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Positive step but details will be reviewed as Government announces U-turn

The Government’s U-turn regarding the issue of sewage discharges has been described as a ‘positive development’ but the details will be reviewed ‘carefully’.

Previously, the Government rejected changes to the Environment Bill from the House of 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’.

This is an issue Swim England have campaigned on as part of the #EndSewagePollution coalition.

On the afternoon of Tuesday 26 October, the issue was being discussed again by the Lords. Shortly before the issue was brought up for debate, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs proposed its own amendment for when the Bill returns to the Commons.

The new legal duty would be placed directly on water companies to make a ‘progressive reduction’ in the sewage it dumps into rivers.

Whilst everyone awaits the precise wording of the Government’s amendment, this is an incredibly positive step.

Review the Government’s proposed amendment

In the meantime, the House of Lords again voted (by 213 votes to 60) to amend the Bill to impose a legal duty on water companies to take action to end sewage pollution.

This will now be voted on again in the House of Commons next week, by which point we will also have seen the Government’s own proposed amendment.

Speaking after the events in parliament, Swim England chief executive, Jane Nickerson, said: “This is a really positive development.

“I commend the Government for recognising the strength of feeling on this important issue and for reversing its earlier decision.

“As ever, the devil is in the detail, so we will review the Government’s proposed amendment carefully.

“In the meantime, it’s fantastic that the House of Lords have again taken up this issue and outdoor swimmers up and down the country are grateful to them for their efforts.”