Thank you for calling me to speak, Mr Paisley.

I express my appreciation of my hon. Friend Tonia Antoniazzi for opening this important debate.

Water companies are polluting our bathing waters, rivers and beaches.

I am pleased to have this opportunity to raise concerns expressed to me by my constituents.

Mrs Miller spoke of storm overflow events.

We are told that combined sewage overflows are used in extreme weather conditions.

However, in 2020, water companies discharged raw sewage into rivers in England more than 40,000 times.

Illegal dumping stems from water companies being allowed to self-report such spills since 2010.

We simply cannot permit privately owned water company monopolies to police themselves.

Professor Peter Hammond, visiting scientist at the UK Centre for Ecology & Hydrology, told Ministers:

“The evidence suggests that in the last decade, ‘early’ dumping of untreated sewage to rivers has been at least 10 times more frequent than EA monitoring and prosecutions suggest”.

I represent a coastal community in County Durham’s only section of coastline.

In Durham’s current 2025 county of culture bid, the east Durham heritage coast should be a jewel.

Unfortunately, despite the stream of press releases from Durham County Council’s Conservative coalition leadership declaring various environmental and ecological emergencies, repeated concerns about sewage discharges on the east Durham coast seem to have been ignored; we have seen excuses, inaction and a failure to protect public health.

The lack of interest in protecting and promoting clean water on the east Durham coast by the council is a scandal.

Residents using the safer seas and rivers app, pointed out by my hon. Friend Rebecca Long Bailey and promoted by the shadow Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, my hon. Friend Luke Pollard, will realise that there have been 113 pollution alerts for the County Durham coastline so far in 2021.

Durham County Council deflects any inquiries to the Environment Agency.

However, anyone watching recent interviews by Environment Agency spokespeople would be forgiven for thinking they were water company representatives rather than a public regulator.

Combined sewer overflows should be a safety valve used sparingly and only in extreme weather conditions.

Instead, legal and illegal dumping of sewage seems to be standard practice and, indeed, the Government are complicit in this situation arising.

I have called consistently for this essential public asset to be brought under public control.

Ministers need to explain to the public why they value the private monopoly interests of water companies over the health, welfare and wellbeing of the public.

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