Liverpool’s Labour MPs fail to vote for a law to criminalise water companies for sewage spills

16 May 2024

- Liberal Democrat amendment in Parliament would have seen water companies in court for worst sewage offences

- Environment Agency backs calls for water company bosses to face criminal action

- Conservative MPs vote down “justice for swimmers, wildlife and our natural environment.”

On Wednesday, Conservative MPs voted against a new law which would have seen water companies in court for sewage spills. But the Labour Party chose stay silent and aid the polluting water company bosses.

The vote in Parliament took place on the same day a BBC report found sewage had been illegally dumped in the UNESCO protected Lake Windermere in the Lake District. 

The new law, opposed by Conservative MPs, would have created criminal offences for failing to meet pollution performance commitment levels, ensuring the polluting firms would go to court and face punishments including fines. 

The Environment Agency has previously called on water company Chief Executives and board members to face criminal charges, including court imposed fines. 

Despite cross-party support for the amendment, over 250 Conservative MPs voted against it. 

Liverpool Liberal Democrat spokesperson for the Environment and Clean City, and Candidate for Riverside, Cllr Rebecca Turner:

“It is shocking that Labour MPs in our area have failed to vote for tough action on polluting water firms. 

“This is a national scandal which has blighted our own community. Water companies should have their day in court for environmental vandalism. 

“This law would have delivered justice for swimmers, wildlife and local rivers. Yet Conservative MPs shamelessly opposed, aided and betted by a silent Labour Party. They simply don’t care about our environment and protecting swimmers. 

“Our city needs new MPs who will actually get tough on water firms. At the next General Election, I and my fellow Lib Dem Candidate pledge to stand up for our environment and vote to get a grip on polluting companies.”


Notes to Editor:

Full list of how MPs voted:

Amendment from Liberal Democrat MP Tim Farron

Offence of failing to meet pollution performance commitment levels

A water or water and sewerage company “C” commits an offence where C has – 

failed to meet its pollution performance commitment level for three consecutive years; or

experienced an increase in –

total pollution incidents per 10,000km2, or

serious pollution incidents

for three consecutive years.

For the purposes of this section –

“water or water and sewerage company” means companies which are responsible for the provision of water, or water and sewerage, services and which are regulated by Ofwat and the Environment Agency;

“pollution performance commitment level” means the level of performance on pollution that the company has committed to deliver, and which is reported against by Ofwat in its annual water company performance report;

“total pollution incidents per 10,000km2” and “serious pollution incidents” mean the relevant figures under those headings reported by the Environment Agency in its annual environmental performance report.

If guilty of an offence under this section, C is liable –

on summary conviction, to a fine;

on conviction on indictment, to a fine.


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