Feargal Sharkey criticises ‘hypocrisy’ of government after sewage vote

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Musician and environmental activist Feargal Sharkey has criticised MPs who voted against an amendment to a bill to put legal duties on water companies dumping raw sewage in rivers across the country.

It comes after MPs voted by 268 to 204 last week to disagree with the amendment to the Environment Bill tabled by the Lords.

Downing Street said on Tuesday that although it agrees with the failure of water companies putting raw sewage into England’s waterways, intentions of the amendment to the bill are “already being delivered”.

Mr Sharkey said Prime Minister Boris Johnson will be performing “hypocrisy on a global scale” when he hosts world leaders at the Cop26 summit in Glasgow from Monday.

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Last week, 268 MPs voted against the bill (Aaron Chown/PA)

“How can you stand on that stage and expect respect and credibility and lead the world into a future with less carbon when they know well you are killing some of the rarest ecosystems and strangling every river in the country?”

Mr Sharkey added that more must be done by MPs to represent the views of their constituents.

He said: “The truth is that we’re now seeing 30 years of underinvestment by our water industry. The Government has created this situation we’re in. The House of Lords are more determined than last week, and are more strident to prepare the legislation.

“It is up to the MPs to decide whether they are prepared to feed the rhetoric or if they are prepared to deliver a greener environment and go out and do what is being demanded of them.”

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Mr Sharkey says Prime Minister Boris Johnson will perform hypocrisy on a global scale as he takes the stage at next week’s Cop26 summit (PA)

He added: “They have utterly failed to regulate the water industry.”

Earlier on Tuesday, the official Downing Street spokesman said: “We completely agree the current failure of water companies to adequately reduce sewage discharges is unacceptable.”

The spokesman added that the amendment put forward by the Duke of Wellington “remains un-costed”, but “the initial assessments are over £150 billion and that would mean that individuals – every one of us as taxpayers – paying potentially thousands of pounds each as a result”.

Downing Street said that, as a result, “it’s not right to sign a blank cheque on behalf of customers without understanding the trade-offs and the bills that would be involved”, but “tougher legal duties” are being placed on water companies and “we will continue to listen to MPs who have legitimate concerns”.

The bill will go back before peers for scrutiny on Tuesday after the amendment was voted down.

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