Unlimited fines for water companies and plan to ban plastic wet wipes announced by government

The government announces plans to give 'unlimited fines' to water companies who pollute

By ITV Westminster Producer, Lucy McDaid

Water companies will face unlimited fines for dumping sewage into Britain's rivers and wet wipes containing plastic could be banned under new plans unveiled by the government.

Environment Secretary Thérèse Coffey detailed the department's Plan for Water in a speech at London Wetland Centre on Tuesday morning.

Ms Coffey said water companies will face bigger penalties for breaking the law while they'll also face tougher regulation, including more inspections and greater pressure to invest in infrastructure that will prevent sewage pollution.

She described the "scourge of sewage pollution" as "a problem that needs solving once and for all."

There will also be a consultation on a ban of plastic wet wipes, £34 million for farmers to improve pollution from slurry, and £10 million to help farmers invest in on-farm reservoirs and better irrigation equipment.

A fatberg filmed by a Thames Water worker, caused by a build-up of debris like plastic wet wipes, congealed grease, and fat

As well as hoping to clean up Britain's water, the plan intends to increase supply to meet a four billion litre gap in demand by 2050.

Speaking on Tuesday, Ms Coffey said water companies will be supported to reduce leakage in half over the next 27 years. Those who fail to show progress will be penalised, the environment secretary said.

Ms Coffey also announced plans to make households more water efficient, introducing a minimum product standard for efficiency for showers, taps and toilets, and encouraging water companies to give smart meters to customers.

The government has described the plan as being in a "different league to anything we've ever done before", pledging "if we can go faster than our timelines, we will".

Ali Morse, water policy manager for The Wildlife Trusts, said the investment is "essential" if we "stand any chance of halting nature's decline by 2020".

However, Labour's Shadow Environment Secretary Jim McMahon described the announcement on Tuesday morning as "nothing more than a shuffling of the deck chairs and a reheating of old, failed measures that simply give the green light for sewage dumping to continue for decades to come."

He added: "This is the third sham of a Tory water plan since the summer. There's nothing in it that tells us how, if or when they will end the Tory sewage scandal."

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