Rivers Authorities and Land Drainage Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 1:17 pm on 15th March 2019.

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Photo of Rachel Maclean Rachel Maclean Conservative, Redditch 1:17 pm, 15th March 2019

I thank the hon. Lady so much for that intervention. She is absolutely right. Every time I come into this place I see people with placards outside. It is a real privilege to be able to take on their concerns and to be able to do something about them. I agree with her on the climate. We all need to do more, but we are making some welcome progress. For example, the UK is the first country to phase out coal generation and we are the first country to have passed a climate change Act. When I speak to local young people in my constituency, they present me with demands similar to those she has just mentioned. I tell them that we are taking action and that we do care. We have reduced our carbon emissions. Our country is a leading advocate for the Paris agreement. Taken together, along with the action we will be taking on drains and flood management through the Bill, we are doing a good job, but we are all mindful that we have to keep doing more on this issue.

My hon. Friend the Member for Somerton and Frome mentioned the economic impact on communities, businesses, farmers and all people who live in areas affected by flooding that his Bill will help to prevent. I have some personal experience of that. The briefing notes state that the measures in the Bill can be used—he kindly responded to my intervention on this point—to create bodies in other parts of the country. One such place could be Cumbria. My 83-year-old mother lives in Cumbria. She has dementia and she was very badly affected by the floods that took place in December 2015. She had to be evacuated from her home and put up in a local hotel. She lives on her own and she had no carers there. She was totally distressed and it was harrowing to receive phone calls from her saying, “I can’t get food. I don’t know where I am. Someone’s taken me and put me in a hotel.” When we talk about the impact of flooding on roads and so on, we must remember the human impact. It really affects people. I believe that in those floods there was loss of life.

It is very important that we enable local bodies to take action as necessary on a local basis, supported by local communities, to address the specific issues in their areas. As a low-tax Conservative, I support the idea that this should be locally managed with the consent of local communities. A number of environmental measures have to be taken, as my hon. Friend said, to tackle issues that pertain to the specific geography of their areas. My hon. Friend the Member for Banbury mentioned the impact on wildlife. Flash flooding has a huge impact on the local wildlife: not only the fish in the streams but any birds, flora and fauna living on the riverbank. These are fragile environments and they can be obliterated by flooding, huge movements of earth, landslips and so on, so having local plans in local areas is very important.

I am pleased that the Bill has the support of the National Farmers Union and the Association of Drainage Authorities. The Bill will be welcome in my constituency because as well as Somerset and Cumbria, we suffer in my area from flooding. Most recently, we experienced flooding in an area called Hollywood—not in Los Angeles but just up the road in Birmingham—where two months’ worth of rain fell in two hours. I am delighted that an organisation has come together to put in place the Hollywood risk management plan, because the flooding caused £15 million-worth of damage, which people in that area could ill afford. I am very pleased that there are measures in the Bill that will help local communities up and down the land, should those communities choose to put them in place.

I put on record my thanks to my hon. Friend the Member for Somerton and Frome for his work as he has steered the Bill through the House. I thank everybody else who has spoken and the Minister, and I look forward to hearing his comments about how the Government will support the Bill and enable it to be enacted.