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Dirty Water Crisis: Portsmouth MP lobbies ministers for greater transparency and to ensure ‘history does not repeat itself’ in new investigation

Stephen Morgan MP has lobbied government demanding assurances that ‘history does not repeat itself’ and for greater transparency, after an investigation was launched by its regulators into 2000 sewage treatment works.

The investigation was announced after new checks led to water companies admitting that they could be releasing unpermitted sewage discharges into rivers and watercourses.

In a letter to the Environment Minister Rebecca Pow MP, the city MP raised concerns that ‘not enough is being done presently, by regulators or government, to stop the harms of excessive sewage discharges into bathing waters across the country’. He also demanded assurances that ‘companies like Southern Water will not be allowed to continue to pollute local bathing waters’ and neglect Portsmouth’s natural water environment whilst the investigation is ongoing.

The Portsmouth MP also asked the minister to work with him to ensure regulators compel water providers to publish all of their mapped sewage pollution data for areas they have sewage outlets. Southern Water has previously provided this for areas such as Chichester Harbour, but has so far refused to share similar data models for Langstone Harbour, which recently attracted wider media attention after images were broadcast of raw sewage being released into it from a Southern Water sewage outlet.

It comes after a recent report from charity Surfers Against Sewage (SAS) found that:

  • 5,517 sewage discharge notifications were issued by water companies over a 12-month period, an increase of 87.6% from last year
  • 3,328 of these discharge notifications were issued throughout the bathing season and;
  • One in six days have been rendered ‘unswimmable’ due to sewage pollution during the official bathing season alone.

According to the Rivers Trust, in the Portsmouth MP’s constituency alone, sewage was pumped into local rivers for at least 617 hours in 2020, the equivalent of a nearly a month’s worth of continuous sewage discharge.

The Member of Parliament for Portsmouth South, Stephen Morgan, said:

“Southern Water is a repeat offender when it comes to Solent sewage pollution, and recent reports suggest nothing has changed.

“The recently launched investigation into sewage treatment works across the country is welcome, but I share the concerns of my constituents that not enough is being done right now, by regulators or government, to stop the harms of excessive sewage discharges. “Government had the opportunity to do this last month, but instead watered-down related proposed changes to its Environment Bill.

“That’s why I’ve lobbied government to ensure the it takes action to reduce the harms of sewage pollution and compels water companies to publish any mapped sewage pollution data they have, so that they can be held to account long before the investigation is closed.”

 

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Stephen’s Solent Sewage public meeting

Thank you to all those who attended Stephen’s Solent Sewage public meeting. It was a positive discussion with lots of ideas for everyone to play their part in ending sewage pollution. 

If you were unable to attend, you can watch the event via Facebook at the link here.

Please click here for a briefing from the Environment Agency as requested by Stephen for the meeting.

You can also take a look at the slides shared from some of the panelists:

Stephen will be continuing to take action both locally and in Parliament on the key issues raised. If you have practical ideas or suggestions of how you can help, please get in touch.

 

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Solent Sewage: Calls grow to address ‘dirty water crisis’ as City MP brings community together to find way forward

Stephen Morgan MP has led calls to address the ‘dirty water crisis’ at a public meeting held in the constituency for people from across the region to have their say.

Hosted by the Portsmouth MP, panelists included Professor Alex Ford, Director of Research Degrees at the School of Biological Sciences for the University of Portsmouth; Bianca Carr, CEO of Final Straw Foundation and; Louise MacCallum, Environment Officer of Langstone Harbour Board.

During his presentation, Professor Ford underlined the importance of local data to build a greater understanding of the impact sewage pollution is having on local bathing waters. Professor Ford told the meeting Southern Water has repeatedly refused to share key research data for Langstone Harbour, despite the water company releasing similar data for Chichester Harbour.

Meeting attendees also raised concerns around the lack of scope and powers regulators have to target and fix sewage pollution, with heavy fines only forming part of the solution.

Young members of the audience also voiced their frustrations that their generation will have to grow up during a period where they are not able to experience local wildlife and habitats in their former glory, but will have to repair the damage caused by historic pollution problems.

Earlier this week Mr Morgan voted in Parliament to amend the Environment Bill for tougher measures to hold water companies to account over sewage discharge, including by placing a legal duty on firms. Regrettably local Tory MPs did not back the cross-party proposals.

The Member of Parliament for Portsmouth South, Stephen Morgan, said,

“It has been excellent to see so many different parts of our community coming together to share views and concerns and find a way forward to fix the dirty water crisis our city faces. My thanks to all those who attended and panelists for the expertise they shared.

“Government, local Tory MPs and industry continue to drag their feet and refuse to face up to the reality of what we are seeing. Urgent action has now got to be taken. It cannot be right that the next generation will have to pay the price because of the failures government and industry are making today.

“It’s clear from what we heard at my Solent Sewage summit that greater transparency from industry and more targeted, forceful intervention is needed to preserve our precious local environment.

“I will be taking our city’s concerns, and many others, back to Parliament.”

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City MP votes to stop sewage dumping

Stephen Morgan MP has again supported proposals to stop water companies routinely dumping sewage in bathing waters and for a more powerful environmental watchdog to hold Government to account.

Labour has accused Ministers of ‘dither and delay’ in recent months and with COP26 well underway, the Environment Bill remains ‘unfit for purpose’. The Official Opposition argues the interim Office for Environmental Protection ‘lacks independence, an assurance of adequate resource, or the power to fine.’

The party has also said Ministers are doing all they can to resist concrete protections, leaving our environment as a bargaining chip for new trade agreements that would undercut Britain’s environmental standards.

The Portsmouth representative had vowed to vote for a range of amendments that would strengthen the Bill and take the steps necessary to preserve the planet and protect Portsmouth’s environment.

This includes a change to the Bill that has cross-party support which would ensure “world leading protection” for waterways across the country, according to charity Surfers Against Sewage, including those linked to Langstone Harbour.

The amendment, which was passed in the House of Lords, has been sent back to the Commons a second time for approval today, after the Conservatives voted against it on 20 October.

The Member of Parliament for Portsmouth South, Stephen 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”.

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The government can’t let COP26 be a cop out

As world leaders gather in Glasgow to discuss the biggest challenge our planet faces, it’s vital that the government leads by example at home and abroad and delivers for people and planet.

As hosts of COP26, Britain has a special responsibility to act. It will take serious and sustained leadership from across government for this summit to succeed, yet it continues to treat this summit as more of a photo opportunity than bring with it the diplomatic acumen it requires.

Success at Glasgow is all about the maths. In Paris the world agreed to limit global warming to 1.5C. This means reducing global emissions by half, but as this summit started the government had only achieved commitments to just 7.5 per-cent. Whilst we’ve seen a little progress so far at COP, we are miles from where we need to be.

When we needed the government pulling in the same direction, we’ve had infighting and undermining of the UK’s moral authority. They’ve been telling countries to end coal use, but are flirting with a new coalmine in Cumbria. They want the world to go fossil free, but are licensing a massive new oilfield off the Scottish coast. They’re calling for countries to invest in green transitions at home, whilst failing to provide the investment and support for households and businesses to decarbonise.

Labour has set out a series of demands on government to Keep 1.5C alive and deliver for people and planet this decisive decade. The government now needs to end the double talk on climate and tell the truth about where we are.

That means climate action at home. We should be investing £28bn additional every year until 2030 to tackle the climate crisis, creating secure jobs in the UK and supporting the most vulnerable by reversing the overseas aid cut.

Government has got to be focused on pressuring the big polluters. That starts by calling for 1.5C-aligned targets from the big emitting countries, phasing out fossil fuels, and ensuring a just transition for workers. Instead of dragging their feet on this, they should be taking concrete action to mobilise private finance behind climate action by requiring financial institutions to publish their carbon footprint and, crucially, adopt credible 1.5C-aligned transition plans by 2023.

The government failed to lay the ground for success at Glasgow, but we must not give up hope. I will continue to press the government to keep 1.5C alive, and deliver for the people of Portsmouth, Britain and the world.

Stephen Morgan MP

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Solent Sewage Pollution: Stephen Morgan MP calls urgent public meeting

Stephen Morgan MP has announced an urgent public meeting he has convened to address the growing problem of local sewage pollution.

The meeting will be on Wednesday November 10th from 7pm-8:30pm and will take place at the University of Portsmouth’s Portland Building.

It comes as the latest action the Portsmouth MP has taken to hold industry and government to account on behalf of constituents on local sewage pollution, including a range of parliamentary questions, a string of letters to ministers and government agencies and meetings with key local groups.

The event will be a chance for the public to share their knowledge and understanding of the growing local concerns that Langstone Harbour and surrounding waters are under threat, with little being done by either government or industry to address the deteriorating situation.

Panelists include:

  • Stephen Morgan, MP for Portsmouth South
  • Professor Alex Ford (Director of Research Degrees at the School of Biological Sciences for the University of Portsmouth)
  • Local environmental groups

Following a short presentation from each panellist, the meeting will then open-up to a Q&A discussion.

It comes following the local MP’s ongoing efforts urging the government to tackle local sewage pollution, including writing a letter to the Environment Agency after it reported an ‘abnormal situation’ earlier this month and voting for a change to the government’s Environment Bill that would place a legal duty on water companies not to pollute Portsmouth’s waterways.

Booking is essential and you can register via the Eventbrite page. Attendees will be asked to wear a mask once inside the lecture theatre throughout the event, unless speaking. Personal information may be used for track and trace purposes.

The Member of Parliament for Portsmouth South, Stephen Morgan, said,

“Our local environment is under threat. Industry, government, and neighbouring MPs continue to drag their feet and fail to take action whilst Portsmouth’s gems meanwhile pay the price.

“That’s why I’ve been speaking up in Parliament on this important issue and convened this urgent public meeting to address these growing, city-wide concerns and work together to tackle excessive Solent sewage discharge.

“I look forward to meeting with local people, listening to concerns and working with them to forge a plan to protect Portsmouth waterways and secure their future.”

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COP26: City MP joins calls to make climate change part of the national curriculum

Stephen Morgan MP has backed a campaign climate change to be made part of the national curriculum.

It comes as the UK is set to host the COP26, the world’s largest climate change summit, in Glasgow on Sunday.

Teach the Future, a youth-led campaign by students from all four UK nations, has been leading a UK-wide petition asking the government to implement climate education across the curriculum. More than 25,000 people have signed the petition and other key figures have supported the call.

Earlier this year, the largest study ever conducted into the effects of the climate crisis on the mental health of young people revealed nearly half (45%) of young people globally feel climate anxiety negatively affects their daily life. It also found that almost two-thirds (64%) of young people around the world believe governments are not doing enough to protect them from climate change.

In 2018, one survey found that 42% of pupils feel that have learnt a little, hardly anything or nothing about the environment at school and 68% would like to know more[ii]. Research by Teach the Future found that 70% of teachers feel they haven’t received adequate training to educate students about climate change.

The Member of Parliament for Portsmouth South, Stephen Morgan, commented:

“If we are to tackle the greatest challenge of this generation, it’s vital we invest in the next to ensure the long-term changes that need to be implemented now, are not undone later.

“That’s why I completely support the campaign to make climate change an explicit part of the national curriculum, to ensure students understand the importance of achieving net-zero.

“The solutions to tackling climate change will require more than one generation of this planet. We must invest in young people to equip them with the tools they need to do it.”

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COP26: Portsmouth MP urges transformative climate action ahead of landmark summit

Stephen Morgan MP has lobbied the government to deliver ‘transformative climate action’ as the UK prepares to host the largest climate summit in the world, COP26, in Glasgow on Sunday.

In a letter to the COP26 President, Alok Sharma MP, the Portsmouth representative underlined, amongst wider global issues, the importance of expanding woodlands and carbon-capturing peatlands, where Portsmouth and the wider Hampshire area is home to some of the largest swathes of these potential carbon stores in the country.

It comes as the government last week refused to back cross-party supported amendments to the Environment Bill, including those on air quality and sewage pollution.

Ministers rejected placing a legal duty on water companies to clean up local waterways and have previously voted against recognising WHO air quality limits.

This is despite ongoing concerns about recent pollution reports in Eastney and Langstone Harbour, as well as local frustrations of the city council’s failure to take meaningful steps to tackle Portsmouth’s dirty air crisis.

The Member of Parliament for Portsmouth South, Stephen Morgan, said:

“Britain is set to host the largest climate summit in the world later this week, but government is failing to provide the leadership that’s required to secure the transformative climate action the world so desperately needs.

“From raging forest fires in California, to water companies allowed to pump eye-watering amounts of raw sewage into our local waters, it is clear urgent, global action is needed.

 “That’s why I’m demanding government steps up to the plate to secure a greener future for our city, the country and the world at COP26.”

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STOP AQUIND: Portsmouth MP responds to second Aquind decision delay

Responding to the news that the Business Secretary has again delayed the final decision on the proposed Aquind interconnector project until 21 January 2022, Portsmouth South MP Stephen Morgan said:

“The Business Secretary has once again ducked a decision on this disastrous project, which will cause daily disruption in Portsmouth and threatens our national security.

“With clear community opposition to the plans, and fresh fraud allegations against the company’s Conservative party donors, the case for stopping Aquind has never been clearer. 

“But the Secretary of State has chosen more dither and delay, raising further questions about what exactly the company’s owners received in return for their generous donations to his party.

“It’s high time the government stopped Aquind once and for all. Ministers must put an end to the uncertainty for Portsmouth and protect our national infrastructure.”

The Portsmouth South MP has long opposed the Aquind interconnector project, working alongside the Let’s Stop Aquind grassroots group.

Since his election he has grilled Ministers in Parliament, secured a dedicated debate on the issue, attended protests alongside local campaigners and met the project company to discuss concerns.

In September, Mr Morgan submitted a 6,200 signature petition to Parliament calling on the Business Secretary to scrap the project.

Mr Morgan has also consistently raised concerns about the project company’s concerningly opaque structure and finances.

Recent media reports from the BBC and Guardian revealed that Aquind owner Viktor Fedotov benefited from a $4bn alleged fraud in Russia. This seems to have been achieved through a complex scheme that funnelled government cash through layers of shell companies that were ultimately owned by Mr Fedotov.

Similar concerns have been raised about Aquind’s finances, with little information available about where its money is coming from, who is providing it, or whether similar complex financial structures are being used to hide this.

Mr Fedotov had been able to remain completely anonymous as the company’s owner using a rare exemption in corporate transparency rules, until his identity was revealed following an investigation by The Times in August 2020. Why this anonymity was necessary is not clear.

Aquind’s public face, Alexander Temerko, has also conducted a coordinated and concerted effort to influence British political figures.

Since the project started, Temerko has donated £700,000 to the Conservative Party. In addition to this, research done by the BBC has revealed that Mr Fedotov’s businesses have donated a further £700,000 to 34 MPs and their local parties. This includes a string of current and former Ministers in the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy.

The Secretary of State was asked directly on Andrew Marr on 10 October if he was in favour of the project. He replied, “I have never commented on this specific project”.

However, letters obtained by The Times through a Freedom of Information request show the Mr Kwarteng indicated both his and the government’s support for the project when he was Minister of State for Energy and Clean Growth.

A Written Ministerial Statement confirming the Secretary of State is delaying the decision on Aquind can be found here

 

 

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COP26: City MP calls for government to ‘come clean’ on its climate commitments in UK trade deals

Stephen Morgan MP grilled ministers in the House of Commons today on whether the government’s commitment to tackle climate change is serious, after a leak last week suggested it would prioritise economic growth over climate protection.

It comes as the 26th United Nations Climate Change Conference, COP26, is set to begin in Glasgow next week.

The leaked document was drawn up for a cross-Whitehall working group and circulated around 120 Whitehall officials in recent days.

It’s reported to say, “HMG (the government) should not refuse to liberalise on products of environmental concern where there is an economic case for liberalisation, or partner interest is so strong that not doing so would compromise the wider agreement.”

Following his question to the Secretary of State for International Trade in the House of Commons this morning, the Member of Parliament for Portsmouth South, Stephen Morgan, commented:

“The government is happy to talk up its supposed commitment to tackling this generation’s greatest challenge, but behind closed doors, it’s comfortable to roll back on it.

“With just over a week away until Britain hosts the most significant climate event since the 2015 Paris Agreement, we should be showing leadership, not breaking our promises.

“Government must come clean and not waste next week’s critical opportunity to tackle climate change and I will continue to hold Ministers to account on this.”

The City MP has vowed to continue to keep pressuring government to ensure it lives up to its climate commitments and seizes the chance to finally get a grip of the climate emergency at COP26.