Commons Amendment

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 7:45 pm on 13th November 2003.

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Photo of Baroness Miller of Chilthorne Domer Baroness Miller of Chilthorne Domer Liberal Democrat 7:45 pm, 13th November 2003

My Lords, I support the noble Baroness's amendment. Since we discussed the matter in the House, we have seen rainfall continue to diminish during the year. Indeed, the noble Baroness, Lady Farrington, in reply to my Question only on Tuesday said that we had had the worst rainfall figures for February to October for 74 years, with the exception of 1959. Under those circumstances, even the past few months could show us why it is more important than ever that we have the provision at the beginning of the Bill. After all, many of its clauses are concerned with changing the water regime so that it is more sustainable and more about conserving water. That is what the extraction changes and the drought plans are all about.

As the noble Baroness, Lady Farrington, also said on Tuesday, the drought plans are applied region by region and are for water companies to implement. Of course, what was not said on Tuesday was that we now have Water Grid Ltd, which is to do with moving water around the country. That and Mr Morley's comments at Third Reading in another place—he said that a measure to deal with the very low levels in reservoirs was to pump the rivers out—leads me to lend the noble Baroness even stronger support for the amendment. The scenario that we have seen this year is likely to be repeated in other years if we are to believe, as I do, the forecasts by scientists who study climate change. We cannot afford to be complacent in this area.

I, too, look forward to hearing exactly what the problem is with underlining the importance of conservation as one of the prime purposes of the Bill. The Minister mentioned adverse effects. I cannot understand what the adverse effects of the Secretary of State having such a duty could be.