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In practice, the Environment Agency would require the input of the other risk management authorities to draw up these maps. Highway authorities would have to play a large part, as would the other authorities responsible for bridges and roads and a number of other organisations. This geographical data would have to be kept rigorously up to date as development

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and changes of other kinds take place. Inevitably, the data would be generated by Great Britain's national mapping agency, the Ordnance Survey.

I am concerned about whether we will be able to continue to rely on the Ordnance Survey to keep its mapping service up to date. A proposal from the Department of Communities and Local Government is currently out for consultation. It would make data from Ordnance Survey freely available. That is highly commendable: there are all sorts of reasons why society would benefit from having the information more widely accessible. I am sure that there will be enormous benefits. However, if you tell the Ordnance Survey that it will have to give up selling or licensing its data or products, and if it is still required-as it certainly will be, not just because of this Bill but for many other reasons-to keep its maps and spatial information up to date, there must be an alternative income stream.

It will not get any cheaper to do these surveys and, although the consultation has not been completed-it is due for completion on 19 March-I am alarmed to read that implementation is expected in April. That does not leave much time to consider the far-reaching implications of taking out one of the main funding streams from the Ordnance Survey and requiring it to put in a new business plan. It is not clear what role the Government will play in helping to make good the missing income stream. We need an assurance from the Minister that whatever happens-and I hasten to say that I do not dissent from the idea of Ordnance Survey data being more freely available-if we are going to keep a national mapping agency, which clearly we need, the income stream will be replaced if the proposal goes through.

I will say a word about sustainable urban drainage systems, which have been widely welcomed by other speakers. I had the privilege of chairing a House of Lords Science and Technology Committee inquiry on UK water management some three or four years ago. We were greatly impressed by SUDS schemes elsewhere-mainly overseas. As always, the issue is who will maintain them. We need further thought on this issue. What we have is clearly a great improvement, but, as the noble Lord, Lord Greaves, suggested, we have not bottomed out the funding responsibilities that will stretch for decades ahead. We must make sure of the commitment from the relevant authorities.

Sustainable drainage systems have an enormous contribution to make, but when the guidance that the Government promise on what is meant by sustainable development comes to address sustainable drainage, it must be made clear that sustainable drainage does not mean connecting SUDS to a foul sewer. By definition, that is not sustainable. As the noble Lord, Lord Taylor, reminded us, if you have sewage backing up and coming into your house, you will never forget it. I hope that the guidance will be specific on that issue.

5.25 pm

Lord Addington: My Lords, I find myself in the pleasant position of being able to agree with a great deal of what the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Exeter said and shall address roughly the same area. I got involved in this because a couple of years ago people started receiving bills for services that had not

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been included before. Special groups were finding out that they might have to put a huge proportion of their income into paying new bills. The groups that were affected were those that the Government publicly backed and said were good things. The amateur sports clubs were key deliverers of some important government policies. I felt it was potentially particularly unfair-I realise this is the law of unintended consequences-that amateur sports clubs, designed to deliver much of the huge increase in mass participation that is to be built around the Olympic legacy, suddenly found themselves with much bigger charges for a public utility. I feel the Minister is more sensitive and friendly to this argument than many in this House. Something went wrong, and I welcome the fact that people have listened and put something in place to change it. It is a good step forward.

I looked through some of the briefing that came my way. It was a revelation to all of us who have been in Parliament for a period of time to see just how efficient the Scouts were at gathering together the lobby behind them. The phrase "Beware those wearing woggles" must have been heard in Whitehall, because they really knew how to bring the troops together.

This new step forward did not take into account what was going on. It affected people in ways that were not intended and did not have the smack of joined-up government-which must be striven for, but will never be achieved-in which certain aspects of government are brought together.

Clause 43 is a welcome remedial step. However, the groups involved have clarification points that will have to be met in the discussion on the Bill. One that seems to be referred to again and again is the definition of "fair and affordable". The draft guidance gives hints about other things, but when will we find out what is "fair and affordable"? We also have the old may/shall chestnut. I do not know how many hours Members of this House have given to discussing the merits of may/shall. I shudder to think how much of my life has been spent on it, but we think that groups that are new to this field need a good answer because we are not talking to ourselves, but to those outside. Can we make sure of what is going on here?

Another question that occurs again and again is: if there is a disagreement between a water company and Ofwat or Ofwat and a user about what is fair and affordable, how will that decision be reviewed? It has been pointed out to me in briefing that Clause 44-another very welcome clause-seems to have more teeth. Could we not try to get the more solid foundation of Clause 44 reflected in Clause 43?

I shall not say much more, other than that Clause 43 is a welcome and honest attempt to deal with an unseen problem. I hope that the Government will give us an undertaking that they will make sure that Clause 43 is as understandable and easy to use as possible because this is a new area affecting administrators and those who run community groups. They do it for free and probably do not like filling in forms. They are probably involved in these groups to do other things. This is particularly true of sports clubs. People are there because they want to be a coach or to help their children get involved. They are not there to wade

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through legislation. Can the Government give us a firm undertaking that they will make sure that the legislation is as easy to understand as possible? If they do not, even with the best will in the world, they will still cause damage through fear and lack of understanding.

5.30 pm

Baroness Fookes: My Lords, I have a particular bête noir with legislation; it is almost impossible to find one subject that is covered by one Act of Parliament. Five Acts of Parliament already deal with water and another three overlap with it. The Bill is no different, but I was pleased and surprised to find Clause 47 on the pre-consolidation amendments, which give Ministers the power to consolidate as far as possible prior to a major consolidation that is usually undertaken by the Select Committee that considers consolidation Bills-a body on which I serve but that meets all too rarely. I therefore particularly appreciate this enlightened clause, and I congratulate the Government on it.

The main thrust of the Bill is on flooding, but I want to raise an issue that is not as grand as other matters that colleagues have raised. In cities and towns, covering gardens with hard materials so that cars can stand on them is causing far more surface water to run off. In times of heavy rain, this can be very difficult indeed. The Royal Horticultural Society, of which I am a long-standing member, was particularly concerned about this two years ago, and it has made all sorts of imaginative suggestions for the design of small front gardens so that they can take the necessary car off the road and still have softer materials, such as very low plantings that can go underneath a car when it moves in and out of a garage.

I hope that the Government will be prepared to look at this more seriously. I believe that permeable materials have to be installed in new builds, but that this is not the case for thousands upon thousands of houses and gardens. Although this seems like a small matter, given the magnitude of the number of houses involved it could give a real boost both to the look of the gardens and to the problem of surface water.

Another issue is drought. I confess that it takes a real effort of will and imagination to think about drought after a winter of precipitation of excessive snow, excessive rain, or both, but I vividly recall the summer and autumn of 2006, to which my noble friend Lord Taylor of Holbeach has already referred. I garden in east Sussex and was acutely affected by a hosepipe ban that appeared to go for ever. I even discovered that the ban was in place in January when I would not have believed that possible. There are real concerns about total hosepipe bans that are imposed at will by water companies and organisations, particularly as different water companies have different ways of looking at the situation, to the utter confusion of consumers. They were extremely bad about getting in touch with consumers during that period. I saw precious plants wilting while I tried to obey the law.

There is a real need for a good, improved code of practice. My noble friend referred to a draft code that seems to have disappeared from view. I am not sure that the Horticultural Trades Association will mind about that because it had considerable concerns about

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its shortcomings, but it certainly wants a really good code, and I hope that the Minister will give us some helpful information tonight about the possibility of a code that really works.

It is essential, first, that the water companies have some clear arrangement whereby they do not simply impose a hosepipe ban but have some gradual implementation, depending on the severity of the drought. For example, it would be perfectly possible to say that we could water only every other day or first thing in the morning or last thing at night-which good gardeners would agree is better anyway-or that we should water vegetables and plants but not grass. After all, you can expend a great deal of water on grass, and it may look pretty awful if you do not water it, but it usually recovers, in my experience. I see no reason in a water shortage to put water on grass when it might be very reasonable to have water to put on ornamental plants and vegetables. Since 2006, there has been a great increase in interest in allotments and growing vegetables in gardens, which I should have thought the Government would wish to encourage. As it was, in 2006, the horticultural trade suffered greatly because of all the confusion and people therefore stopped buying. In the south-east, it was reckoned that no less than £12 million of sales were lost, as well as jobs where they could not afford to keep people. We do not want to see a repetition of that, and I am sure that a good consultative arrangement would be in order and very much welcomed.

I hope for something clear and proportionate to the situation, which gradually increases the restrictions depending on the need. People would appreciate that and be far more likely to co-operate. Years ago, one of my friends had a son in the police force in Devon and Cornwall in a period of drought, during which there was an absolute hosepipe ban. One night at about midnight, he was patrolling and thought that there were burglars afoot, when it was actually a householder furtively watering his precious plants under cover of darkness. We could do without that, but if we are to get the co-operation of gardeners and consumers, we need to be far more realistic and sensible in how we deal with this. That would be my contribution. I hope that, despite the shortness of time in which to develop this Bill, that matter at least will receive urgent consideration.

5.37 pm

Lord Giddens: My Lords, this debate is happening against the background of a failure to reach agreement on climate change negotiations in Copenhagen and a co-ordinated response around the world from climate change sceptics attacking climate change science. I have looked at the details of this for the past three or four weeks, and my conclusion would be that this has made no impact. It has no consequence for the bulk of the science, which is robust and extremely well founded. It means that we are on track for an increase of at least, on average, 2 degrees centigrade, and possibly much more in the next 20 to 30 years. That will bring more extreme weather patterns of all types. That is part of the background of the Bill.

The sceptics tend to say that we exaggerate the risks of climate change, but on the other side of mainstream science there are some scientists who say that we

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radically underestimate those risks, and that they are much greater and more proximate than the mainstream scientific community says they are. Noble Lords who want to be truly frightened should read James Lovelock's most recent book, The Vanishing Face of Gaia: A Final Warning, which says that much more extreme climate change is already stacked up into the system, so the kinds of floods that we have been seeing will be more extreme than orthodox scientific opinion thinks.

The Government have put in place an impressive array of innovations over the past few years to try to combat climate change, of which the Bill is a part. I add to what other noble Lords have said in paying tribute to the Environment Agency, to the noble Lords and Baronesses who have led the agency and to the impressive work it has done since it was set up. Against the backdrop of the likelihood of more extreme weather, it is clear that we have to be proactive and long term in our thinking. It is not enough to wait until such weather comes along before we try to build the resilience to deal with it. This, I take it, is the background to the Bill.

However, the origins of the Bill do not lie in that approach; as has been said, they lie in the floods of 2007, the shock that those produced and the subsequent report written by Sir Michael Pitt. Those floods teetered on the edge of a larger catastrophe. If they had spread a little further, whole areas would have lost electricity in addition to the other woes they suffered. Obviously we cannot say of any single weather event that it is the result of climate change, but it is almost certain that we are in for more extreme weather, in an accumulative way, over the next several decades than we have ever experienced before. The Thames barrier was closed four times in the 1980s; it was closed 75 times in the last decade. The Environment Agency, quite rightly, has the Thames Estuary 2100 consultation going on at the moment.

There was an excellent discussion of the Bill at its Second Reading in another place and I do not want to reiterate what was said there. However, I would ask the Minister to comment on four issues, some of which have been alluded to in previous contributions to the debate.

First-to add to what other noble Lords have asked about responsibility-if we are talking about long-term, proactive adaptation, as we are, we are obviously in the business of long-term planning over a 20 or 30-year cycle and beyond, which is quite different from what we have been accustomed to in the past. The Environment Agency has rightly been given a central role in such planning. It clearly has to co-ordinate with the Committee on Climate Change, and especially with its adaptation sub-committee. Are effective arrangements for liaison in place, as this is different from the other areas of responsibility which have been mentioned? We are talking about responsibility for long-term planning, with adaptation being at the centre of this.

Secondly, as the noble Baroness, Lady Fookes, mentioned, flood and water management, on the one hand, and drought and heat waves, on the other, seem to be opposites, but they are closely linked. We are in for much wetter winters than we have had in the past and longer periods of drought in the summers. The

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Bill contributes to these issues because it discusses dams and, as was mentioned, emergency restrictions on water use. We need a large-scale proactive attitude on the connection between floods and drought. Given the background to the Bill, are the Government following and learning from forms of water management in periods of drought that are being experimented with in other countries? For example, in India and Bangladesh, which have had more extreme versions of weather than we have ever had, a system of proactive conjunctive water management has been developed, and interestingly so. That is very important for farming because it is farmers who are most menaced by the new conjunction of flooding and drought. It would be worth while for the Government to take a direct interest in such experiments and to try to build them into the backdrop for further elaboration of the Bill.

Thirdly, I am not sure that enough work has been done on insurance, which is a key aspect. The Minister alluded to it in his introduction but did not say much about it. One has to recognise that it cannot be wholly statutory, but there is a crisis of insurance in relation to flooding. The concordat that existed for some 40 years between the UK insurance industry and the Government, who provided flood cover for all homes without regard to risk, broke down in 2002. Negotiations continue between the insurance industry and the Government, but so far all they have is a list of general principles which could leave large chunks of our assets uninsured. Total assets at risk from sea flooding, inland flooding and coastal erosion are calculated at £228 billion, which is a truly formidable sum. Does the Minister agree that more work needs to be done on this?

Fourthly and finally, I shall allude briefly to the European Union, which was mentioned in a slightly critical vein. The noble Lord, Lord Taylor of Holbeach, mentioned his home in south-west France. That region has experienced more extreme weather during the past four or five years than it has at any other time in its history. A terrible storm swept right across Europe, through the south-west of France and on to other parts of southern Europe. It is plain that we need to co-ordinate with the European Union on extreme weather. As an island, we do not have the same relationship to principles which apply to the Continent, but the European Union has developed a water framework directive which is a proactive water management scheme. It makes eminent sense for the UK to give direct attention to, and monitor, the efforts of the Commission to deal proactively with long-term adaptation. Extreme weather conditions do not recognise national boundaries.

5.47 pm

Baroness Byford: My Lords, I welcome the Flood and Water Management Bill and accept that it is a revised version of what was originally planned. I listened with great interest to the noble Lord, Lord Smith of Finsbury, and agree with him about the need to define roles and responsibilities. When we debated floods and flood management in this House before, the one question to which I kept coming back is: who is ultimately responsible? Responsibility fell into too many different camps and there seemed to be no direct co-ordination. I therefore thank the noble Lord for his contribution. I remind the House of our own family

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farming interests although, unlike those of my noble friend Lord Taylor of Holbeach, they are set in an inland context and are not at the moment likely to be challenged in the same way.

Flooding is caused by many different factors. The most recent floods, in 1998, arose mainly because the rain fell so steadily and heavily for 12 hours or more. It fell in the end on saturated ground and had nowhere else to run, leading to flooding.

Another issue which I have raised in the House several times previously is fly-tipping and the failure to keep our ditches and waterways clear. Can the Minister say how many cases of fly-tipping have been taken to court, and how many led to fines? If my memory serves me correctly, a huge number of fly-tipping cases are reported but very few are taken to court. If material is put into ditches, as is often the case, it blocks the flow of water which would be of help in heavy flooding.

I shall not go over the ground covered earlier by my noble friend; rather, I shall pick up on just one or two specifics. Fly-tipping is one of them. I presume that it is the responsibility of the Environment Agency rather than of local government, though I could be wrong about that. I should be grateful for clarification. Another matter that we have often discussed in the House before is the granting of permission for new housing development, even within known flood-plain areas. Clarification on that would also be helpful.

The noble Lord, Lord Giddens, and others mentioned insurance. In some of this country's previous flooding experiences some householders were not properly insured and some were not insured at all. I wonder whether the Government have given thought to the responsibility of the householder to cover themselves in some way, or whether one should just wait until there is a big, unfortunate episode when the Government will provide money to help people. It seems very unfair that those who pay for some form of insurance should find that others who have no insurance at all are bailed out by the Government or the local authority. I have not picked up this issue in the Bill but wonder whether it is not something to be considered.

Before I leave the question of how we can slightly lessen the risk of heavy flooding, I want to raise the issue of how so many more of our smaller roads are now used by larger vehicles. When two vehicles meet on some of those roads they have to pull heavily onto the side verges, and sometimes the verges are pushed into the ditches. It is a small point, but it is something that is occurring more frequently.

I was interested recently to read Climate Change Mitigation and Adaptation in National Parks, which contained a case study concerning the handling of the increased rainfall. It said:

"The key to avoiding damage is regular clearing of drains so that they can help with the quantity of water".

The Lake District National Park now trains volunteers to do this. In the first nine months of 2009, it recorded 316 volunteer days spent on drainage clearance. Tragically, at the moment, so many people are unemployed. Perhaps some could assist with aspects of this sort of work. It might be an idea at least to consider.



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I pick up a point raised earlier by my noble friend about mapping and keeping maps up to date. I presume that that will be the responsibility of Environment Agency, but it will come at a cost. I should like to consider the cost issue. Presumably, the Environment Agency has estimated what it will cost to set up such a service and how many people would be employed in it. I would be grateful for some information on this from the Minister. This is a worry not only for the Environment Agency but for local government. Clearly there is a cost not only in cash but in providing the skills and training needed to ensure that it has the relevant people in the right place at the right time.

Like other noble Lords, I am particularly keen that we should look again in Committee at Clause 43. I am unhappy about the proposals as they stand. We talk about unaffordable rises and the fact that Ofwat will have the overall say, but there is no description of what is considered accessible and fair. That is left to the discretion of Ofwat, over which no one has control. Two questions arise from that. Will there be a review after a certain period, and will there be an appeals mechanism-for instance, for voluntary groups, charities, churches or whoever else is affected by the clause-to enable them to come back and get further information?


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