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Clause 42 - Main rivers in England and Wales

Water Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 4:00 pm on 10th December 2013.

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

Photo of Dan Rogerson Dan Rogerson The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

Clause 42 replaces a number of sections of the Water Resources Act 1991 that make specific provisions for England and Wales. It transfers responsibility for maintaining the main river map for England from the Secretary of State to the Environment Agency, and for Wales from Welsh Ministers to Natural Resources Wales. That reflects the already major role of those  organisations in maintaining and updating the maps. They will be required to consult on proposals to change the status of a river from an ordinary watercourse to a main river, or vice versa, and there will be a right of appeal to the Secretary of State and Welsh Ministers to ensure a transparent and fair process.

To reflect the increased use of geographical information systems and the ease of information transfer that such systems offer, clause 42 changes the requirements for a paper definitive map to an electronic one. Flood risk management authorities and navigation authorities will be entitled to free copies of the map relevant to their area or district. I commend clause 42 to the Committee.

Photo of Thomas Docherty Thomas Docherty Shadow Minister (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs)

I have given the Minister advance notice that he might need inspiration. I am sure that all Committee members have read the very helpful Library research paper that makes the point that clause 42 will make the Environment Agency responsible for river maps, as the Minister said, but clause 43 will mean that it no longer has to maintain maps of pipes and waterworks, which seems at first glance to be counterintuitive. Will the Minister explain why two different approaches to maps are being taken?

Photo of Dan Rogerson Dan Rogerson The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

We will look at this issue further when we debate clause 43, but main river maps determine whether a watercourse is a main river or an ordinary watercourse for flood risk management purposes. Such maps are still required. Clause 43 repeals the Environment Agency’s duty to keep maps of water mains. That information is maintained through other means and there are no records of requests to access it. The clause therefore removes a small duplication of effort by the agency.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 42 accordingly ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 43 ordered to stand part of the Bill.