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South Thanet MP Craig Mackinlay backs amended sewage bill as water companies face tougher consequences for dumping

A Kent MP who had opposed government plans to force water companies to do more to curb raw sewage flowing into waterways says he is now satisfied that tougher measures will work.

The South Thanet MP Craig Mackinlay had been among Conservative MPs who had voiced their concerns about the government’s plans, saying they did not go far enough.

MP Craig Mackinlay
MP Craig Mackinlay

The government has now won backing for a proposed clause in its new Environment Bill after an earlier revolt by some MPs who were concerned it would not put water companies under enough pressure to act.

However, MPs endorsed the new measures despite them falling short of placing a legal responsibility on companies to stop sewage from being dumped in rivers and the sea.

Mr Mackinlay, along with fellow Conservatives in the county present for last night’s vote, backed the government.

He said: “We have secured from the government a direct duty on the face of the bill, which will have teeth to require water companies to reduce sewage discharges. Because of these additional safeguards I felt able to support the government through these final amendments. My opposition last week has demonstrably borne fruit with a strengthened Bill that I am now satisfied with.”

He said the government legislation would “require water companies to progressively reduce the impact of sewage discharges on the environment and public health.

Southern Water was fined a record amount for dumping Picture: Andrew Hastings
Southern Water was fined a record amount for dumping Picture: Andrew Hastings

"This is a legal duty which will be delivered through the new requirement, already in the Bill, for each water company every five years to publish a formal Drainage and Sewerage Management Plan to show how it will achieve and fund reductions in sewage discharges each year.

"There is also a power of direction for government to direct water companies in relation to actions in those plans if they are not robust enough.”

He added the new laws meant water companies would be held to account in meeting their statutory duties, as can the Environment Agency, by the new Office of Environmental Protection.

“The Bill introduces a host of measures to tackle sewage discharges not previously in statute,” he said.

Luke Pollard, the shadow environment secretary, said the bill as amended was not bold or tough enough.

He said: “Britain is again the dirty man of Europe. Not one English river is in a healthy state... People want to see fast and bolder action from ministers.”

Southern Water has been heavily criticised after several incidents in the summer which raw sewage was pumped into the sea at Thanet, leading to the closure of beaches in the area.

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