Sir Ed Davey warns water companies to invest as he feeds chickens on farm

Water companies will not be allowed to “get away” with sewage dumping, Sir Ed Davey has warned as he fed chickens on a farm in East Sussex.

The Liberal Democrat leader was pecked by hungry farm birds he described as the “best photo chicken op ever” as he handed out grain and picked up the poultry at The Mac’s Farm in Ditchling.

He was joined by Lib Dem candidate James MacCleary as he visited the constituency of Lewes, which is a key seat the party is targeting to win from the Conservatives at the General Election.

Speaking to the media on Saturday, Sir Ed said: “We’ve been feeding the chickens and it’s been fun with the children but our main message today is about the environment more broadly.

Liberal Democrat leader Sir Ed Davey, left, with Liberal Democrat candidate for Lewes James MacCleary feeding chickens during a visit to The Mac's Farm in Ditchling, East Sussex, while on the General Election campaign trail
Liberal Democrat leader Sir Ed Davey, left, with Lib Dem candidate for Lewes James MacCleary during a visit to The Mac’s Farm in Ditchling, East Sussex (Anahita Hossein-Pour/PA)

“We’re not happy with the way the regulators have been monitoring and enforcing the law on the water companies.

“They’ve been allowing them to get away with this filthy sewage dumping.

“These (water) companies now they’ve been getting away with it, now they’re not going to get away with it with the Liberal Democrat ideas.”

Asked if this means people’s bills would go up, he responded: “First and foremost the money should come from the companies.

“They better well invest.”

The comments came as the party announced its plans to tackle pollution of chalk streams across the country, including a public consultation which could see rivers and lakes awarded a new Blue Flag status to protect them from sewage dumping.

Meanwhile, the party leader also responded to Reform UK leader Nigel Farage’s comments that the West “provoked” the Russian invasion of Ukraine, saying: “It is (President Vladimir) Putin and Russia who are to blame for this, no-one else.

“I strongly support the efforts that Britain has made to support Ukrainians.

“I wish we had done more actually, and I think British people would be shocked if we do anything else.”

Sir Ed also said: “I don’t share any values with Nigel Farage.”

Asked about Labour’s promise to expedite compensation for victims of the Windrush scandal, he said “I think that’s right” and that all political parties must commit to proper compensation.

“I think the British public want them to, they’ve seen how people have been so badly treated,” he said.

Asked by the PA news agency what success would look like at the ballot box for the Lib Dems, Sir Ed would not be drawn on a number of target seats, adding: “I’m not putting a ceiling on our ambitions.

“You know, the campaign is going better than we could have hoped for.

“The response we’re getting across the country, across the whole UK has been wonderful.”