Flood and Water Management Bill

Part of Bill Presented — Video recordings bill – in the House of Commons at 6:40 pm on 15th December 2009.

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Photo of Martin Horwood Martin Horwood Shadow Minister (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) 6:40 pm, 15th December 2009

My test of the Flood and Water Management Bill is whether it will help Warden Hill. It is important and right to sympathise with people in Cumbria, to remember the loss of life and to celebrate the extraordinary response of the emergency services, volunteers, friends and neighbours to both the recent floods and previous ones. We all share those sentiments. However, the real test for this Bill is whether all the strategic overviews and lead responsibilities-the national risk management strategies and flood risk management functions-will actually deliver for people in Gloucestershire, Cumbria, Yorkshire and all the other parts of the country that have now experienced severe flooding not only from river flooding but from surface and ground water flooding, or that now face increased flood risk.

We must make no mistake about this: the risk will increase. The Secretary of State has been in Copenhagen, pressing, I hope, for a tough deal to tackle global climate change. We should all thank him and other delegates from all over the world, and wish them well in their efforts and hope that they succeed, but tough deal or not, we have to face up to the reality of the effects of climate change that are already locked into the system. Scientific evidence to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is clear. It says:

"Basic theory, climate model simulations and empirical evidence all confirm that warmer climates, owing to increased water vapour, lead to more intense precipitation events even when the total annual precipitation is reduced slightly, and with prospects for even stronger events when the overall precipitation amounts increase. The warmer climate therefore increases risks of both drought-where it is not raining-and floods-where it is".

With the world struggling to limit rises in global temperature to 2°, it is clear why our Environment Agency has concluded that flood events currently expected once every 100 years could be happening once every three years by the end of this century. Let us imagine the events at Cockermouth, Tewkesbury, Hull, or even Cheltenham with its 600 flooded properties, repeated in town after town, year after year, and the strain that that will put on residents, the emergency services, local authorities and those responsible for critical infrastructure, as well as on insurance companies, water companies and the Government's flood alleviation programme, and therefore on the bills, premiums and taxes we will all have to pay. The 2007 floods alone cost the United Kingdom £3 billion; the cost to the economy of much more frequent flooding would be unimaginably high. It is absolutely critical, therefore, that in the time we have available now, before the situation reaches that level of perpetual crisis, we sort out all the problems that have been highlighted by the extreme flooding events of recent years-and not just flooding, of course, but droughts, water shortages and coastal erosion from tides and storm surges.

In tackling all these issues, it is essential that we work with nature, not against it, and I have to say that I share other hon. Members' concerns that the Conservative approach set out by Nick Herbert sounded rather Canute-like in its defiance of natural forces.

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