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I know that the noble Lord, Lord Dholakia, is disappointed, but he will agree that the issue of deaths in custody will not be addressed by this legislation alone. Indeed, our debates during the passage of this Bill and on other legislation have shown the importance of trying to tackle effectively situations that may be about suicide or worse. The way to approach this legislation is to see it as part of a jigsaw puzzle, not the answer in itself.

The noble Lord, Lord Dholakia, mentioned interim plans. We have talked already about the annual report to your Lordships’ House and to another place. Discussions will begin, and I am mindful that noble Lords may wish to participate in those, at least initially; it is up to your Lordships how far to take that forward. I expect noble Lords to continue to debate this through questions in your Lordships’ House and in the other place and to represent the views of this House through making contact with my right honourable friend the Secretary of State, not least through my noble friend Lord Hunt of Kings Heath, to whom the implementation of this will now fall in his capacity as a Minister. We could not do any better than to rest with him on that. We have put this in the Bill in this way partly to enable us, as I indicated, to stage implementation so that, as we are ready, we can come in even more quickly than my right honourable friend has indicated. I hope that noble Lords will see that as a useful way to address, at least in part, their disappointment and concern.

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I say to the right reverend Prelate that we have discussed the issue of being risk-averse many times in my dealings with this legislation. The second time that this legislation was received in your Lordships’ House—in ping-pong, as we call it—we discussed those feelings on health and safety questions. I will not go into those again; suffice it to say that I was not trying to suggest that the people on the ground floor, if I may put it like that, within the Prison Service or the police would be less likely to wish to see this legislation or, indeed, to participate in what will happen. We simply have to be mindful of the impact that any new legislation has on those on the front line who must implement it, and to be sure that we have set it out correctly and properly. Noble Lords will know that that applies in a whole range of areas, not least here. That was really the point that I was seeking to make, but clearly I did not make very well.

I hope that we are done with the Bill. There will be a great deal of support for this piece of legislation to make it on to the statute book. I am grateful to noble Lords, today and on other occasions, as well as outside the Chamber. I hope that the noble Lord will withdraw his Motion so that we may now put this on to the statute book and move forward to the next phase.

Lord Ramsbotham: My Lords, I thank the Leader of the House for her kind remarks and for the gravity with which she has summed up not only this debate, but the many others that we have had, as the noble Lord, Lord Hunt of Wirral, said. An enormous amount of humanity and good sense has come out of these debates. When the matter was in the other place, I was heartened by a remark made by the Secretary of State. He said:

I can assure him that there will be a demand. Now that we have, as the noble Baroness said, launched the initiative, there are those who will want to make certain that the momentum is maintained, which is a good military principle.

I take the opportunity of thanking all noble Lords who have taken part in the various debates on these amendments and who have voted. In particular, I thank the noble Lords, Lord Hunt of Wirral and Lord Dholakia, not only for their kind and generous remarks but also for their tremendous support. I also thank the noble Lord, Lord Lea of Crondall, who is not in his place. It has been a fascinating experience to discuss all the nuances of the Bill as we have proceeded through the various stages.

This morning I was in Wormwood Scrubs and was reminded of one complexity that may need to be ironed out. The complaint is that prisoners arrive so late that it is often difficult to sort out who should go into which cell. They arrive late because the drivers of the vans are also court officials. They cannot start driving until the court has closed, which means that prisoners are delivered too late. That is because resources do now allow for two separate people to do two separate jobs. If that sort of complexity is going to be ironed out to make a better Prison Service and a better prison system, the stimulus of the Bill will have had another valuable purpose. But, in the spirit of all

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that has been said and, as I say, thanking all those who have taken part, in particular the Minister, I beg leave to withdraw the Motion.

Motion A1, by leave, withdrawn.

On Question, Motion A agreed to.


3.42 pm

The Minister of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Lord Rooker): My Lords, with the leave of the House, I shall now repeat a Statement currently being made by the Secretary of State for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs in the other place. The Statement is as follows:

“With permission, Mr Speaker, I would like to make a Statement about the serious flooding that occurred over the weekend.“A band of rain swept across central and southern England on Friday, developing into intense rainstorms. In 24 hours, up to 160 millimetres—six and a half inches—of rain fell. With already saturated ground, this rapidly entered rivers and drainage systems, overwhelming them. “Transport was severely disrupted, with the M5 and M50 affected and train services unable to run. Many local roads in flood-hit areas remain closed and the public are advised not to travel in the worst hit areas. “The most serious flooding has been experienced across central England, and in particular in Worcestershire, Warwickshire, Herefordshire, Gloucestershire, Lincolnshire, Oxfordshire and Berkshire. I must emphasise that this emergency is far from over and further flooding is very likely as the Thames and the Severn fill with flood waters from within their catchments.“There are currently eight severe flood warnings in place, covering the Severn, the Thames and the Great Ouse in Bedford. Fifty other flood warnings are in place across England and Wales.“We believe that up to 10,000 homes have been or could be flooded. Our thoughts are, of course, with all those whose lives have been so badly affected by the floods. In addition, up to 150,000 properties in the area including Tewkesbury, Gloucester and Cheltenham have lost, or risk losing, mains water following flooding of the Mythe water treatment works at Tewkesbury. This loss of water supply is serious and we do not expect houses to have service restored for some days. Severn Trent, the water company, is making provision for some 900 bowsers to be deployed and refilled by tankers, for those people without mains water. The company reports that about 240 bowsers are already in place and priority is being given to hospitals and vulnerable customers. “Precautionary notices to boil water have also been issued in Sutton, Surrey, following rain water getting into treated water storage. Electricity supply is also a concern. A number of electricity sub-stations have been affected by flood water, and about 45,000 properties have lost power, including at Castle Mead

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and Tewkesbury. A major National Grid switching station at Walham, Gloucester, remains under threat, which could result in 200,000 additional properties or more losing their supply. This would have a knock-on effect on water supplies.“Yesterday evening, Armed Forces personnel were drafted in to help fire service and Environment Agency staff to erect a kilometre-long temporary barrier around the site and to start pumping out 18 inches of flood water behind the barrier. So far, these defences are holding but the water is still rising, so it is touch and go. If it does flood, the National Grid will be used as far as possible, but properties in the affected area will lose power. Contingency planning is under way to ensure continuity of essential services and supplies. “Last night, the Prime Minister chaired a meeting of COBRA and today he visited Gloucester. Other ministerial colleagues and I have also been to see the problems first hand, in my case visiting Worcester, Evesham and Gloucester yesterday.“I am sure the whole House will wish to thank the emergency services, the Armed Forces, staff from the Environment Agency, local councils and the utilities, and others for the way in which they have worked together in implementing the emergency plans. I would also like to thank local communities for their huge effort in helping each other.“Because this emergency continues, I would ask the public to listen out for flood warnings, particularly on local radio stations; to contact the Environment Agency floodline on 0845 9881188; to respond to advice about evacuation; and to look out for neighbours and anyone who may be vulnerable as a result of flooding, or loss of power and/or the water supply. People should not go into flood water and children should certainly not play in it. Even six inches of fast moving water can knock people off their feet, and the water will often be polluted or hide dangers. “As the waters recede, the clear-up will begin. The revised Bellwin rules will assist local authorities in the areas affected to cover the immediate costs of dealing with the flooding and its aftermath, and the Government will now look at the support required for these areas. We will also increase funding for flood defences to £800 million by 2010-11, as I informed the House on 2 July.“Finally, the review which I have set up to learn the lessons from the floods of this summer will, of course, look at what has happened over the past three days. I have decided that I will ask an independent person to oversee the review. I will keep the House informed of developments”.

My Lords, that concludes the Statement.

3.48 pm

Baroness Byford: My Lords, I thank the Minister for repeating the Statement and join him in thanking all those who help to try to sort the problem out; the professionals in whatever capacity, or the volunteers

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trying to help others in dreadful circumstances. It is awful to have one’s own home invaded, but of course a lot of businesses have been affected as well.

We welcome the Prime Minister’s review but there are some questions that I would like to ask. The Statement is brief. I do not mean that in a derogatory manner; it is as it is because it comes fairly soon after the emergency. The Statement clearly says that the Armed Forces were asked to help “yesterday evening”, which was Sunday. Why were they were not called out earlier? It seems strange that it has taken so long to do that.

Secondly, of the money which is being put forward under the Bellwin rules to help flood defences in the future—some £800 million by 2010-11—how much will be allocated immediately up front? I suspect that most of us hope that a lot of that money will be moved early, rather than waiting to be updated in later years. I presume that the money will go directly to local authorities, but what happens to individual households? Some will have insurance cover, but I am sure the noble Lord will accept that many have not. Again, I should like some clarification of the position because there is nothing in the report on it.

I want to reflect on the position of the Environment Agency. It was featured in a National Audit Office report published in June which noted that only 57 per cent of all flood risk asset systems and 46 per cent of other high-risk systems, such as those protecting urban areas, had achieved their target condition by March of this year, with the potential risk that a flood could occur. What is the Government’s reaction to that, and what pressure have they put on the Environment Agency to put its house in order? I also understand that because of Defra’s financial difficulties earlier in the year, cuts were made to the Environment Agency’s budget. Perhaps the Minister can clarify how much those cuts were worth, and when or if they have been restored. I turn to the comments made by the noble Baroness, Lady Young, who said that the upgrading programme requires £1 billion each year. Can the Minister tell the House where this leaves us currently?

Our deepest sympathy goes to all the affected businesses, individuals and families, many of whom are not in their own homes and will not be for many months. It is a dreadful situation. Floodwater is bad enough, but foul water is quite something else. My heart bleeds for those families because it is not a happy situation. Given that a Defra Minister is repeating the Statement, can he tell us what is the anticipated strategy for providing help to farmers in the affected areas? Many farms have been totally flooded with loss of livestock in addition to ruined crops. Has any thought been given to this issue? Within that, I want to mention the work of the Farming Help Partnership, a voluntary body offering help and support for families in need as quickly as it can.

I come from the East Midlands region, which has not been quite as badly affected as the area around Tewkesbury and the West Midlands, but it has also been hit, particularly in Horncastle and Louth. When the earlier flooding occurred in Hull and north Yorkshire, why did Lincolnshire not receive any financial help

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when the other two areas did? I hope that in the allocation of moneys to local authorities, it will not be the case that some will be given money while others will get nothing. If no financial help is given to Lincolnshire this time, it will have been hit twice.

Finally, I turn to the whole question of insurance cover. Many households have insurance cover for flooding, but a good number do not. Is the Minister in a position to tell the House how individual householders should go about seeking help? Will it come only from the Bellwin scheme or will the Government be making emergency money available to help them in the short term?

I thank the Minister for repeating the Statement and for pointing out that unfortunately the situation is ongoing. Two aspects of it are particularly worrying: first, dirty water is all around and there are shortages of fresh water, which should be made available to all households; secondly, I understand that part of the electricity supply has already been lost and more may well be disrupted if the water cannot be pumped out of one of the substations. Those are my specific concerns.

3.54 pm

Lord Dykes: My Lords, I, too, thank the Minister for repeating the Statement made by the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs in another place, and I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Byford, for her remarks and questions. I agree with virtually everything she has said, and would particularly like to register from these Benches our profound sympathy for the families, companies, individuals and farmers who are suffering from this flooding. Everyone is going through an awful time in those localities. If we are spared this flooding disaster personally, it is easy just to read about it in the papers and leave it at that, but it is a horrendous personal problem for people and we feel very deeply about the situation. This is the fourth Statement in recent times on flooding problems. It is the first time that it has been repeated in the Lords and we particularly welcome that. This will inevitably be an ongoing matter.

Obviously it sounds trite if one starts to criticise the Government for weather conditions—that would be most unfair; it is easier to criticise them for many of their domestic policies on a proper basis—but in this case we have to register our great concern about the ongoing problems which seem to be arising. The obvious climatic differences from previous occasions need to be looked at, but of real concern here is the way in which the Government have dealt with these things on past occasions. It gives me no pleasure to say this but it has to be said: is the Minister ready to deal seriously with these problems and what are the Government going to do in their review?

It took the Government a long time to react to previous warnings, statements made by other people and ecological and weather experts in this country and elsewhere, and we can see the effects now in this country of the dire budget cuts that have taken place and the difficulties that they are causing to people. I have to say, again with regret, that the Government have failed to provide adequately for flood prevention,

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despite warnings. They were warned on a number of occasions that there would be serious flood risks in the north, particularly, and maybe elsewhere. This time the floods seem to be more in central and southern England. Our fellow citizens in the north suffered very grievously on an earlier occasion and are still suffering from it. Why did not the Government therefore make proper efforts to tackle these matters and to liaise with all the various agencies, including the Environment Agency, to ensure that there was proper co-ordination?

We pay tribute to the community, voluntary and other organisations, and the Armed Forces, particularly, for what they have done in this recent emergency; it has been a magnificent effort. But the Government need to have forethought about these matters, and that was somewhat lacking on previous occasions. Despite the Government’s promises two years ago to give the strategic overview of all flood risks to the Environment Agency, nothing has happened effectively. The responsibility for prevention and protection against continued flooding remains split between councils, water companies and the Environment Agency, all of which operate on different scientific and quasi-scientific assessments of risk.

I am sorry to say that the new Prime Minister must take some responsibility for the Government’s flood failures as he cut the flood defence budget by £14 million last summer; and it was only last month that his previous department asked the agency and the local flood boards to plan for real effective cuts for the next three years. Even after the Yorkshire floods, the Treasury only reluctantly conceded that the defence budget for flooding should be boosted by 2010 while saying very little about the next two years of the spending plans. My noble friend Lady Miller of Chilthorne Domer asked a Private Notice Question on 27 June about the flooding, and that was the catalyst that caused the Government to respond.

While we on these Benches feel disappointed, we thank the Government for the emergency measures they are taking now. We need further drastic action and much more reassurance from the Government in general. I should like a further update, if possible, from the Minister on the Ulley reservoir. What does he intend to do to provide immediate remedial action to help people, particularly those in danger of electricity cuts, to which the noble Baroness, Lady Byford, referred, and the danger of repeat flooding, about which experts have warned, in these areas during the coming days and weeks?

3.59 pm

Lord Rooker: My Lords, I am grateful for the supportive comments from noble colleagues for the work of the emergency services and others; they are reflected by everyone. I shall do my best to answer the questions but let us get this clear: it is said in the Statement that the situation will get worse today and tomorrow as the rivers rise; anything I say could be overturned within an hour so it is not possible to be specific. There are thousands of people out there working their socks off trying to protect the power stations and the transmission stations, and trying to pump out and get the water treatment plant working

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as soon as possible. Obviously that is vital. But, at the same time, the weather forecast is not good, the surge has not completely diminished and there are severe flood warnings on the Thames. So things can change dramatically. But I will give a commitment that Parliament will be updated. This is an awkward week, as it is the last one before Recess, but we will do our best to update.

So far as the request for troops is concerned, the noble Baroness must appreciate that the Gold Command structure was set up long ago, and it was at Gold Command’s request that the troops were called in. One has to leave it to the police, who are in overall charge of emergency services. The military liaison officers were present in Gold Command from the beginning, and obviously reacted when a request was made. I cannot be specific about the discussions that took place before that because I do not know, but that system is tried and tested and it works.

I have to knock on the head again the allegations about the Environment Agency budget. The £14 million, out of the roughly £500 million budget, was nothing to do with defence work. That was last year’s budget, and it was replaced in this year’s budget with even more money. That was not a capital programme. No flood defence work was stopped for it. The capital programme—£600 million, from memory—is more than what it was eight or nine years ago, when it was £200 million or so. We have said we will put it up to £800 million. The noble Baroness put that in with the Bellwin rules, but it is nothing to do with those figures; it is the capital flood defence programme that we have already announced for Environment Agency work.

The Bellwin rules were that 85 per cent of the extra expenditure necessary for local authorities is provided. That has been changed to 100 per cent, as the Prime Minister said over the weekend. I cannot be specific about the money that local authorities will get, but clearly we have to review their funding, as was said following the floods in the north when extra money, over and above Bellwin, was made available. The reduction in the Environment Agency budget was for some repair work, but I emphasise that it was £14 million. It would not have made the slightest difference to the current situation, and it was not part of the capital programme for flood defences, which was not cut; indeed, it has been increased over the period of this Government.

Last week, on a visit, the Secretary of State said that he would relax the cross-compliance rules for farmers on request for those who needed to use, for example, set-aside land. We will be actively looking at considering that in relation to the whole of England and will consider how the regulations work and whether there should be any other necessary relaxations to assist farmers. One cannot tell at present what is needed. We know what crops were in the fields and it is true that many will be devastated, some more than others. We will do our best to help farmers, who are very practical people in any event.

I was asked about the co-ordination of flood emergencies. They are co-ordinated, as are other emergencies, by Gold and Silver Commands, led by

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the police. That system works well. The Government have set out a strategic overview role for the Environment Agency. We have the stated procedures, which we will be reviewing. There is no doubt that there are lessons to be learnt from the past three days, as from three weeks ago.

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