MANDATORY targets for ending sewage being discharged into rivers have been proposed in the Commons.

Liberal Democrat and former party leader Tim Farron, the MP for Westmorland and Lonsdale, put forward the proposals in a Private Members’ Bill, asking MPs what should be protected “the inflated profits of water companies or the safety and beauty of our lakes and rivers?”

The Bill would see mandatory targets and timescales to end sewage discharges into waterways and coastal areas, but it is unlikely to become law without government support.

It would also provide additional powers to the Water Services Regulation Authority (Ofwat) to monitor and enforce compliance with those timescales and targets, and require water companies to publish quarterly reports on the impact their sewage discharges are having on the environment and human health.

The Liberal Democrat-backed Bill would also require water companies to include at least one representative of an environmental group on their boards.

The Sunday Telegraph has reported water firms may also have to reveal how many animals die as a consequence of sewage discharge.

Dialogue is being welcomed by Prudhoe man Ken Taylor, whose nine-year-old Cocker Spaniel Meg died after becoming unwell following a walk from Prudhoe riverside to the Hagg Bank area of Wylam.

Ken believes previously healthy Meg was poisoned by raw sewage being dumped into the River Tyne.

At the time, Northumbrian Water said it was working with the Environment Agency to monitor the area and said they knew of no issues.

"Well little lady Meg", Ken said. "We are making progress.

"I promised you, when I was watching you die, I would get this brought into the public domain and we are slowly getting there."

The Bill, introduced as a Ten Minute Rule Motion, was listed for a second reading on May 6.

Raw sewage was dumped into rivers and coasts 372,533 times last year, the Environment Agency has said.

A spokesperson for Northumbrian Water said: “We all share the same ambition for healthy, thriving rivers. This is an incredibly important topic for us, our customers and communities.

“We are committed to playing our part in improving our region’s rivers and were pleased that last year we achieved the top rating possible for our environmental performance and announced we would be investing £700 million to improve this even further.

"As well as receiving the highest possible rating of four stars in the Environment Agency’s Environmental Performance Assessment (EPA), we retained our industry-leading position on pollution.

“Real progress is being made in improving monitoring, cutting pollutions, and increasing transparency. It is important to note, however, that many things affect river water quality, our operations being only a part of that, alongside factors such as highways and farming.”

In response to the Bill put forward in parliament, Ceri Gibson, CEO of Tyne Rivers Trust, said: “Too many of our rivers in the Tyne catchment suffer the effects of pollution from sewage discharges. This is a long-standing problem which needs investment to keep up with the pressures of increasing development and frequency of heavy storms. 

“As a trust, we’re trying to work with water companies to help them improve the situation. We also support local communities to identify and report pollution when they see it.”

The Environment Agency was contacted for comment.