Rivers authorities

Part of Rivers Authorities and Land Drainage Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 3:45 pm on 11th March 2019.

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Photo of Luke Pollard Luke Pollard Shadow Minister (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) (Fisheries, Flooding and Water) 3:45 pm, 11th March 2019

I thank my hon. Friend for that. It is worth saying that, even though the Committee has a south-west majority, those people with a south-west link, even if they represent a different part of the country, are very welcome as well.

That question relates to the patchwork quilt of responsibilities that is the underlying context for rivers authorities. How will these new authorities work with different local authorities? My hon. Friend is entirely right that we are moving to an era where we want fewer carbon-intensive end-of-pipe solutions, which are both expensive for those who pay for them and have a large carbon impact in their construction. Lower-carbon interventions, such as the re-wetting of peat bogs or the planting of more trees, are frequently required in an area other than where flooding takes place. I would be grateful if the Minister addressed that.

Proposed new section 21F provides powers to acquire and dispose of property. I am working on the assumption that those powers will be deployed in the same way as local councils deploy them at the moment, with authority and judgment. I would be grateful if the Minister set that out for the record. I am interested to know whether the Minister is confident that the Secretary of State’s framework under proposed new section 21G will not inhibit the autonomy of rivers authorities in relation to how those powers are implemented.

On proposed new sections 21H and 21A, we hope that rivers authorities will be a success and that there will be no need to abolish them, but it is useful to look ahead at all scenarios when creating them in the first place, so what criteria will there be for abolishing a rivers authority? Will there be any scrutiny or appeals in relation to that? A concern from time spent observing the coalition Government is that many bodies were swept away and some of the people who relied on those bodies did not have a say in the process, so I would like to understand how that might work.

It is important, when we talk about flooding, to recognise that with the advent of additional flood planning when new developments come through, those new developments are well protected, but bringing forward flood defences for new developments sometimes means that communities that were not previously affected by flooding now will be. It would be useful to get a sense of how rivers authorities, which will look at flooding in the wider sense, will have an eye on not only the area that they cover, but the impact of their work on other areas.

We have no opposition to the clause, but I would be grateful if those questions could be clarified.