Sewage in Rivers – BBC Spotlight

BBC Spotlight feature (19 Nov 2022)  including a statement from  Anthony Mangnall MP about his voting record on sewage discharges into waterways.

SHCAN finds Anthony Mangnall’s statement lacks credibility and does not stand up to scrutiny. See below.

Raw sewage was pumped into rivers into this Conservative MP’s constituency for a total of 27,465 hours in 2021.

Here are the independent facts:

1. Anthony Mangnall could have joined with Conservative colleagues to support a tightening of controls on water companies – but chose not to.

It states very clearly in Hansard, 20 Oct 2021 that 265 Conservative MPs, including Anthony Mangnall, on considering Amendment 45 of the Environment Act, voted against ‘requiring improved sewerage systems and against requiring a reduction in the harm caused by untreated sewage discharges.’ 22 Conservative MPs voted with opposition parties in favour. 

Hansard reports that on 8 Nov 2021,  279 Conservative MPs including Anthony Mangnall voted to reject Amendment 45A (the Wellington amendment) which ensured ‘untreated sewage is not discharged”, and instead voted to accept an alternative Government amendment ensuring a “progressive reduction in the adverse impact of discharges” from storm overflows. Only one Conservative voted against the Government amendment and 76 Conservatives did not record a vote. Anthony Mangnall was not one of them.

2. De-funding of the Environment Watchdog

According to the Rivers Trust:

‘Since 1991… the Environment Agency has also been systematically defunded and disempowered to act. ‘

3. Untruthful Spin

Following that vote there was public outrage and a huge backlash from constituents. Conservatives MPs claimed they had voted in that way to protect voters from water companies passing on up to £650 billion infrastructure improvement costs to their customers. This claim was debunked by the Rivers Trust who say:

There is little prospect that on its this amendment will see anything other than minor improvements to some storm overflows.

A joint Parliamentary Briefing from the Rivers Trust, the Anglers Trust, Surfers Against Sewage and Salmon & Trout Conservation dated 8 Nov 2021 states that the Government Amendment:

gives the water companies plenty of wriggle room to keep polluting. A fudge in the form of a few pilot projects could be construed as complying with the amendment. There is little prospect that on its own this amendment will see anything other than minor improvements to some storm overflows.”

The Trusts’ Briefing continues by debunking the claim that voters were to be liable for £650 billion costs:

“the Duke of Wellington’s amendment to the Environment Bill, places a duty on water companies to ensure raw sewage is not discharged into our rivers and coasts and requires this to be done reasonably and progressively. It is not demanding an irrational fix, digging up every sewer in the country and passing costs on to consumers . . . Nobody is proposing digging up our entire sewerage network and starting from scratch. 

Anthony Mangnall MP claims that neither he nor any other MP voted to allow raw sewage to be dumped into waterways; that if he had not voted as he did large costs would have had to be borne by taxpayers; and that water companies are being forced to act. All of that is debunked above. Anthony Mangnall is on thin ice here and we can have little confidence in a positive outcome from the meeting in early December with South West Water to discuss how they can go further and faster to improve the sewage and drainage system.

Water companies must be forced to spend more on infrastructure and less on huge dividends to shareholders and large bonuses to CEOs. The Environment Act is not up to the job as the continued pollution incidents and the lack of funding for proper monitoring demonstrates. All those Conservatives, including Anthony Mangnall, who voted down Amendments 45 and 45B bear heavy responsibility.

Anthony Mangnall’s statement to Spotlight is not credible.



Briefing from The Rivers Trust

Statement from The Angling Trust

West Country Rivers Trust explaining why its false scarmongering to say that consumers would have paid the cost to improve the sewers.