A Somerset MP has compared a major water company to the comedian Russell Brand, stating they are “not to be trusted”.

Ian Liddell-Grainger, the Conservative MP for Bridgwater and West Somerset, has been a frequent critic of South West Water, which supplies water to Devon, Cornwall and small parts of Somerset.

The MP (who has represented his constituency since 2010) spoke out against the company in the House of Commons earlier in September, accusing it of “operating like a mafia” and demanding a debate on the subject.

On Tuesday morning (September 19), he had his chance to vent his spleen further on the subject in a special debate held in Westminster Hall – leading to comparisons being made to Blackadder character Lord Flashheart.

Mr Liddell-Grainger opened the debate by criticising South West Water’s environmental record, stating: “For ten deplorable years, South West Water has been rated red by the Environment Agency (EA) – red for appalling, red for risky, red for downright dangerous.

“It has lied about the scale of the ongoing pollution. It has already been fined more than £2m for dumping poo in the recent past.

“South West Water leaks like a sieve, it makes its customers pay through the nose, and it is rapidly running out of storage space for what is left.

“None of us should be surprised that South West Water still has a hosepipe ban in place – the only one in Britain. It is a complete joke.”

Under parliamentary privilege, no MP can be sued for libel for anything which they utter within the House of Commons.

Mr Liddell-Grainger was recently selected to contest the new Tiverton and Minehead constituency at the next general election – much of which is served by South West Water.

He continued to lambast the company, accusing it of “moving the goalposts” on environmental standards” and claiming its bosses “might start awarding each other big bungs for helping old ladies to cross the road.”

He continued: “Water companies are allowed to dump raw or partly treated sewage on a strictly limited basis, when the weather is really wet and the pipes would get overloaded, and they need a permit to do so.

“The BBC found out that 388 dumps took place in bone-dry conditions, which is illegal – yet this is probably only the tip of a very smelly scandal, because so few water companies provided any information whatsoever.

“The Beeb had to rely on water companies’ own monitoring equipment, but-surprise, surprise – South West Water claimed it could not help because it has very old equipment; more likely is that it just could not be bothered to reply.

“I am afraid it is a bit like Russell Brand: not to be trusted. South West Water has a broken moral compass and a cavalier attitude to its own filth.

“In my view, it is a working certainty that South West Water was and still is quietly pumping pollution into our rivers, but we do not know how much or when.”

Mr Liddell-Grainger went on to criticise the cuts to the EA’s budget, which has halved since 2010, stating that “austerity came at a price” – despite voting with his party on the majority of decisions regarding benefits, taxation and spending cuts since the 2010 general election.

He added: “This company of ruthless, money-grabbing cowboys makes Al Capone look like an angel.

“South West Water is by far and away the worst water company in this country. This is a monumental mess.”

During the debate, fellow south west MP Richard Foord – the Liberal Democrat MP for Tiverton and Honiton – compared Mr Liddell-Grainger’s rantings to Lord Flashheart, the popular Blackadder character played by Rik Mayall.

He said: “The honourable member is giving a bombastic speech of which the late Lord Flashheart would have been very proud.

“What does he think of the actions of the fovernment in this space? Although he seeks to shift the blame on to water companies or regulators, the government ultimately has the responsibility for the regulation of South West Water and for holding it to account.”

Mr Liddell-Grainger referred to Mr Foord as the “member for the women’s auxiliary ballerina corps” (itself a mangled Blackadder reference) and criticised Mr Foord for not doing more to attack South West Water’s record.

He said: “Quite honestly, I wish he was a little more proactive on South West Water, because all we get from him is resounding silence.

“I know he was a major in the education corps, but that is not an excuse.”

Mr Liddell-Grainger concluded his tirade by turning his attention to Rebecca Pow, the MP for Taunton Deane and parliamentary under-secretary for environmental quality and resilience.

He said: “My honourable friend the minister’s constituency includes Taunton, which is on a flood plain – so she knows how important water is.

“How are we going to get South West Water to actually do the job, because its staff and team are not doing it and it is going to go bankrupt at some point because it is haemorrhaging money?

“How we are going to stop this before we all end up back in Westminster Hall or the main chamber saying, ‘What did we miss?’.”

Ms Pow – who has represented her current constituency since 2015 – said she was “disappointed” by South West Water’s performance, adding she had been meeting with its chief executive to flag up the various issues.

She said: “There are some promising signs of improvement since the previous debate on this topic in this chamber, back in February.

“South West Water has been upgraded from one star in 2021 to two stars in 2022, according to the EA’s environmental performance assessment. Of course, this is a very long way to go to get the outcomes that customers, regulators and the government expect.

“South West Water has consistently been one of the worst-performing companies for high levels of total pollution incidents and, despite recent improvement, it was still significantly above the industry average for total pollution incidents in 2022.

“It must take urgent steps to further reduce these pollution incidents, and I expect to see sustained and continued improvement. I have spoken to it about this many times.”

Ms Pow said South West Water’s record on storm overflows (i.e. raw sewage being released during storms, due to lack of capacity) was improving, with the number of spills dropping by 30 per cent in the last 12 months and 96 per cent of all overflows being officially monitored.

She added: “No government have ever done as much as we are doing to tackle storm overflows.

“Our strict targets will see the toughest ever crackdown on sewage spills and will require water companies to deliver the largest infrastructure project in water company history—that is, £56bn by 2050.

“We have been consulting on expanding our sewage overflows plan further to cover coasts, estuaries and marine protected sites – something I have particularly pushed for.

“We also required water companies to produce action plans explaining how they will improve every storm overflow in England. South West Water will not be able to escape this; they have to do that, too.”

Ms Pow announced that the hosepipe pans in the South West Water area would be lifted from Monday (September 25) and that Defra was working with the company on emergency plans for drought situations.

South West Water was approached by the Local Democracy Reporting Service but declined to comment on this debate.