor of the House—before we thrashed out the final amendments. I read the Riot Act to them about the need, and the expectation, for them to do better. We need to work with them to make sure that that happens, and we have been very clear that if we do not see action, we will take enforcement action. There are clear enforcement powers through the EA, which issues the permits; through the regulator and through Government in the new power in the Environment Act; and ultimately through the Office for Environmental Protection, so the system is now in place.
I thank all right hon. and hon. Friends and hon. Members. We share a concern about water quality. Water is the stuff of life. It is precious. It is our lifeblood, as is soil—another of my favourite subjects. It is our duty to look after it. I will conclude by saying that it is a very complex issue, and my right hon. Friends the Members for North Thanet (Sir Roger Gale) and for Basingstoke have talked about the need to pull together other Departments and talk about the building requirements. We are indeed carrying out a review on the sustainable drainage systems, as set out in schedule 3 to the Flood and Water Management Act 2010, which will include the right to connect. It is really important that we pull all those things together.
I do not often agree with the right hon. Member for Islington North (Jeremy Corbyn), but he is absolutely right about semi-permeable driveways and membranes. I am a gardener, and I have talked about that issue forever.
The hon. Member for Salford and Eccles (Rebecca Long Bailey) should visit the living lab at Salford University, which is amazing. What it shows people about greywater harvesting, underwater tanks and green walls is brilliant. It is in her constituency, and I have visited it.
On that note, I hope I have made it clear that the Government are taking the issue very seriously. The measures are in place but there is, of course, more to do.
Question put and agreed to.
That this House has considered e-petition 582336, relating to the discharge of sewage by water companies.