'There needs to be accountability at the top': Keir Starmer calls for water bosses to face personal liability

7 July 2023, 10:17 | Updated: 7 July 2023, 10:20

Keir Starmer has called for water bosses to face personal liability
Keir Starmer has called for water bosses to face personal liability. Picture: LBC/Alamy

By Emma Soteriou

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer has called for water bosses to face personal liability over raw sewage being released into rivers and the sea.

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Speaking during LBC's Call Keir phone-in, the Labour leader said: "Regulation needs to be tightened, it needs to be enforced and there needs to be accountability to the top.

"It should go right to the top of the organisation…they should be in a position of personal liability – whether that’s civil or criminal."

He added: "I also think that the government needs to have the courage to say we’re gonna have a look at some of these licenses again. This cannot go on."

Sir Keir continued: "[They should have] licenses either removed or tightened. These license should be taken down and looked at again."

Read more: 'He has no choice': Keir Starmer backs London mayor Sadiq Khan over controversial Ulez scheme

Read more: 'It's a crime': Naturalist Steve Backshall's damning verdict on Thames Water

Keir Starmer calls for water bosses to have 'personal liability'

When asked why Labour would not nationalise the water industry, Sir Keir said: "When it comes to water, I looked at the amount of money you would now have to pay to bring water back into public ownership – it’s huge – and that would simply be used to pay off the shareholders.

"I think the better route is regulation and enforcing it."

It comes amid reports that ministers are considering renationalising Thames Water and arranging contingency plans for its collapse

Discussions are understood to be taking place between water regulator Ofwat, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) and the Treasury, but plans are at a very early stage and may not need to be put in place.

Ofwat raised concerns about the firm’s finances last year. Last June investors gave £500m in “support for an additional £1bn to follow subject to certain conditions”.

Keir Starmer on Ulez: ‘I don’t think there’s an alternative…’

During his appearance on LBC's Nick Ferrari at Breakfast, Sir Keir also addressed controversial Ulez plans, saying Mayor of London Sadiq Khan has no alternative but to press ahead.

"I think it is important to make clear that there is a legal obligation on the mayor to take measures in relation to air pollution," Sir Keir said.

"So he doesn’t just have a free choice to decide what he does here."

He added: "I accept that the mayor has no choice but to go ahead because of the legal obligation on him."

Several senior Labour figures in London, including MPs and a parliamentary candidate, have pushed for Mr Khan to delay the ULEZ rollout amid the cost of living.

The zone currently covers the area between London's North and South Circular roads.

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