In response to Anthony Mangnall’s opinion piece accusing the Liberal Democrats of spreading falsehoods, it's crucial to set the record straight. As we approach the General Election, it's essential to prioritise truth over disinformation. Mangnall's assertion that Conservative MPs have consistently strengthened water regulations is unfounded. In fact, his voting record demonstrates otherwise.

In October 2021, Mangnall voted against a Lords’ amendment to the Environment Act that would have compelled water companies to act swiftly on sewage issues. The compromise he supported made enforcement optional and eased regulations on water companies, directly contradicting his claim of strengthening laws. This vote unmistakably weakened regulations.

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Environment Agency data shows a concerning 54% increase in the number of sewage spills in 2023 compared to the previous year. Raw sewage continues to contaminate rivers, evident in instances like sewage spilling into the Mill Pool in Stoke Gabriel for over 1,400 hours last year.  The situation is clearly deteriorating, which contradicts his claims of having the "toughest system".

Contrastingly, in 2010, sewage dumping wasn't a widespread issue, thanks to robust enforcement by the previous Labour Government. Environment Agency prosecutions have plummeted under Conservative leadership, from nearly 800 in 2007-08 to just 17 in 2020-21. 

Despite Mangnall's rhetoric about holding water companies accountable, his government's actions speak louder. EA enforcement funding has been cut by 80% since 2010 (National Audit Office figures).

It’s going to take many years to bring our sewage infrastructure up to the level required. But we need a government committed to grappling with this issue properly, including associated issues like planning. It’s absurd that developers aren’t required to upgrade sewage networks before connecting hundreds of homes to outdated systems. 

England’s treasured rivers are being ruined by shocking levels of raw sewage dumping, with a catastrophic impact for local communities and wildlife. It is an environmental scandal and Conservative ministers are letting water companies get away with it. It is only because of persistent campaigning that the issue is being talked about at all.  

The public are rightly furious that their favourite local rivers are being spoiled while water company bosses line their pockets with big bonuses.

Water privatisation has failed. We urgently need a complete rethink. The Lib Dems are calling for a sewage tax on the £2.2 billion of annual profits made by water companies, a new Blue Flag status to protect our rivers, and punitive fines for water companies that continue to pump their filthy sewage into them. 

Public funds should not be used to bail out failing companies like Thames Water. Instead bold measures, such as emergency legislationto prevent investors being able to hold the Government over a barrel are imperative. Ultimately, returning such companies to state ownership, at no cost to taxpayers, may be necessary.