Liberal Democrats

F14: Ending Sewage Discharges

Amended Motion Passed by Conference

Proposed by:10 members

Mover: Tim Farron MP (Spokesperson for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs).

Summation: To be announced.


Conference notes with concern that:

  1. Water companies discharged raw sewage into waterways 400,000 times in 2020 – amounting to more than 3 million hours of discharges.
  2. The longest discharges lasted more than 8,000 hours.
  3. Just 14% of the UK’s waterways are in a good ecological condition.
  4. More than half of England’s rivers fail to pass cleanliness tests.
  5. Water companies made £2.2 billion in profits in 2020.

Conference believes that:

  1. We have a duty to protect our natural environment.
  2. The government has failed to hold the water companies accountable for dumping sewage into waterways.
  3. Water companies should work to minimise sewage discharges into our rivers and lakes.

Conference calls on the Government to:

  1. Set meaningful targets and deadlines for water companies to end sewage discharges inIntroduce a Sewage Tax on water companies profits to fund the cleanup of waterways.to waterways.
  2. Introduce a Sewage Tax on water companies profits to fund the cleanup of waterways.
  3. Reduce the number of licences given to water companies permitting them to discharge sewage into rivers.
  4. Strengthening Ofwat’s powers to hold the companies accountable for discharging raw sewage into rivers.
  5. Add local environmental groups onto water companies’ boards.

Conference reaffirms the pledge in policy paper 140 Giving Consumers a Fairer Deal (March 2021) to promote a public benefit company model for water companies, so that particular economic and environmental policy objectives must be considered explicitly in the running of the companies.


Applicability: England only.


Mover: 7 minutes; summation of motion and movers and summation of any amendments: 4 minutes; all other speakers: 3 minutes.

For eligibility and procedure for speaking in this debate, see page 9. To submit a speaker’s card go to: www.libdems.org.uk/speakers-card.

The deadline for amendments to this motion is 13.00, Monday 28 February; see page 12. Amendments selected for debate will be published in the Conference Extra and Saturday Conference Daily updates to the Conference Agenda.

The deadline for requests for separate votes is 11.00 Friday 11 March; see page 9.


The FCC has agreed to make the following drafting amendments to the motion:

Delete c) (lines 12–13) and insert:

c) Water companies must work to end the discharge of raw sewage into our rivers, lakes and coastal bathing waters.

In 3. (line 20), after ‘discharge’, insert ‘raw’, and after ‘sewage’, delete ‘into rivers’.

In 4. (line 22), after ‘sewage’, delete ‘into rivers’


Amendment One - Passed

Proposed by: Ashford

Mover: Charlotte Mbali.

Summation: Jacqueline Stamp.

After v) (line 7), insert:

vi) Climate Change, population increase and new builds are increasing the volume of storm water runoff.

After c) (line 13), insert:

d) Significant investment in better storm-water infrastructure over coming decades is necessary to prevent raw sewage discharge. Conference reaffirms the pledge in policy paper 140, Giving Consumers a Fairer Deal (March 2021), to promote a public benefit company model for water companies, so that particular economic and environmental policy objectives must be considered explicitly in the running of the companies.

And delete lines 24–27.

After 4. (line 22), insert:

5. Strengthen Ofwat’s powers to monitor the annual financial plans and reports of the water companies in order to compel them to achieve a fair and transparent balance between consumer prices, shareholder dividend, staff remuneration and ongoing long-term investment in storm water infrastructure.

6. Cease making cuts to Environmental Agency funding and ensure that it has enough staff to significantly improve its monitoring of the threats of inadequate storm-water infrastructure and pollution from sewage and agricultural nitrates.


Amendment Two - Passed

Proposed by: ALDC

Mover: to be announced.

Summation: to be announced.

After 5. (line 23), insert:

6. Work with local authorities to ensure water companies protect our rivers and seas by:

i) Water companies being required to invest upfront in sewerage infrastructure to reflect environmental objectives in Local Plans and planning applications.

ii) Identifying powers of local authorities under the statutory duty to promote wellbeing of the area and provide councils with the funding to meet this duty.