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House of Lords set to again consider the Environment Bill after recent vote

The House of Lords will again consider the Environment Bill and the clause which places a legal duty on water companies to ensure untreated sewage is not discharged from storm overflows.

The Bill contains a number of positive steps to improve water quality for which the Government should be applauded.

Some of the measures contained in the Bill include:

  • A statutory requirement for the Government to publish a plan by September 2022 for cutting the number, frequency and length of storm overflow discharges, with further progress reports to parliament from the Environment Secretary.
  • New sewage discharge reporting and monitoring, including upstream and downstream of sewage outlets.

However, the House of Commons narrowly voted last week to water down the previous amendment from the Lords which would have placed a legal duty on water companies to take all reasonable steps to ensure untreated sewage is not discharged from storm overflows.

As part of the #EndSewagePollution coalition, Swim England supported this amendment and hope the Lords will take this opportunity to reinstate it back in to the Bill. If it does so, the Bill will go back to the Commons for another vote.

The need for action on this issue is abundantly clear, with raw sewage being discharged into rivers and coastal waters more than 400,000 times in England last year.

In addition to this, only 14 per cent of rivers in England are considered to be at Good Ecological Status.

Swim England chief executive, Jane Nickerson, said: “This legal obligation is needed to persuade water companies to treat this issue with sufficient seriousness.

“We will continue to push for cleaner rivers, lakes and seas for the benefit of the environment, wildlife and for the millions of outdoor swimmers to enjoy without risk of illness.

“Thank you to everyone who took the action to write to their MPs, demonstrating the strength of feeling on this issue.

“With your help we secured the support of 204 MPs last week. We will be monitoring proceedings in parliament over the next 48 hours very closely.”