Labour accuses Conservative Government of failing to stop nearly a million hours of sewage discharges in 2022

The Labour Party has stepped up its attacks on what it claims to be the failure of the Conservative Government to stop 40,874 days’ worth of raw sewage to be dumped into coastal constituencies.

Making the case Labour have released a damming analysis of Environment Agency data that shows in 2022, raw sewage was discharge into coastal constituencies in England and Wales for nearly one million hours (980,999).

Labour’s research also points to 141,777 sewage dumping events having taken place in coastal constituencies last year. This equates to a new sewage spill every 3 minutes and 45 seconds, which they describe as a “damning indictment of the Tories” who are allowing raw human sewage to pollute places in which people live, work and holiday.

The data comes after Labour analysis revealed that nationally since 2016, a new sewage dumping event has taken place on average of every 2.5 minutes, with British waters and open spaces having faced a staggering 1,276 years’ worth of raw sewage over just a seven-year period.

The news will inevitably once again spark serious concern at the environmental, health and economic impact that sewage dumping is having on communities across the country. Indeed, a Parliamentary Question tabled by Shadow Environment Secretary Jim McMahon, revealed that the Conservative Government has failed to conduct any economic assessments of the impact of sewage pollution on tourism trade and businesses.

At the end of last year, the Labour Party revealed that sewage discharges more than doubled from 14.7 per overflow in 2016 to 35.4 in 2019, coinciding with current Environment Secretary Therese Coffey’s decision to cut funding for environmental protection, which came during her tenure as Water Minister.

Labour also points out that an amendment they put forward to the Environment Bill, aimed at stopping water firms sewage dumping, was blocked by the Government.

However, the Government say that they have started on a major overhaul of how water companies deal with rainwater and sewage, and that completely stopping storm overflows would cost between £350 billion and £600 billion and cause significant disruption to put in place the new infrastructure.

Under the Government’s plan, unveiled in March last year, by 2035, the environmental impacts of 3,000 storm overflows (75 per cent) affecting our most important protected sites will have been eliminated and there will be 70 per cent fewer discharges into bathing waters.

This the Government claims will mean that by 2040, approximately 160,000 discharges, on average, will have been eliminated (40 per cent of the total); and by 2050, approximately 320,000 discharges, on average, will have been eliminated (80 per cent of the total).

But Labour believes this is not enough. Last week Shadow Environment Secretary Jim McMahon introduced the Water Quality (Sewage Discharge) Bill.

The Bill seeks to pressure the Government into granting it parliamentary time and voting for it, would enact Labour’s plan to end sewage discharges by 2030.

This involves legally enforcing four crucial reduction measures: setting a legal requirement for the monitoring of all sewage outlets and penalties for failures in adhering to monitoring requirements; imposing automatic fines for sewage dumping; implementing a legally binding target to reduce sewage dumping events; and a requirement for the Secretary of State to publish a strategy for the reduction of sewage discharges and regular economic impact assessments.

Jim McMahon MP, Shadow Environment Secretary said: “That the Tories have allowed villages, towns, and cities across the country to be treated as open sewers shows that they have no respect for places where people live, work and holiday.

“Coastal communities should be able to just enjoy the place where they live without having to worrying about encountering filthy raw sewage.

“The next Labour Government will build a better Britain, ending the Tory sewage scandal by delivering mandatory monitoring on all sewage outlets, introducing automatic fines for discharges, setting ambitious targets for stopping systematic sewage dumping and ensuring that water bosses are held to account for negligence.”