HC Deb 22 April 2004 vol 420 c427
6. Dr. Vincent Cable (Twickenham) (LD)

When she proposes to issue guidance on the environmental standards required of water companies in respect of odour pollution from sewage tanks. [167008]

The Minister for the Environment (Mr. Elliot Morley)

We plan to consult on a code of practice on odour from sewage treatment plants this summer, and to publish it by the end of the year.

Dr. Cable

I thank the Minister for that reply. Following the useful meeting between his colleague, Lord Whitty, and the hon. Member for Brentford and Isleworth (Ann Keen), myself and our constituents, and given the legal ruling that water companies will be prosecuted for odour emission, does the Minister agree that it is urgent that those companies are set a timetable for converting their sewage plants to prevent odour emission, along the lines of modern plants such as those in Reading?

Mr. Morley

We recognise that in certain parts of the country there have been long-standing problems with sewage treatment plants and the hon. Gentleman has drawn the attention of my Department to one of them. He is right that there is legislation, under the Environmental Protection Act 1990. to take action against odour nuisance. The idea behind the code of practice is to ensure that all sewage treatment companies have a list of measures that can be taken to mitigate the problem—of course, if they do not, they run the risk of prosecution. In some cases, that may mean capital investment, but not in others; that is a matter for the companies to put into their business plans and to put to the regulator.

Mr. Mark Francois (Rayleigh) (Con)

May I encourage the Minister to crack on with this as soon as possible? The issue has caused considerable concern in my constituency, especially around the Stambridge sewage works, operated by Anglian Water Services Ltd., where there has been much controversy between local residents and the company. To be fair, Anglian Water has tried to improve the situation, but the sooner clear guidance is issued, the better it will be for everybody.

Mr. Morley

I can reassure the hon Gentleman that it is our intention to issue guidance as soon as possible this summer. I am sure that it will help with some of the problems. To be fair to many sewage treatment companies, they recognise the need to address particular localised problems.