Shropshire Star

Shrewsbury MP criticised after Tories reject scheme to compensate swimmers who get sick from sewage

Shrewsbury MP Daniel Kawczynski has hit back at criticism for voting against a compensation scheme for swimmers who get sick from sewage pollution.

An anti-river pollution group said Mr Kawczynski "doesn't care" about the River Severn, but he disagrees.

Up Sewage Creek, an anti-river pollution group based in the town, said Mr Kawczynski "doesn't care" about the River Severn or his constituents after voting against a Lib Dem amendment to the Victims and Prisoners Bill.

The change would have allowed those who get sick as a result of illegal sewage dumping to claim compensation from water companies.

Mr Kawczynski's fellow Conservative MPs also voted against it, causing the amendment to fail.

However, he said that he and the Tory government "care deeply" about the river, and accused the Lib Dems of "playing politics".

Claire Kirby, of Up Sewage Creek, was damning about Mr Kawczynski's choice to vote against the amendment.

"It is clear that the MP for Shrewsbury doesn’t care about the River Severn, or his constituents," she said.

"The sewage in the river is making people sick. It should be a no-brainer for our MP to choose the health and wellbeing of his constituents over the multi-million pound water companies responsible for the pollution.

"But instead of voting to let his constituents ask for compensation, he sides with big business instead. Whatever is he thinking? If he can’t protect swimmers – including local children – then he isn’t fit for purpose."

A recent report by Surfers Against Sewage found that the number of people getting sick due to suspected sewage pollution over the last year was 1,924 cases – this had almost tripled from the previous year.

"Local people are fed up," she added. "We are watching the River Severn dying right in front of our eyes in real time while our MP refuses to help us save it, or keep us from getting sick.

"A year ago we invited Daniel Kawczynski to put on his bathing suit and come for a swim in the river.

"He never replied. Will he come for a swim now?

"We’ll even let him choose which sewage outflow he swims downstream of. If swimming in poo isn’t safe enough for Daniel to risk, why does he think it’s safe enough for our kids?"

Mr Kawczynski said in response: "‘Once again, the Liberal Democrats are playing politics rather than recognising the facts.

"The facts are these. The Conservative Government are prosecuting water companies that illegally pollute our rivers, making clear that polluters will pay for damage to our natural environment.

"Since 2015 the Environment Agency has brought 58 prosecutions against water companies, securing fines of over £141 million. Some of the biggest fines were imposed in recent years – including a record £90 million fine for Southern Water in 2021.

"The Conservative Government have put measures in place to require water companies to invest £56 billion into environmental improvements over 25 years, creating the new infrastructure needed to stop discharges.

"We are requiring Ofwat to incentivise water companies to invest to significantly reduce the use of storm overflows – between 2020 and 2025, water companies will invest £7.1 billion for environmental improvements in England, including £3.1 billion on storm overflow improvements alone, as well as £56 billion through the Storm Overflows Discharge Reduction Plan over 25 years.

"I care deeply about the River Severn and so does the Conservative Government, which is the first government in history to be taking action against water companies that illegally pollute our rivers.

"These are the facts the Liberal Democrats ignore whilst me and the Conservative Government are working hard to actually protect our rivers."