Political parties announce plans to tackle sewage pollution

Ahead of the General Election political parties are announcing their manifestos including their commitments to end sewage pollution. We are gathering their policy commitments as they are announced here.

With the Election on the 4th July getting closer this page will keep you updated with all of the main parties manifesto commitments. We will be copying and pasting exactly what the parties have said they are going to do to tackle sewage pollution and providing politically neutral commentary on some of the substance of the commitments.

What is a Manifesto and why are they important?

A manifesto is a public declaration of a political party or candidates aims or policies. In other words, it’s a list of all the things a party or candidates will do if they are elected.

Manifestos allow politicians to let voters know what they will do if they are elected. So, they are really important way of helping people choose who to vote for. They are also great way we can hold politicians to account once they are elected. If they promise to do something in their manifesto, there is a strong expectation that they will deliver it when they are in government. If they don’t, we can hold them to account.

What have we been calling for?

We set out all the policies we want to see from political parties in our End Sewage Pollution Manifesto. This is the 5 point plan we have created alongside water users and water lovers from across the UK.

We have been campaigning hard to make sure that parties include these policies in their manifesto. And these are the policies we will be judging party manifestos against. Whilst there is still a way to go for all political parties, it is clear that the voice of the public has made a strong impact on political parties promises with all Manifestos released currently acknowledging and outlining their commitments as to how they will tackle the problem.

But what have the parties committed to and how do these policies compare to the calls in our End Sewage Pollution Manifesto? We will be sharing our thoughts on this as parties manifestos come out over the coming week.


The Conservative Party

The Conservatives commitments to tackle sewage

  • Working with the regulator to further hold companies to account, including banning executive bonuses if a company has committed a serious criminal breach. This will build on our legislation for unlimited fines.
  • Using fines from water companies to invest in river restoration projects, including linking up thriving habitats to multiply the benefits for wildlife and water quality. This will create a river recovery network, modelled on our nature recovery network, and create new destinations for people to enjoy across England. It will take a more local, tailored approach like the plan for the River Wye.
  • The next five years will see transformational investment and change in the water sector on a scale never seen before, thanks to the introduction of 100% monitoring – up from 7% under the last Labour Government – and targets on leaks and pollution.
  • To deliver our ambitious plan for water beyond 2030, we will reform the ‘Price Review’ regulatory process for water companies. This will consider how we move to a more localised catchment-based and outcome-focused approach, that better utilises nature-based solutions and further strengthens sanctions for water companies that fail to deliver for the public, coasts and rivers.

You can find the Conservative Party’s Manifesto in full here.

If you live in Scotland you can read the Conservative Party’s Manifesto for Scotland here.

If you live in Wales you can read the Conservative Party’s Manifesto for Wales here.

Our thoughts on the Conservative’s Sewage Policy Promises

The Conservative manifesto includes some promising policies to start to to implement some calls from our own End Sewage Pollution Manifesto by banning executive bonuses for water companies who have committed a serious criminal breach, but water companies are breaching the law on a daily basis and getting away with it. So we are worried this policy does not go far enough to tackle regular polluters. There is also little mention of policies to better resource the regulator.

If the next government is to end sewage pollution we need a systemic change to the water industry. So whilst we welcome policies’ to review the Price Review process to better utilise nature based solutions and strengthen sanctions against polluters, we need a wholesale review of the sector to ensure we end pollution for profit, enforce the law and  end sewage pollution into our most treasured spots by 2030.

The Labour Party

The Labour Party commitments to tackle sewage

  • Labour will put failing water companies under special measures to clean up our water.
  • We will give regulators new powers to block the payment of bonuses to executives who pollute our waterways and bring criminal charges against persistent law breakers.
  • We will impose automatic and severe fines for wrongdoing and ensure independent monitoring of every outlet.

You can find the Labour Party’s manifesto here.

If you live in Scotland you can read the Labour Party’s Manifesto for Scotland here.

If you live in Wales you can read the Labour Party’s Manifesto for Wales here.

Our thoughts on Labour’s Policy Promises

Up next, the Labour Party’s manifesto. Unsurprisingly, Labour’s manifesto restates the policies we have been hearing over the last few months. Whilst the policies are talking tough on water companies, there are no commitments to increase the resources for regulators to enforce the law, and there is no clear ambition to reform the broken system.

There are welcome policies to halt bonuses and dividends to water companies that continue to pollute. And to create automatic fines for pollution incidents to force water companies to stop polluting.

Labour also mentions putting ‘water companies into special measures’. But what does that actually mean? 🤔 Does it mean they are going to review how the water companies work? Put water companies under closer scrutiny by the regulators? We simply don’t know.


The SNP have made no commitments to tackle sewage

Our thoughts on the SNP’s Policy Promises

Despite public outrage across Scotland about the sewage scandal facing the country, there is not a single mention of sewage or water quality in their manifesto. 

You can read the SNP’s manifesto in full here.

The Liberal Democrats

The Liberal Democrats commitments to tackle sewage

Headline commitments:

  • End the sewage scandal by transforming water companies into public benefit companies, banning bonuses for water bosses until discharges and leaks end, and replacing Ofwat with a tough new regulator with new powers to prevent sewage dumps.

More detailed policy promises

  • Introducing a Sewage Tax on water company profits.
  • Enforcing existing laws to ensure that the storm overflows only function in exceptional circumstances.
  • Setting legally binding targets to prevent sewage dumping into bathing waters and highly sensitive nature sites by 2030.
  • Embracing nature-based solutions to tackle the problem of sewage dumping.
  • Strengthening the powers of local authorities to monitor the health of our rivers, lakes and coastlines, restore our natural environment and tackle climate change.
  • Introducing a ‘blue corridor’ programme for rivers, streams and lakes to ensure clean and healthy water and setting new ‘blue flag’ standards.
  • Improving the quantity and quality of bathing waters and sensitive nature sites with more regular and robust testing of water quality.
  • Giving local environmental groups a place on water companies’ boards.
  • Introducing a single social tariff for water bills to help eliminate water poverty within the next Parliament.
  • Implementing Schedule 3 of the Flood and Water Management Act to require sustainable drainage systems in new developments.
  • Mandating all water companies to publish accessible real-time data on any sewage they dump.

You can find the Liberal Democrats manifesto in full here.

If you live in Scotland you can read the Lib Dem Party’s Manifesto for Scotland here.

If you live in Wales you can read the Lib Dem Party’s Manifesto for Wales here.

Our thoughts on the Liberal Democrats’ Policy Promises

The Liberal Democrats have put forward some very welcome policies aimed at tacking sewage pollution. With many of the policies set out by  water users and water lovers in our End Sewage Pollution Manifesto included within the liberal democrat’s policy promises.

We particularly welcome commitments to enforce the law, set targets to prevent sewage discharges into bathing waters by 2030, embrace nature based solutions, increase the number of bathing waters and improve the testing of their quality, implement Schedule 3 of the Flood and Water Management Act and mandate all water companies publish accessible real-time data on sewage pollution. These are all policies that Surfers Against Sewage have been campaigning for over the past 5 years.

However the main thing missing from these policy promises is a commitment to effectually fund the regulators of the water industry to ensure they are able to hold water companies to account. The regulators budgets have been cut for decades and unless the next government provide the regulators with the funds they need water companies will continue to pollute with impunity.

The Green Party

The Green Party’s commitment to tackle sewage

  • We are clear that the only way to end the scandal of our filthy water is to end the failed experiment with privatisation and bring the water companies back into public ownership. Money that is now being extracted by shareholders would be invested to fix the leaks and rebuild infrastructure.
  • Elected Greens will push to restore rivers and take a nature-based solutions approach to the prevention of flooding and storm overflows.
  • We would increase DEFRA’s budget by £1.5bn, allowing an increase in funding for the Environment Agency and Natural England, to support the vital work they do to protect our environment. This would include developing a soil health monitoring programme for England, to match those in Scotland and Wales, to assess and understand changes in the health of soil over time. This would end the flow of pollution into rivers and the sea from fertilisers, agricultural waste and sewage, through effective monitoring and enforcement.

You can find the Green’s manifesto in full here.

If you live in Scotland you can read the Scottish Green Parties Manifesto here.

Our thoughts on the Green’s Policy Promise

The Green Party’s manifesto offers a welcome increase in funding for DEFRA and the Environment Agency to deliver effective monitoring and enforcement, and a commitment to use nature based solutions to tackle storm overflows. This echos our End Sewage Pollution Manifesto calls. But we need to see a clear plan for what happens after water companies are taken back into public ownership, and when water companies will be required to end sewage pollution, particularly in our most treasured blue spaces where we surf, swim fish and paddle.

Plaid Cymru

Plaid Cymru’s commitment to tackle sewage

  • Control of water in Wales would allow the Senedd to set higher environmental targets on water quality and lower prices, where possible. The current scandal of water quality must be resolved and it should never be allowed to happen again. We would enact section 48(1) of the Wales Act 2017, which would fully align the Senedd’s legislative competence over water with the geographical boundary of Wales. We would also formally request powers from the UK over the licensing of sewage in Wales.

You can find Plaid Cymru’s manifesto in full here.

Our thoughts on Plaid Cymru’s Policy Promise

Whilst these commitments shows us who would manage Wales’ water we have heard little of how this would end sewage pollution.

Reform UK

Reform UK’s has made no commitments to tackle sewage

You can find Reform’s manifesto in full here.

Our thoughts on Reform’s Policy Promise

Despite the UK public demanding action to end sewage pollution, Reform have committed nothing to tackle sewage pollution.


Stay tuned…

We will update this blog to include all political parties promises as and when their manifestos as released. Stay tuned for the promises from Sinn Fein and others in the coming days.