I shall speak extremely briefly in support of this sensible Bill. There can be few Members of this House who represent constituencies that have not been impacted by flooding in recent years. In some cases, such as the flooding in Somerset, it has been on a devastating and life-threatening scale, and has featured in headline news around the country and sometimes around the world. In other cases, the flooding will have been much more localised, but still with an enormous impact on those whom we represent. In my own constituency, localised flooding caused the closure of a local primary school for a while, with everything that results from that. It sometimes causes significant damage to property and possessions, sometimes large financial costs and at other times very large damage to items of sentimental if not necessarily financial value.
If the measures set out in the Bill and the new rivers authorities can ensure that preventive work can be done to reduce the risk to people’s lives, properties and possessions, this legislation will make an enormous contribution to many families up and down the country. In some parts of the country, it is obviously appropriate that the work is done by new rivers authorities, covering either a single or multiple local authority areas. In others, the work can be done at least as, if not more, effectively by existing bodies, whether the lead is taken by the larger local authorities, particularly unitary authorities, or by a city region or combined authority.
As the effects of climate change become more apparent, with adverse and unusual weather patterns occurring on a much more regular basis than they did even a few decades ago, and as building and development patterns mean that, in the last generation or two, more and more properties have been built in areas that we now see being particularly prone to flooding, it is even more important that we do everything we can reasonably do to safeguard areas from the effects of flooding. This Bill is an important step towards achieving that.