In the House of Commons, MPs voted 283 to 163 to approve the government’s proposed amendment to the Environment Bill.
This new plan replaces a previous proposal, put forward by the Duke of Wellington and passed in the House of Lords, which would have placed a new legal duty on water companies to prevent the discharges by taking ‘all reasonable steps’.
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Conservatives voted against the original amendment on October 20.
While the government says its new proposal will demand a ‘progressive reduction’ in sewage dumping by water firms, others say this amendment will allow the companies to continue polluting.
Stephen Morgan, Portsmouth South’s Labour MP, voted against the government’s amendment, while Conservative MP for Portsmouth North Penny Mordaunt voted in favour.
Southern Water was fined £90m earlier this year after being found to have pumped untreated sewage into Solent waters, while bathers were warned not to get into waters off Eastney and Hayling Island.
Yesterday’s debate followed a social media backlash seen last month after MPs voted against the Lords’ plan to tackle pollution.
Conservatives faced criticism after voting down the amendment.
Mr Morgan has vowed to vote for a range of amendments that would strengthen the bill, including a change which would ensure ‘world leading protection’ for waterways across the country, according to charity Surfers Against Sewage, including those linked to Langstone Harbour.
In a tweet, Surfers Against Sewage said: ‘We’re hugely disappointed that the government has decided not to back the tougher Duke of Wellington amendment, which would have given them greater powers in tackling the sewage pollution emergency in our rivers and ocean.’
Mr Morgan said: ‘Despite the public outcry we have seen, the government has no plan to stop water companies dumping sewage into our rivers and seas.
‘Whilst I voted to end this, sadly local Conservative MPs refused to support cross-party proposals.
‘People in Portsmouth want to see real leadership to clean up our environment and restore nature for generations to come, but this government has been found wanting.
‘That’s why I will continue to back bold, ambitious and long overdue steps necessary to preserve our bathing waters and protect our environment.’
Ms Mordaunt said: ‘For years we have campaigned to get water companies to meet their obligations.
‘The Environment Bill places new duties to compel them to do so and give new powers to Government to act where they fail to.
‘The vital infrastructure needed to end storm overflows will now be put in place.
‘At the end of November local MPs will be meeting with Defra, Southern Water, Ofwat, Natural England, the Environment Agency and local councils to take the next steps.
‘The investment needed is vast and this will take years to fully put right. We can now do this while being able to protect the customer from massive bills.’