Anthony continues his campaign to protect Cambridgeshire's Chalk Streams, speaking in favour of an amendment to the Environment Bill to revoke or vary abstraction licences, or give the Secretary of State the power to do so, should a chalk stream run dry.
A full transcript of the speech is available below:
As chair of the APPG on the Environment and as a member of the Environment Bill Committee, I very strongly welcome this Bill.
As we have heard, it may not give everything that everyone wants, but it is a huge step forward in protecting the planet, and I really welcome the ambition of the Government and the Minister to work towards that.
I want to focus my comments on water, which is, in many ways, at the heart of this Bill - three particular things.
The water management schemes will help to move water from wetter parts of the country to drier parts of the country - South Cambridgeshire and East Anglia, we are one of the driest part of the country and we need more water.
I very much welcome the work of the Rt Hon. Member for Ludlow to reduce sewage outflows into rivers. Again, I welcome the fact that the Government have introduced that in the body of this Bill.
The Rt. Hon Member for Broxbourne has been a champion for chalk streams and I very much welcome his amendment 3; clause 82, which would revoke or vary abstraction licences, or give the Secretary of State the power to do so, if rivers run dry.
Again, the Government have introduced that in the heart of the Bill, so more water, less sewage—what more could we want?
The reason why I focus my comments on chalk streams is that they run like a network of silver threads throughout South Cambridgeshire, the River Cam most famously, but also many of its tributaries such as the River Shep, which runs down to the RSPB reserve at Fowlmere, the village that I grew up in.
And I remember, as a child, playing there in the chalk streams so clear that the fish looked like they were floating in the air. But the chalk streams are very rare, very beautiful and very threatened.
I went back to the RSPB reserve in Fowlmere during the election campaign and it was bone dry.
It was not that the chalk streams were running low; they were not there at all. I went there again recently, there was some water back in the streams, but no wildlife.
The wildlife cannot survive if the streams run dry. I have been working with local campaign groups, particularly Water Resources East and Cam Valley Forum, to help save the chalk streams.
I want to thank the Minister and her officials for their time, because I know that they have been doing a lot of work with us on that—in particular, setting up a chalk stream working group.
I welcome the Government’s move to protect chalk streams by giving the Secretary of State the powers to revoke or vary licences if chalk streams run dry.
This will bring a ray of hope to the chalk stream campaigners of South Cambridgeshire.
I want to leave the Government with this challenge: when Parliament votes on this Bill, it will vote to give the Government powers to save the chalk streams.
If the chalk streams are threatened, please make sure you use those powers. Thank you.