I thank the hon. Member for Somerton and Frome for introducing the Bill. He spoke with detail and authority about its contents. I am pleased that we nearly have a south-west majority in Committee—it is about time that the south-west got its fair share, and if we have to get it by taking control of Bill Committees, I support that. We also have several hon. Members from SERA—Labour’s Environment Campaign, which is good.
The Opposition welcome and support this good Bill, because changes to flood protections for communities are long overdue, but I hope that the hon. Member for Somerton and Frome will not mind my asking a few questions to understand how the powers will be implemented. Some of my questions will be for him, but I suspect that the Minister and her officials will have some insight on the more technical ones.
The Bill is timely, because there have been flooding incidents not only in the south-west. In the Lake district and across the country, flooding has had huge and disproportionate effects on small communities that often do not have the resources to provide the protection they need on their own. It is important that we set out a regulatory framework that will help them to pool the risk and the effort.
The Bill is also long overdue. Many of its measures should have been introduced by the Government long before they were proposed in a private Member’s Bill and we would have liked Government time to have been used for debating its provisions. None the less, we welcome the effort that the hon. Member for Somerton and Frome has put into introducing the legislation. We need to invest time and energy in considering the proposals to make sure that they work for all our communities. We know that not every community will be affected by flooding and that not every community affected by flooding will be affected by the same type of flooding—coastal flooding and river flooding are very different.