Lib Dem success on sewage in Commons

Yesterday, the Conservatives caved into the Liberal Democrat campaign to end sewage discharges into rivers, by accepting the party’s amendment which stops taxpayers money going to water companies unless the discharges stop.

Liberal Democrat MP Richard Foord tabled the amendment to the UK Infrastructure Bank Bill, which originally allowed water companies to benefit from loans from the bank, even though they are paying their executives huge bonuses and giving shareholders generous dividends while allowing sewerage to be discharged into rivers and coastal waters.

The change to the Bill means the UK Infrastructure Bank can only fund water companies if they produce a costed and timed plan for ending sewage discharges into rivers.

Richard Foord spoke to amendments tabled by himself and Sarah Olney (Hansard):

I welcome the UK Infrastructure Bank Bill. We previously had a Green Investment Bank, founded by the Liberal Democrats in government. It was short-sighted for the Government to sell it off, especially as it made £144 million in profit for its Australian owners last year. Nevertheless, the Liberal Democrats are glad to see steps finally being taken to put the replacement UK Infrastructure Bank on a statutory footing.

Liberal Democrat new clause 1… seeks to ensure that this new UK Infrastructure Bank will remain in operation until the Government’s net zero and environmental commitments have been met.

Amendments 3 and 4—tabled in my name and those of Liberal Democrat colleagues, seek to ensure that water companies set out costed, time-limited plans to deal with discharges before they can get funding through the bank. This is important because communities across the UK are currently being impacted by the actions of some negligent and wayward water companies. For years, we have seen these firms failing to invest in our vital infrastructure, but instead prioritising shareholder pay-outs and bumper bonuses for chief executive officers. It is shocking that this practice has been allowed to continue, and that the Government have resisted several attempts by the Liberal Democrats to clamp down on these sewage spills…

Last year alone, water companies paid out dividends to the tune of almost £1 billion, with water company executives pocketing £16.5 million in bonuses. Why should those people profit from others’ misery? Why should they be allowed to cut corners and get away with it? The situation is the same across the country.

The scandal must be addressed, which is why the Liberal Democrats have tabled these amendments. It would be a scandal if taxpayers’ money were given to the same firms that continue to poison our rivers and coastlines. If we do not add strict sewerage conditions to the Bill, we will give a blank cheque using taxpayers’ money to fund those polluting, profiteering firms.

Those are the very same water companies that line their executives’ pockets with bonuses worth millions of pounds. Now they expect public money to bail them out and line the leaking pipes that they have long neglected. If they want public money to help bail them out, they must show that they have a serious plan, which is both costed and time limited, to clean up their act and end the flow of sewage gushing on to our beaches and into our rivers.


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  • Robin Grayson MSc 3rd Feb '23 - 1:51pm

    Marvellous news!
    Please post this story on Lib Dem websites, starting with United Utilities cash cow the length and breath of North West England: Carlisle to Crewe.

  • David Garlick 3rd Feb '23 - 8:29pm

    Can’t do less than praise this,but.
    These people will still be able to get funding and they will still have time to work up their excuses for not meeting their plans even if the plan is a good one.
    Sorry to be cynical but but I doubt that they will have their heart in any plan especially if it dents either their profits, their bonuses or both.

  • If only there was ‘sewage in (the) Commons,’ more might be done! Another ‘Big Stink’ and all that.

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