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Tory MPs block Bill tackling raw sewage

TORY MPs voted against a Labour bid to introduce draft legislation aimed at bringing an end to sewage dumping in the Commons today.

Labour tabled a motion that sought to secure time to consider its Water Quality (Sewage Discharge) Bill.

The Bill would require water companies to reduce discharges from storm overflows by 90 per cent by the end of 2030 and impose automatic financial penalties for sewage dumping.

But MPs voted 290 to 188 — a majority of 102 — in favour of the government’s amendment to Labour’s motion, which deleted mention of the Opposition’s bid to introduce draft legislation.

Opening the debate on Labour’s proposals, shadow environment secretary Jim McMahon said the opposition’s plans “would finally see an end to the Tory sewage scandal."

Mr McMahon told MPs: “The reason we’re here today is because the country we love and the quality of life for millions of working people is being treated with utter contempt, dumped on with raw human sewage, dumped on an industrial scale, and dumped on with at least 1.5 million sewage dumps last year alone.”

The debate comes after Labour analysis of Environment Agency statistics suggested sewage has been dumped every two-and-a-half minutes on average since 2016.

Rivers, lakes, seas and beaches received a staggering 1,276 years’ worth of raw sewage over just a seven-year period, according to the party’s research.

However, the government announced today that water companies will face legally binding targets to cut sewage discharges into the UK’s rivers.

Environment Secretary Therese Coffey said the government would introduce legislation to put plans to reduce storm overflows on a “new legal footing.”

In a written statement to Parliament, Ms Coffey said: “Today, we are announcing plans to enshrine the plan further in law.

“Through the Environment Act 2021, we will legislate for a clear target on storm overflow reduction in line with our plan.”

The government’s Storm Overflows Discharge Reduction Plan, published in August 2022, aims to eliminate sewage dumping by 2050 while cutting discharges close to “high priority” areas by 75 per cent by 2035 and 100 per cent by 2045.

But a group of environmental charities said the government’s proposals would still allow sewage discharges to continue for more than two decades.

Wildlife and Countryside Link, which represents 70 environmental organisations including Friends of the Earth, Greenpeace and the Woodland Trust, called for storm overflows to be eliminated in high priority wildlife sites by 2030.

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