Labor accuses government of ‘siding with water companies’ over sewers


Labor has accused the government of “sitting with the water companies” in the “ongoing scandal” over the dumping of sewage into rivers.

Defra Minister Lord Benyon told his peers in the House of Lords that ‘the level of storm overflows in our rivers is totally unacceptable’.

Highlighting monitoring and compliance issues, fellow Labor Baroness Jones of Whitchurch said: ‘The Environment Agency has already said there has been widespread and serious non-compliance with the regulations, but how can it be expected to act if the water companies do not? I don’t have to measure the intensity of polluting wastewater discharges.

Will the government put an end to this scandal by imposing a sewage tax on water company profits to fund needed upgrades and ban water company bosses from claiming bonuses until to get this done?

Lord Oates

She added: “We have always known that more investment is essential to solve this problem. The Commons environmental audit committee has already recommended the installation of these monitors so why is the government siding with the water companies against the interests of the public who are rightly outraged by this ongoing scandal ? »

In response, Lord Benyon said: “The government really does not side with the water companies. The level of storm overflow into our rivers is totally unacceptable.

“That’s why we are publishing on September 1 this year our storm overflow plan which will detail how we will monitor it.

“We have measures in the Environment Act which give new legally binding targets and measures which we will bring into force. We have the 25 year plan commitment, we have our strategic policy statement for Ofwat which has given very clear direction and we have our requirements to the Environment Agency on enforcement which will bring the water companies who break the law to be held to account.

He added: “The aim will be to focus on bathing waters and very special environmental waterways such as chalk streams and they will be the government’s top priority and by 2035 as part of our plans, we will have eliminated almost all runoff in these streams.”

Lord Oates, his Lib Dem counterpart, spoke about the dumping of raw sewage into the rivers of Tiverton and Honiton ahead of the next by-election.

He said: “Will the government put an end to this scandal by imposing a sewage tax on the profits of water companies to finance the necessary upgrades and will it ban the bosses of the water companies to claim bounties until this is done?”

Lord Benyon joked: “I think it’s a very good choice of geography…It’s a top priority for this government.”


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