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Labour to commit to tougher rules and enforcement on water companies

Labour is proposing tougher rules and enforcement for water companies as part of efforts to clean up England’s rivers (Andrew Matthews/PA)
Labour is proposing tougher rules and enforcement for water companies as part of efforts to clean up England’s rivers (Andrew Matthews/PA)

Labour is proposing tougher rules and enforcement for water companies as part of efforts to clean up England’s rivers.

Shadow environment secretary Jim McMahon is also due to use a speech at the party’s conference in Liverpool to go after Prime Minister Liz Truss’s record while she was environment secretary, blaming her for cuts to funding for environmental protection.

Mr McMahon is expected to say his plans will “ensure running England’s water becomes a responsibility, not a cash machine”.

He is due to outline how Labour would introduce a legally binding target to end 90% of sewage discharges by 2030, mandatory monitoring of all sewage outlets, automatic fines for discharges, and a fixed-rate charge for any discharge point that is not monitored.

Under Labour’s plan, if it wins power at the next election, it would require water companies to achieve yearly 15% reductions in sewage discharges until the 90% target would be reached in 2030.

Labour is also proposing that Water UK’s aim to halve leakage by 2050 be put on a statutory footing, and to see water company directors struck off if they persistently break the rules. Water company dividends could also be hit if they fail to meet targets.

Alongside imposing stronger legal and financial sanctions for failing to adhere to regulations, Labour also said it would explore changing water company licences to prevent them taking on too much debt and prevent them becoming financially unviable.

Prime Minister Liz Truss during a visit to Berkeley Modular in Northfleet Kent
Labour will say ‘every one of those sewage spills goes right’ to the door of Liz Truss (Dylan Martinez/PA)

Mr McMahon is expected to say: “During Liz Truss’s time as environment secretary she signed off £24 million pounds of funding cuts for environmental protection, including surveillance of water companies to prevent sewage dumping.

“Every one of those sewage spills goes right to her door and their plan sees it continuing until at least 2035.

“It’s not enough to halt the surge of pollution, Labour’s ambition will breathe life back into our countryside and coastal communities, areas long abandoned by the Tories.”

He is also due to outline a commitment that Labour “leaves the country to the next generation in a better condition than we began with”.

Under Boris Johnson’s leadership, the Conservative government outlined plans to crack down on spills by requiring utility companies to invest £56 billion over 25 years to combat the impact of storm overflows.