Farron: Sewerage bill moves to second reading

Last night, Tim Farron presented a Lib Dem bill on controlling sewerage charges. MPs agreed to allow the bill to progress and its second reading will be on 6 May after Farron said:

Our lakes and rivers are our natural treasures, yet water company bosses are degrading those natural treasures to keep a hold of their own treasure. Last year, the water companies made profits of £2.7 billion and paid out £27 million in bonuses. Their chief executives earn seven-figure sums, yet they are free by law to preside over enormous numbers of dangerous discharges that damage our environment and our wildlife, and are a threat to human life, too.

This is not just a problem for me and my constituents; it is a colossal crisis affecting the entire country. Water companies pumped sewage into rivers nationwide 772,000 times in the last two years—more than 1,000 discharges each day. Some of those discharges lasted almost a whole year, and all of them were legal. Sewage discharges happen far too frequently and for far too long for the Government and the water companies to be able to credibly hide behind the excuse that they are caused only by exceptional rainfall. As a result of these discharges, only 14% of England’s rivers now meet the criteria to be defined as ecologically good.

It is true that our sewerage systems are shamelessly out of date, but the water companies responsible for improving them have little impetus to do so because the Government are barely holding them to account…

Tourism and hospitality employs 60,000 people in Cumbria. It is by far our biggest employer, being worth £3.5 billion a year to our local economy. I do not want the Government to put that at risk by allowing our lakes to be polluted. I want them to protect the wellbeing of everyone who visits and lives in the lakes.

As well as the human impact, there is an ecological impact. Maintaining the quality of our rivers, streams and lakes is crucial to protecting biodiversity for centuries to come…

This Bill would [ensure] that action is taken. It would provide for mandatory targets and timescales for the ending of sewage discharges into waterways and coastal areas. It would also strengthen Ofwat, the Water Services Regulation Authority, to hold water companies accountable. Furthermore, it would take the radical step of placing representatives of local environmental groups on the board of these companies so that executives have nowhere to hide from the impact of their practices on our waterways, on the wildlife that depends on them and on the economies and communities they underpin…

What, then, shall we protect: the inflated profits of water companies, or the safety and beauty of our lakes and rivers? It is time for all of us in this House to take action and to pick a side.

The Bill

A Bill to provide for mandatory targets and timescales for the ending of sewage discharges into waterways and coastal areas; to make provision about the powers of Ofwat to monitor and enforce compliance with those targets and timescales; to require water companies to publish quarterly reports on the impact of sewage discharges on the natural environment, animal welfare and human health; to require the membership of water company boards to include at least one representative of an environmental group.

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  • It’s the executives on the boards of water companies who should be fined for sewerage dumping, not the companies.

  • Tristan Ward 20th Apr '22 - 4:58pm

    Seems appropriate for a Tory party that refuses to stop the stench from Downing Street.

  • Christopher Burden 21st Apr '22 - 7:42am

    If water co. execs risked being banged up in a prison cell, sewage dumping would stop! Just like that.

  • Mick Taylor 22nd Apr '22 - 1:59pm

    The truth is that privately owned water companies with greedy directors owing a prime responsibility to shareholders will do the minimum they can get away with. The only solution that will deliver for customers is some form of common ownership. Be that going back to state owned water companies or some form of community ownership. The party needs to get its collective head out of the sand and stop trying to find solutions with continued private ownership

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