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Friday, July 10, 1998 Published at 01:49 GMT 02:49 UK

UK Politics

Utilities asked to act over polluted beaches

Blackpool passed the EC tests, but many did not

Water companies will be asked to do more to clean Britain's polluted beaches, the UK Government has said.

In recent tests 57 out of 486 British beaches failed the European Bathing Water Directive, an increase on the previous year, and pressure is growing on the government to act.

"We are looking at the possibility of more investment to improve bathing waters under the current periodic review of water companies' price limits," Junior Transport Minister Baroness Hayman said.

"Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott will be giving advice as to the amount of environmental improvements we would expect to see from the water companies."

'Considerable progress' made

She told peers "considerable progress" had been made in England and Wales in the past decade, with the proportion of beaches complying with the headline standards of the European Bathing Water Directive rising from 66% to 89%.

But results for 1997 went against the trend with a fall in compliance.

She said: "The Government expects to see further progress as more improvement schemes are completed."

The Earl of Kinnoull condemned as "unacceptable" the continued discharge of raw sewage and untreated waste water within a mile of Britain's coastline.

Lady Hayman told him the Environment Minister Michael Meacher asked the Environment Agency and the water companies to take "urgent remedial action".

She added: "The government will not be satisfied until we achieve close to 100% compliance regularly."

A survey by the Marine Conservation Society has said that more than 10% of beaches fail to meet even minimum water standards

The society, which surveyed more than 750 beaches, said the results were a source of national shame.

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