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Land Drainage

Volume 114: debated on Monday 6 April 1987

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asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food whether consideration of the responses to the consultation document on the financing and administration of land drainage, flood protection and coast protection in England and Wales has been completed; and whether he will make a statement as to the future financing and administration of land drainage.

Consideration of the responses to the Green Paper is complete, but I can make no comprehensive statement as yet. Some of the matters dealt with concern administrative and financial arrangements which cannot sensibly be recast until it is clear how flood defence and land drainage should be organised following privatisation of the water authorities.On other matters, action was announced on 5 February 1987 to introduce new arrangements to provide the water authorities with a firmer basis for planning their flood defence work. This was achieved through the replacement of the system of grants whose rates were recalculated annually by a scheme under which each water authority —or, as appropriate, local land drainage committee — qualified for one of four grant rates depending on its resources and flood defence requirements.The Green Paper also drew attention to the desirability of integrating the separate schemes that apply to sea defence and coast protection. There is no early prospect of being able to introduce the primary legislation that would be required for this.The Green Paper pointed also to the need for some changes in the administration of internal drainage boards. However, I think it desirable to consult further with the interests concerned before embarking on the necessary primary legislation. It would not he sensible to undertake such consultations too far in advance of the prospect of legislation. I will, however, issue a consultation paper as soon as this seems likely to be useful.