THE Environment Secretary has been urged to make water bosses criminally liable for polluting the UK’s waterways.

The Office for Environmental Protection (OEP) has found the Government’s legal targets to improve the state of England’s rivers, lakes and coastal waters will be missed by a “considerable margin”.

The report from the OEP, which comes at a time when there is high public anger over the state of England’s polluted rivers and seas, warns investment is falling short by billions of pounds.

Labour’s shadow environment secretary Steve Reed called for those involved with water companies implicated in pollution to “end up in the dock”.

He told the Commons: “The environmental regulator has today condemned the disgusting state of our waterways caused by the Conservatives letting water companies pump them full of raw sewage. This has to stop.

“So will the Government now back Labour’s plan and make water bosses personally criminally liable? So if they keep illegally dumping sewage, they end up in the dock.”

Secretary for the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), Steve Barclay, said the Government had already taken the “biggest ever prosecution by the Environment Agency”.

He added: “We’re already taking action to ban bonuses of those companies guilty of serious pollution. We’re quadrupling the number of inspections as part of that tougher enforcement scheme of bringing record investment into the water industry, as well.

“(Mr Reed) never comments on the quality of water in Wales.”

Earlier in Defra questions, shadow environment minister Daniel Zeichner said farmers were struggling to remain viable under the Conservative Government.

He said: “When one looks at the survey this week from the National Farmers Union into farmer confidence, what they revealed was a staggering 65% of farmers are facing declining profits or their business won’t survive at all.

“Their prospects are worse than most Tory MPs, it suddenly seems. So why is it that farmers do so badly under the Conservatives?”

Mr Barclay replied: “The most successful scheme Defra has ever run is the current sustainable farming incentive scheme, over 20,000 applications – more than any other scheme that the department has run.”

The SNP went on to call for Mr Barclay to apologise for the Government’s “betrayal” of farmers.

SNP Defra spokesman Steven Bonnar told the Commons: “The SNP government has guaranteed Scottish farmers the level of funding that was available pre-Brexit, unlike the Tories here in England, or indeed the Labour Party in Wales.

“That’s the SNP standing up for farmers in words and deeds, unlike the Westminster parties. So, will he take this opportunity to apologise to farmers in England for his Government’s betrayal of them?”

Mr Barclay replied: “I just refer (Mr Bonnar) to the £2.4 billion in the manifesto which was our commitment, that is being met in full.”

Later in the session in response to a question on a potential visit of a United Nations food security representative to the UK, Mr Barclay asserted that local authorities were “banning meat”.

He said: “What we are clear on is the importance of food production, food security and backing our farmers. It is left wing councils around the country that, for example, are banning meat, and acting in a way that is contrary to the interests of many of our farmers.”