Govt U-turns on dumping of raw sewage in English rivers after huge backlash

26 October 2021, 21:27

Activist Steve Bray protests outside Downing Street
Activist Steve Bray protests outside Downing Street. Picture: Alamy

By Patrick Grafton-Green

The Government has U-turned over the dumping of raw sewage in seas and rivers by pledging to introduce tougher action against water companies.

Environment Secretary George Eustice this evening promised to bolster measures in the Environment Bill by making companies pay legal duty.

It came before a Lords vote which threatened to defeat the Government.

READ MORE: Shocking drone footage shows raw sewage being pumped into sea in conservation area

READ MORE: Campaigners demand end to raw sewage being dumped in rivers after MPs voted not to stop it

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) said the bill will now "be further strengthened with an amendment that will see a duty enshrined in law to ensure water companies secure a progressive reduction in the adverse impacts of discharges from storm overflows".

The department said the amendment it would bring forward in the Commons would be "very similar to amendment 45" which peers are debating in the House of Lords.

Last week, 268 MPs disagreed with that proposal, which also included putting a legal duty on water companies to stop sewage from being poured into waterways.

This led to a huge backlash.

The amendment had been put forward by crossbench peer the Duke of Wellington and would have forced companies and the Government to "take all reasonable steps" to avoid using sewer overflows when drains are overwhelmed.

Sewage pumped into the sea near Langstone Harbour in Hampshire

Campaigners this week insisted it was unacceptable that raw sewage was put into coastal waters and rivers in England more than 400,000 times in the last year.

Environment Secretary George Eustice said: "Earlier this summer, the Government published a new strategy for Ofwat mandating them to progressively reduce the discharge of sewage from storm overflows in the next pricing review.

"Following a debate in the House of Commons last week during the final stages of the Environment Bill, today we are announcing that we will put that commitment on a statutory footing with a new clause."

It comes despite a spokesman for Prime Minister Boris Johnson saying earlier today that the intentions of the Duke of Wellington's amendment was "already being delivered".

Labour's shadow environment secretary Luke Pollard said: "It should not have taken a public outcry for this Government to take the scandal of raw sewage being discharged into our rivers seriously.

"Having spent the past few days defending their position, this screeching U-turn will do little to convince the public that the health of our rivers, rather than the health of Conservative polling, is at the forefront of ministers' minds.

"The Government still has no clear plan and no grip on the issue of raw sewage being pumped into our seas and rivers."

More Latest News

See more More Latest News

Police have been searching a rural property near Bungonia

Divers search for bodies of Sydney couple allegedly shot dead by police officer

The cyclist was on Pont street in Belgravia when he filmed the driver on his phone behind the wheel

Cyclist reports driver for using mobile phone at the wheel - but police accuse him of breaking the law

Shocking footage shows pro-Palestine protestors taking on Bradford kebab shop after owner 'refuses to boycott Coca-Cola'

Pro-Palestine protesters attack kebab shop after owner 'refused to boycott Coca-Cola'

Pope Francis carried out a traditional Sunday noon blessing

Pope Francis cancels engagements due to mild flu symptoms, Vatican says

A makeshift tent camp in Rafah for Palestinians displaced by the Israeli ground offensive on the Gaza Strip

Human Rights Watch accuses Israel of blocking aid in violation of UN court order

A protest by farmers outside a meeting of EU agriculture ministers in Brussels

Farmers converge on EU’s headquarters in fresh show of force

The protester identified himself as Aaron Bushnell, 25

US airman Aaron Bushnell, 25, screams ‘Free Palestine’ before setting himself on fire in protest over Gaza war

Eiffel Tower

Eiffel Tower reopens to visitors after six-day closure amid strike by employees

London Mayor Sadiq Khan has been criticised for his less than frugal spending where 'night tsar' Amy Lamé's luxury 'partnership building' trips were concerned

Sadiq Khan under fire for sending £117k 'night tsar' on luxury business trips despite London's flagging party scene

Charlotte Church has been criticised for the chant being used at the concert

Charlotte Church slammed for singing controversial 'from the river to the sea' chant at pro-Palestine charity concert

Christopher Nolan

Oppenheimer keeps devouring awards with top prize at Producers Guild

Rishi Sunak is facing a revolt for sacking Lee Anderson

PM denies Tories have 'Islamophobic tendencies' as minister says Lee Anderson's comments were 'profoundly wrong'

Bus operators said they were not consulted about the plans and laid the blame on the delays firmly on the LTN

Three mile bus journeys take two hours in low-traffic neighbourhoods with TfL blaming 'serious' delays on scheme

The 1964 film has had its age rating changed after sixty years

Mary Poppins age rating changed from ‘U’ to ‘PG’ over ‘discriminatory language’ sixty years after release

The award for best feature was given to Past Lives

Past Lives and American Fiction among big winners at Independent Spirit Awards

O'Leary warns some airlines may struggle to cope with demand

Holidaymakers face air fare hike this summer due to ‘lack of planes’, Ryanair boss Michael O'Leary warns