Government ‘must not rush’ flood bill

THE ENVIRONMENT, Food and Rural Affairs (EFRA) Select Committee is urging the Government not to rush the draft Floods and Water Management Bill through Parliament because so much of the current bill and its consultation document "is still work in progress".

Minister for flooding, Huw Irranca-Davies, told a fringe meeting at last month’s Labour Party conference that he wanted the bill pushed through the next parliamentary session, although he admitted he did not know whether the bill would be thorough, or just include the most critical aspects.

In its report on the draft bill, EFRA said that Defra “must resist the temptation to try and rush through the House a stripped down piece of legislation simply to be seen to be doing something rather than nothing.”

It warned of a lost opportunity “for a truly effective Floods and Water Management Bill”.

The report’s conclusions include:

  • There must be safeguards in the final legislation to ensure appropriate appeals procedures to challenge EA decisions so that lengthy court battles do not ensue
  • Much greater care should be taken to preserve the experience of Internal Drainage Boards in preserving high quality agriculture land
  • Catchment area flood management boards, similar to Regional Flood Defence Committees, to be a possible way forward

EFRA committee chairman, the Rt Hon Michael Jack MP, said: “The draft Bill’s reliance on a top-down approach will hamper the development of locally tailored solutions. We urge the Government to allow a more collaborative and consultative approach.

“Finally, if the Government wants a truly 21st-century Water Bill then it must incorporate into it a response to both the Walker Review on water pricing and the Cave Report on competition in the water supply industry.”

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