Windermere water quality is 'totally unacceptable'

Kevin Hollinrake
Business Minister Kevin Hollinrake said measures were in place to hold water companies to account [PA media/James Manning]

The water quality in England’s largest lake has been "totally unacceptable", a government minister has acknowledged.

Business Minister Kevin Hollinrake was commenting after millions of litres of raw sewage were illegally pumped into Windermere for 10 hours in February due to a fault.

The Thirsk and Malton MP told BBC Politics North: "The quality of water in places like Windermere is totally unacceptable and needs sorting out," adding that United Utilities needed to "get their act together".

United Utilities previously said it had taken urgent steps to resolve the incident earlier this year.

Mr Hollinrake maintained measures were already in place to keep water company bosses accountable.

He said: "If they’re breaking the terms of their license agreement with Ofwat (the Water Services Regulation Authority), Ofwat can step in and it can stop those dividends and it can stop those bonuses."

Labour parliamentary candidate for Redcar Anna Turley
Labour parliamentary candidate for Redcar Anna Turley said her party would give new powers to regulators to bring criminal charges [BBC]

While some have called for the government to re-nationalise water companies, Labour parliamentary candidate for Redcar Anna Turley said such a move would be unaffordable.

She said: "The cost to the public purse of bringing water back into nationalisation would be astronomical.

"In the long term, I’d love to review that and I’m sure many people across the country would like to see that.

"The reality is it would cost a fortune, the public finances have been left in a shocking state, and what we need to do now is immediately stop those bonuses."

Earlier this week, Westmorland & Lonsdale Liberal Democrat MP Tim Farron led an ultimately unsuccessful parliamentary vote to criminalise the pollution of lakes and rivers with sewage.

Thom Campion, Liberal Democrat parliamentary candidate for Cramlington and Killingworth, criticised Labour for not supporting the motion.

"Labour decided to abstain on Tim Farron’s bill, so they’ll tell you one thing here, and then do the complete opposite in Parliament.

"The Liberal Democrats have led the way on tackling pollution in our riverways, in our lakes, in our seas since before it was even a twinkle in Keir Starmer’s eye."

Politics North is on BBC One on Sunday at 10:00 GMT and on iPlayer.

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