Rivers Authorities and Land Drainage Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 1:54 pm on 8th February 2019.

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Photo of James Cartlidge James Cartlidge Conservative, South Suffolk 1:54 pm, 8th February 2019

That is an excellent point. Let us be honest; most of my constituents are not mill owners and do not have trouble at t’ mill, as it were, and are not overly concerned about the duty of others to operate these gates, which is a heck of an operation.

Secondly, how do we indicate that there is support? How do we bring forward such an authority in an effective way? There will be those who are not particularly bothered about it but who will notice the new charge on their council tax. I strongly support the use of precept funding for specific services, and not just in connection with the Bill. I have always defended the current Government policy of using precepts to fund increases in police expenditure, establishing the principle that the council tax payer knows where that increase is going. Many of my constituents might say, “Look, central Government fund the police. If we want more police officers, it should come from central Government funds.” I argue that, under the precept, all the money will be spent on the Suffolk constabulary, which provides better accountability.

On the principles of this Bill, I very much like the idea of using the precept model, as it is clear what people are getting. For that to be supported, it would have to be obvious to the public at large that this area needed a greater level of co-ordination for flood risk. I guess that is, ultimately, the whole point of the Bill. I know it contains measures on drainage boards as well, because we do not have to go the whole hog of setting up a rivers authority. I just make the point that this kind of local empowerment, saying to an area, “You have this choice should you wish to. Don’t just rely on the centre,” is a good way to go in terms of public policy.

Other than that, I just want to congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Somerton and Frome on the Bill. I look forward to seeing whether the Minister is able to give any clarification on the position of mill owners and the co-ordination of gate operation in the event of flood risk, as that is an important issue for some of my constituents. I wish the Bill well.