Clause 80 - Flood plans: large raised reservoirs

Water Bill [Lords] – in a Public Bill Committee at 8:55 am on 21 October 2003.

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Question proposed, That the clause stand part of the Bill.

Photo of Bill Wiggin Bill Wiggin Shadow Minister (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs)

Good morning, Mr. O'Hara, and welcome to the Chair.

The Bill deals with the shortage of water, yet only when we get to this point do we start to deal with the problem of reservoirs. The clause puts in place proper plans so that if a raised reservoir should burst there is a procedure to ensure that the local community suffers no danger or loss of life. That is welcome. However, there are no powers that would enable more reservoirs to be built.

The problem with British water is that although it falls out of the sky regularly, we save no more than 3 per cent. of our rainfall. That is an extraordinarily low amount and it is why water is such a precious resource. It has not rained for some time this month and we have had one of the driest autumns; what better illustration can I draw as to why we should save more water in reservoirs? It is a great shame that the Bill contains nothing that would make it easier, particularly for areas such as Thames gateway where a lot of new housing will be built, to save rainfall.

Photo of Elliot Morley Elliot Morley Minister of State (Environment and Agri-Environment), Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

I, too, welcome you to the Chair, Mr. O'Hara.

The clause deals with flood plans, which are basically contingency planning for reservoir management in the case of a major incident. I do not think that anyone would have any concerns about that. Procedures for the provision of new reservoirs are not in the Bill because they are dealt with in planning legislation. There are powers for companies to produce water resource plans for the next 25 years; that is an existing responsibility. Water companies may, as part of good resource planning, identify future needs for reservoirs. Proposals for reservoirs have to go through the normal planning procedures.

As the hon. Gentleman will be well aware, the building of reservoirs can be very capital intensive. It is therefore likely that companies will have to make a bid to the regulator in the five-year financial planning process to get the necessary capital provision.

Before we start looking at reservoir building it is important to maximise water efficiency. That includes reducing leakage and advocating a more efficient use of water. That can mitigate or postpone the need for reservoir building for some years. Those provisions are

not spelled out in the Bill because they exist in both resource planning and standard planning procedures.

Photo of Bill Wiggin Bill Wiggin Shadow Minister (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs)

I still think it a pity that those provisions are not included. I accept that planning is not part of the Bill, but the Government have managed to include a medical aspect, so it would not have been beyond their wit or imagination to include a planning aspect, and it is a great shame that they have not.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 80 ordered to stand part of the Bill.