Dear Prime Minister

You have the backing of the public to End Sewage Pollution. Now it’s time to deliver.

Dear Prime Minister,

You have the backing of the public to End Sewage Pollution. Now it’s time to deliver.

  • 604,833 sewage discharges in 2023 across the UK.
  • 3.6 million hours of untreated sewage running into our rivers, lakes and seas in England alone.
  • Hospital admissions due to waterborne diseases such as dysentery and Weil’s disease up 60% since 2010.
  • The largest ever investigation into criminal wrongdoing by water companies with six English companies in the frame.
  • Thames Water on the brink of collapse and investors more widely considering water company investment as toxic as the rivers they pollute.

These are the simple facts about the state of our broken water system that your new government is going to have to deal with.

Fixing this problem may seem like a daunting task. But, your party campaigned on a platform to ‘Save Britain’s waterways from an avalanche of sewage’, so we have no doubt that you will be well up for the challenge. In fact, in your speech immediately after the election was called you cited the ‘sewage in our rivers’ as a key issue the that your party would tackle once in power. And consistently, you and the Shadow Secretary of State have attacked the previous government’s record on sewage. Telling voters, a vote for Labour was a vote to ‘end the sewage scandal.’

It’s crystal-clear then, from the resounding victory at the ballot box, that your government has not only a mandate to take bold, positive action to End Sewage Pollution but there is also an expectation amongst the public that you will do just that.

Your government should also be buoyed by the fact that ending sewage pollution is not just a priority for Labour voters, it’s a priority for the whole country. Travelling the length of the UK on our general election hustings tour over the last two weeks, we’ve seen first-hand the public anger at the state of our wild waters, from Portobello Beach in Edinburgh, to the River Dart in Devon, from Langland Bay in the Gower, to Hastings seafront.  Everywhere we went the message was the same. People are utterly sick of sewage. And communities were demanding whoever becomes their next MP, and whoever forms the next government, to actually stand up for rivers and the ocean and end sewage pollution.

So, as you enter 10. Downing Street and your Ministers start to enter Whitehall, you should not feel constrained by the scale of the task ahead. Instead, you should relish the opportunity to use your new-found power to deliver the change people want and fulfil Labours mission to ‘save Britain’s waterways’.

Our new Secretaries of State should therefore immediately begin to implement their manifesto commitments. This means putting water companies in ‘special measures. Giving the regulators new powers to block the payment of bonuses to executives who pollute, and bring criminal charges against persistent law breakers. And impose automatic and severe fines for wrongdoing and ensure independent monitoring of every outlet.

These manifesto commitments are the very minimum that we expect to see from your new government to deal with some of the short-term effects of the sewage scandal. But if this government truly wants to be one that creates a fairer, greener Britain, you must also take the opportunity to immediately launch a public inquiry to produce tangible recommendations for how to reform the broken water sector and deliver transformational improvements for public health and the environment.

From YouGov polling we commissioned days before the election, we found an overwhelming majority (82%) of the British public support the next government setting up an independent public inquiry into the discharge of raw sewage into rivers and seas. Appetite for an independent public inquiry was highest among 2019 Labour voters, with 92% calling for inquiry, but, in a rare display of cross-party agreement, 88% of Liberal Democrat voters and 82% of Conservative voters also supported this call.

So, our message to you, our new Prime Minister, boils down to something really quite simple.

You have the backing of the public to End Sewage Pollution. Now it’s time to deliver.

From Ocean Activists, Everywhere

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