A Conservative government would push through emergency floods legislation after the next election, shadow environment minister Anne McIntosh said last week.
She said this would be a priority if the Floods & Water Management Bill fails to go before Parliament before the General Election.
Speaking at the Environment Agency’s annual conference, McIntosh said the Bill “would be a small bill, not without controversy”, and would address 15 key recommendations of the Pitt report into the 2007 floods.
Consultation on the draft Flood & Water Management Bill ended in July with the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) receiving over 600 responses.
The Bill is a response to Sir Michael Pitt’s review of the catastrophic floods of 2007, which called for a single Act of Parliament to bring together several disparate pieces of legislation.
“We need to have a dialogue and a debate on SUDS. There is a discussion to be had there.”
Shadow environment minister Anne McIntosh
It also takes into account the government’s Future Water Strategy published in February 2008. An amended Bill was due to be published by the end of the year, and was expected to make the Queen’s Speech yesterday.
But it is feared that the timing of next year’s General Election will mean there will be insufficient time for the Bill to be passed. The Conservatives’ emergency bill would tackle the key recommendations of the Pitt report.
It would also examine Sustainable Drainage Systems (SUDS) and would determine who would responsibility for adopting and maintaining them. “The bill will enable us to look and see who is best placed to take this on,” she said. “We need to have a dialogue and a debate on SUDS on who is best placed [to adopt them]. There is a discussion to be had there.”
McIntosh hinted that she believed water companies should do this, and said she believed there would still be a need for a wider ranging floods bill in the long term.
She discussed the need to stop building on flood plains − calling it “insane” − and criticised the fact that an infrastructure audit has not happened since the 2007 floods.
“We still haven’t had the audit of critical infrastructure that was promised at the time of Pitt,” she said. “That, I think, is a failing.” McIntosh also championed the role of local government in flood management.
“If you’re looking at flood alleviation schemes it’s difficult to know who to go to,” she said. “If you were to get rid of the Regional Development Agencies (RDAs) and go straight to shire county councils. I think you’d get a more egalitarian distribution of funds.”