Posted: 25.10.21 at 15:38 by Councillor Paul Millar (Exmouth Halsdon Ward)
Bad news for sea swimmers and watersports users. Exmouth and Budleigh beaches have been polluted by raw sewage. This has been caused by a discharge from a sewer overflow due to recent storms. The advice from Surfers Against Sewage is not to swim in a total of 14 Devon beaches.
Only last week, Conservative MP Simon Jupp voted against an amendment to the Environment Bill which would have placed a legal duty on water companies to reduce their practice of dumping raw sewage into our rivers.
Other Tory backbenchers had more sense and defied their Chief Whip's instructions to vote against the amendment which came from wise owls in the House of Lords. One of those principled Tory MPs was Oliver Heald, whose daughter has a key strategic role at South West Water.
So it begs the question, why did Simon Jupp vote down the amendment? Is he after a ministerial job? Did he blindly follow the whip that day? Does the Boundary Review have anything to do with it? Or does he truly believe government should be taking no action on the pollution of our oceans? All the amendment did was to encourage water companies to take more action to prevent raw sewage from ending up where it shouldn't. This was not nearly as complex as his online statement suggests.
Mr Jupp's vote has consequences, the vote lost fairly narrowly. Labour's Ben Bradshaw backed the amendment, as did other environmentally conscious parties in the Lib Dems and Greens. Only Conservative MPs voted it down. Mr Jupp being a backbencher I thought meant he had more freedom to effectively champion our area. I am yet to see it, as he has never voted against his party's whip.
When I worked for an independent-minded Labour MP, he often voted against the whip, on issues ranging from opposition to the Iraq War to legalising medicinal cannabis. Independent thinking is to be applauded in our political culture, but sadly it's rarer than it is common.
Some months ago, I had a constituent contact me about the Council providing more infrastructure on Exmouth beach for sea swimmers, specifically showers and changing facilities. I would love to work towards making this happen, but if waters are too polluted for people to swim in, what would be the point?
Funnily enough, I first found out about the impact of raw sewage discharge on Exmouth through a surprising source, singer Feargal Sharkey's Twitter feed. Sharkey is leading a campaign to hold water companies and the Environment Agency to greater account for water pollution. There is not one river in England in good ecological condition.
As Sharkey once sang, a good heart these days is hard to find, words that still ring true today. That song was number one in the charts when Simon Jupp MP was just two weeks old. I hope Mr Jupp has the good heart to reflect on his stance and campaign with his constituents and Surfers Against Sewage for cleaner rivers and beaches.
Ed: Nub News is politically impartial and does not endorse views expressed in opinion pieces.
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