19 April 2024 – today’s press releases

  • River Thames Tsar should be created to tackle sewage crisis
  • Menzies Scandal: Ethics adviser must investigate Conservative Chief Whip
  • Sick note speech: Sunak blaming British people for failures on NHS and economy
  • Lib Dems respond to SNP interview on ditched climate targets

River Thames Tsar should be created to tackle sewage crisis

  • Liberal Democrat Leader calls for new government appointed role to hold Thames Water to account for sewage pollution
  • New role could pave the way for wider reforms of water industry with increased environmental accountability and new representation on water company boards
  • Ed Davey will make the announcement during a local elections visit to the River Mole in Esher and Walton today

The Liberal Democrats are calling for a new River Thames Tsar to be appointed by the government, in a bid to hold the country’s biggest water firm to account.

Leader Ed Davey visits the River Mole in Esher and Walton, a marginal Surrey constituency, to announce the policy. The Esher and Walton constituency was in the top 100 worst for sewage dumping last year and saw a staggering 135% increase in spills.

This policy is part of the party’s plan for water industry reform, including transforming water companies into “Public Benefit Companies”, by ensuring environmental experts sit on water utility boards. The reforms aim to put an end to water companies putting profit before the environment. The Liberal Democrats have also called for Ofwat to be abolished, so a new tougher water regulator can be created.

The new River Thames Tsar proposed by the Liberal Democrats would have various roles, including:

  • Attending Thames Water board meetings
  • Hosting public meetings with river users and environmental groups
  • Ensuring the Environment Agency follows up on reports of sewage pollution into the Thames and its tributaries

The latest policy announcement follows the Government’s decision to appoint a River Wye Tsar last week, amid concerns of agricultural pollution. The Liberal Democrats are calling for the new River Thames Tsar to have a high public profile, with Feargal Sharkey and Steve Backshall suggested as possible candidates.

Last year, the Liberal Democrats uncovered Thames Water discharged 72bn litres of sewage into the River Thames. One site in Twickenham suffered from 1 billion litres of sewage in just one day.

This summer has seen heightened concerns about the state of the River Thames, following a rower in the Oxford-Cambridge boat rate becoming sick from the event.

Liberal Democrat Leader Ed Davey announced the new policy, commenting:

The River Thames has become the scene of environmental vandalism, with laws being broken and yet another water company not being held properly to account.

Conservative Ministers have completely failed to get a grip of Thames Water’s pollution record and frankly the whole thing stinks.

We need someone with the power and focus to hold Thames Water properly to account. With a new Thames Tsar, the public will have new hope that someone will be acting for them, and for their environment.

It’s clear water company boards only really listen to their shareholders at the moment, but under these Liberal Democrat plans, they’d be forced to answer to the public. We need to empower high profile campaigners, such as the likes of Feargal Sharkey or Steve Backshall, to make sure we get the urgent action everyone knows we need.

The failure of this Conservative Government to act is literally making people sick. People want healthy rivers back and champion to force Thames Water to take the action needed.

Menzies Scandal: Ethics adviser must investigate Conservative Chief Whip

The Liberal Democrats have called on the ethics adviser to launch an investigation into whether the Conservative Chief Whip broke the ministerial code over failing to act earlier on the Mark Menzies scandal.

The Times has reported that the scandal was reported to the Conservative Chief Whip Simon Hart in January, but that he failed to act and passed the case to CCHQ despite the fact the case involved allegations against a sitting MP involving parliamentary staff.

Liberal Democrat Deputy Leader Daisy Cooper has written to the ethics adviser Laurie Magnus warning this failure to act appears to be a breach of the Ministerial Code, which states that: “Ministers of the Crown are expected to maintain high standards of behaviour and to behave in a way that upholds the highest standards of propriety.”

Liberal Democrat Deputy Leader Daisy Cooper MP said:

By failing to take any action or alerting the appropriate authorities, Simon Hart appears to have knowingly left in place an MP who, on the basis of the allegations, would have been vulnerable to blackmail and coercion.

It’s completely shocking that the Conservative Party sat on their hands on this scandal for more than three months. It is now only right that Hart is investigated for potentially breaching the ministerial code.

This scandal is yet another insult to the British public and shows why this Conservative Government needs to be kicked out of office.

Sick note speech: Sunak blaming British people for failures on NHS and economy

Responding to Rishi Sunak’s speech on “sick note culture”, Liberal Democrat Leader Ed Davey said:

This was a desperate speech from a Prime Minister mired in sleaze and scandal.

Millions of people are stuck on NHS waiting lists, unable to get a GP appointment or struggling to access mental health support.

Rishi Sunak is attempting to blame the British people for his own government’s failures on the economy and the NHS and it simply won’t wash.

Lib Dems respond to SNP interview on ditched climate targets

Responding to SNP Net Zero Secretary Mairi McAllan’s interview in which she insisted she was ‘not embarrassed’ at ditching Scotland’s 2030 climate change target, Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Alex Cole-Hamilton said:

If Mairi McAllan is not embarrassed, then she is clearly not paying attention.

These targets were about bringing down emissions, bringing down energy bills and leaving the planet in the best possible state for the next generation. The decision to ditch them is an atrocious admission of failure and neglect.

For years we have had to endure smug lectures from nationalist ministers about how Scotland was a world leader on climate change. But when it came to doing the actual hard graft of insulating homes, planting trees or cutting emissions, they have proven to be woefully incompetent.

If the government had got on with tackling these issues years ago, the 75% target would have been achievable. Instead they clearly cared far more about nationalism than they did environmentalism.

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This entry was posted in News, Press releases and Scotland.

One Comment

  • David Symonds 21st Apr '24 - 12:30pm

    It is depressing in my view that this dying Government have decided to declare war on those off work sick and it is a smokescreen to deflect from their own failures in a wide range of areas. I hope that the Lib Dems will oppose this so called war on sick note culture. In most cases employees are off work sick owing to physical or mental health issues and also the Govt have insulted GP’s by insinuating that they are not competent at issuing sick notes when they are trained unlike politicians who are not. Also this Tory policy is about money not people and it insults and smears disabled people too. Let us not forget that some are off work sick owing to bad management. I lhad suffered a family bereavement and my boss hauled me into a room and told me he was “putting me on capability” only a few weeks after the death . Not only was i suffering from depression and my work was suffering as a result and there was no compassion. I felt under the circumstances little option but to leave the organisation as my boss wanted me out. The Tories actually like bad bosses. Let us be fair and compassionate as a country, the Tories are not but not sure about Labour either.

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