West Somerset MP Ian Liddell-Grainger is urging the government not to 'go soft' on water firms.

The Conservative issued a statement describing proposals to 'dilute' fines for polluting water companies as "disgraceful."

Mr Liddell-Grainger, who was said to be furious about the move to block much heavier penalties for offenders, said: "The public is infuriated by repeated failures in water quality linked to sewage discharges and expected to see water companies dealt with far more severely in future."

"Last year the Government called for fines of up to £250 million to be imposed without mercy on corporate offenders after studies showed water quality adversely affected by effluent in all the country’s rivers and bathers reported scores of beach contamination incidents caused by raw sewage.

"But latest reports suggest environment secretary Thérèse Coffey is backtracking on the idea of mega-penalties, suggesting they could be ‘disproportionate’."

Mr Liddell-Grainger added: "To let them off lightly if - as is almost inevitable - they continue their polluting ways is disgraceful: it’s just throwing in the towel.

“The water companies are making a mint from something which falls out of the sky for free but are treating their environmental obligations with a degree of cynical contempt which is quite breath-taking."

The statement follows the widely reported news that water firms are set to avoid so-called mega-penalties after the Environment Minister Therese Coffey opposed moves to increase the cap on fines for water firms.

Fines are currently capped at £250,000. The government had last year committed to lifting that ceiling, with the latest proposals being to a maximum of £250 million.

However Therese Coffey is said to have thought these increased fines to be 'disproportionate'.

The Daily Mail reported that: "Ms Coffey is said to have refused to commit to higher fines and allies say she wants to ‘look at the evidence with a fresh pair of eyes and do what is most effective’."