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Environmental Audit Committee to hold Defra Minister to account on UK’s polluted rivers

10 September 2021

Minister Rebecca Pow from the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (Defra) is to be questioned by MPs on the Environmental Audit Committee next week, in the fifth and penultimate evidence session of its Water Quality in Rivers inquiry. 

Purpose of the session

Minister Pow’s appearance will follow evidence by the National Farmers Union (NFU) and CLA. Likely topics to be covered include minimising the impact of farming practices on river water quality, in particular the management of animal waste.   

Background

The inquiry has previously heard that a pollutant ‘chemical cocktail’ now runs in UK rivers, with just 14% of English rivers currently rated an ecological status of ‘Good,’ and no river rated ‘Good’ on its chemical status. A previous session saw the Environment Agency call on the Government to reinstate grant funding to help tackle the issue.  

The major causes of inland water pollution are cited by Defra environmental reports as agricultural (40% of water bodies), sewage & wastewater (36%), and run-off from towns, cities and transport (18%). 

The final session, due to be held next month, will hear from water company executives. 

Witnesses

Wednesday 15 September

From 2:20pm 

  • Richard Bramley, Environment Forum Chair, National Farmers Union (NFU) 
  • Susan Twining, Chief Land Use Policy Adviser, CLA

From 3:10pm

  • Rebecca Pow MP, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA)
  • Kirstin Green, Deputy Director, Water Quality, DEFRA
  • Simon Gallagher, Director of Planning, Ministry of Housing and Local Government (MHCLG)

Further information

Image: Parliamentary copyright