Last week, I led an important debate in Parliament on sewage pollution in Whitburn, an issue that many people in our town are rightly concerned about.
South Shields, like many other coastal towns across the country, takes pride in ensuring our beaches demonstrate the highest environmental standards to make it a place for everyone to enjoy. Yet raw sewage dumping at the Whitburn end of Seaburn beach and into the North Sea has caused problems for decades.
I thought it was important to remind the Government that the European Court of Justice ruled in 2012 that the UK had failed to fulfil its obligations and breached standards for treating wastewater in relation to the sewage dumping at this location. And that in 2020, the European Court of Justice found again that the levels of sewage dumping at Whitburn continued to breach standards.
As the sewage flows, our gorgeous beach is continually damaged. The wildlife and sea life that once inhabited our rock pools is disappearing. Dolphins and seals, regulars on our coastline, now swim through sewage soup and the seagrass meadows in the nearby River Tyne estuary are being ruined. This is wholly unacceptable.
In the nine years that I have been the MP for South Shields and part of this campaign alongside constituent Mr Latimer and the Whitburn Residents Forum, I have seen us stonewalled by various Departments, bodies, companies, Secretaries of State and Ministers who claim this sewage dumping is a figment of our imagination. It is not. We know that, because we live there.
Sewage has rightly been the topic of conversation in recent weeks after the Governments shameful behaviour voting down an amendment from the Lords on the Environment Bill that would have legally required water companies to take all reasonable steps to ensure untreated sewage is not discharged from storm overflows.
The Government has subsequently U-turned over the sewage amendment after fierce backlash from Labour MP’s, campaigners and the public, however, it is a disingenuous attempt to appease the public. If the Government really did care about sewage dumping, why have they sat back while knowing that Whitburn is continually being blighted.
I concluded my opening speech by pleading with the Minister Rebecca Pow to do once and for all what her predecessors have refused to, and outline what steps she is going to take to clean up our beach. The Minister came to the debate unprepared and failed to answer my questions but did subsequently agreed to meet with me.
You can read my full speech here.