6.1 C
HomeWeatherPlans to stop water firms dumping raw sewage in rivers ‘don’t go...

Plans to stop water firms dumping raw sewage in rivers ‘don’t go far enough’

A government move to stop water companies from dumping raw sewage into Britain’s rivers and the sea does not go far enough, campaigners and peers are warning.

MPs will later on Monday vote for an amendment that calls on firms to make a “progressive reduction” in the amount of sewage they pump into the country’s waterways.

Environment minister Rebecca Pow is due to meet with bosses to make it “crystal clear” that the government is “absolutely committed to cutting harmful sewage entering our precious watercourses”.

Critics argue that the proposals aren’t coming quickly enough and are adequate because they do not stipulate measurements or metrics for the reduction required by water companies.

Jo Maugham, director of the Good Law Project, called the amendment a “political ruse” that places a “meaningless” duty on firms.

The Duke of Wellington’s amendment to the Environment Bill would place a new legal duty on water companies to “take all reasonable steps” to prevent sewage discharges.

The independent crossbencher’s proposal was approved by the Lords last month by 213 votes to 60, majority 153.

This meant the Bill was sent back to the Commons for further consideration and enabled the government to table its alternative concession – described as a U-turn by Labour – following a fierce public backlash.

Environmental activist and former Undertones singer Feargal Sharkey has led a social media campaign to push for tougher laws on the issue, with his allies putting pressure on their MPs.

A total of 22 Conservative MPs rebelled last month to support the Duke of Wellington’s initial proposal.

But Green Party peer Baroness Jones of Moulsecoomb said the government concession was “not good enough” as it failed to stipulate measurements or metrics for the reduction required by water companies.

She said: “The government is running scared of the water companies and their owners when what they should be doing is thinking about the health of people and the environment.”

Lady Jones added: “It’s a typical government fudge to make their MPs think they’re doing the right thing.”

The bill as a whole seeks to write environmental principles into UK law for the first time, following Brexit.

It is currently in the parliamentary stage known as “ping-pong”, where a piece of legislation moves between the Commons and Lords until agreement can be reached.

George Eustice, the environment secretary, said a government concession to be considered by MPs on Monday is “mirroring” what peers have already voted for in the Lords.

Mr Eustice told G&T on Times Radio on Sunday: “It does everything the Duke of Wellington’s amendment did, and so he recognised that this is a challenge that you wouldn’t solve overnight because the cost of removing all of these storm overflows could be up to £600 billion.

“But that’s not to say we shouldn’t significantly reduce their use, and since the 1960s most houses’ surface water drainage has been on a different drainage system to the foul water sewage system, but often they’ve ended up being pumped back into the sewer further down the line.

“It may be there’s some interventions that can be made that make a big difference even though they wouldn’t necessarily move all of these CSOs (combined sewer overflows) overnight.

“So the Duke of Wellington recognised you wouldn’t do this overnight, that’s why his emphasis was on making a significant reduction in the use of these CSOs, and that is what we’re going to be mirroring in the amendment we’ve tabled.”


Stay Connected
Must Read
You might also like


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here