Untreated sewage was pumped into coastal waters and rivers in England more than 400,000 times in the last year, according to the Environment Agency
Image: Getty Images/EyeEm)
The Government has voted to reduce the amount of raw sewage dumped into England’s rivers.
MPs voted 283 to 163, majority 120, to approve a Government concession which aims to cut the dumping of raw sewage into waterways.
The Government said its amendment to the Environment Bill will legally require water firms to make a “progressive reduction” in dumping raw sewage into waterways.
Environment Minister Rebecca Pow warned water companies she will be “watching” their progress on sewage discharges “very closely”.
But campaigners have said it doesn’t go far enough.
Shadow Environment Secretary Luke Pollard said the Government had been “shamed” into a U-turn on sewage but added the amendment did not go far enough.
Mr Pollard said: “The amendment the minister has cited in lieu of the Duke of Wellington amendment is confined to storm overflows and not the sewage system as a whole.
“There’s no specific duty on Ofwat or the Environment Agency to ensure compliance – and there should be – and we need to have a focus on reduction on harm rather than adverse impacts. This looks like looking busy without making a real difference.”
Tories Philip Dunne and Neil Parish rebelled against the government in the last vote, but supported ministers on Monday.
Surfers Against Sewage said after the vote: “We’re hugely disappointed that the government has decided not to back the tougher Duke of Wellington amendment, which would have given them greater powers in tackling the sewage pollution emergency in our rivers and ocean.
“Just last week, UN secretary general, António Guterres, warned world leaders at Cop26 to stop treating nature “like a toilet”. The government has failed to fully seize the opportunity in the most urgent of environmental decades to make an example of water companies to say, ‘If you pollute, you fix it, you pay.’”
The vote comes after Peers backed a bid by the Duke of Wellington to compel firms to improve their sewage systems “as soon as reasonable”.
Ministers were forced into a climbdown in a row over levels of raw sewage being dumped into rivers and seas.
Environment Secretary George Eustice said a new legal duty would be imposed on water companies to “progressively reduce” the amount of sewage pumped into waterways from storm overflows.